By Ian J. Jesse
Image from In Pine Tree Jungles (Bangor and Aroostook Railroad Company, 1902)
Many are familiar with the show North Woods Law. The show first aired in 2012 and has been popular ever since. If you have not seen the show the premise is simple: camera crews follow Maine game wardens as they do their work. In an episode wardens could be chasing down poachers one minute and searching for missing hikers along the Appalachian Trail the next. Recently, however, the actions of game wardens in an episode have come under fire.
In February of 2014 the Maine Warden Service followed by television cameras concluded a two-year undercover operation in Allagash, Maine, near the Canadian border, and brought some three hundred charges against twenty-three individuals ranging from night hunting and improperly tagging deer to possession of marijuana and taking more trout than the limit allows. While many can generally agree that protecting wildlife is a good goal, Mainers are upset about the tactics used by wardens during this operation. On May 8, 2016 Colin Woodard with the Portland Press Herald ran a lengthy article that criticized the actions of the Maine Warden Service during this operation (click here to read the full article).
Throughout this undercover operation many claim that undercover agents broke the game protection laws they were supposed to be enforcing such as killing deer at night to entice would-be poachers. Perhaps, even worse, the wardens were accused of seizing canned vegetables and fruit from an elderly woman they accused of illegally processing deer meat. This news of the Maine Warden Service behaving badly seems to be the latest accusation on a growing list; Colin Woodard also published a list of controversies surrounding the Maine Warden Service over the past thirteen years (click here to see this list).
What is most surprising about these recent events is that no one has turned to history to help understand or contextualize them. I would like to turn the focus on this matter from the questionable actions of the wardens to consider reasons why rural Mainers may break laws that protect wildlife. Continue reading
John Harrington Ferguson
Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives
In September 2015, Professor Catharine Anne Wilson and the library at the University of Guelph, launched the Rural Diary Archive*, an online archive showcasing over 130 Ontario diarists writing from 1800 to 1960. This digital archive collectively holds thousands of pages of handwritten diaries and the goal in placing these pages online is to engage volunteer transcribers. By fostering a transcriber community, those working behind the scenes of the Rural Diary Archive hope to make these hard-to-use but highly valuable documents more accessible.
With the launch of the website, I myself decided to try my hand at transcribing. My first task was actually choosing the diary I would transcribe from the wide variety of diaries available. I eagerly searched through my options. Should I choose a diarist who lived in a region of Ontario I was familiar with? Would I relate best with a female diarist? Perhaps a farmer? I eventually landed upon John Ferguson’s diary from 1869. After looking through some of the diaries, I admit that my initial attraction to Ferguson’s journal was based upon the highly prosaic reasoning that I found his handwriting the easiest to read. Continue reading
Ryan McKenney and Benjamin Bryce
John Murray Gibbon’s image of a Czechoslovakian immigrant in his Canadian Mosaic
Canadians often describe their country as a “mosaic.” This idea is present on government websites and in many contemporary articles in the media (on outlets such as The Globe and Mail, Macleans, and the Huffington Post), and most importantly in the minds of people across the country. Though used in different contexts and with different goals, the mosaic almost always describes Canada as a multicultural landscape and symbolizes a national ideology of inclusion and diversity. Canadians hold great pride in this idea, placing it on the progressive end of a spectrum opposite to the American melting pot. Yet Canadians rarely question where the term comes from.
Many Canadians would likely be astonished to find that the first person to use the term “mosaic” to discuss the national character of Canada was in fact an American. Continue reading
Tabbouleh is a Mezzeh (appetizer) made of cracked wheat with parsley, tomato, lemon, cucumbers, onion, and olive oil. Variations exist throughout the Levant. Wikimedia Commons
Visiting diverse Middle Eastern restaurants across the Greater Toronto Area, one quickly discovers that they all feature Tabbouleh on the menu. As an Egyptian, I had never eaten Tabbouleh until I started my undergraduate degree at York University in Toronto. It is not part of the Egyptian tradition. Interestingly, while Syrian and Lebanese emigrants found their way to Egypt in large numbers throughout the mid- to late-nineteenth century, this side-dish never made its way into mainstream Egyptian cuisine, and especially, the average family kitchen. However, in North America it has come to be defined as “authentically” Middle Eastern.
The first time I tried Tabbouleh, I was with a group of friends from various ethno-cultural backgrounds. When I asked what kind of salad that “green dish” was, I was met with confused expressions. The person across the table asked me: “I thought you were Egyptian?” Somehow, not knowing what Tabbouleh was, made my very claim to “Egyptian-ness” questionable. Continue reading
Ethiopia is back in international headlines with another apocalyptic-scale famine. It is being widely reported that the country is facing its worst drought in 50 years, a result of three failed rainy seasons, coupled with an El Nino effect warming the Pacific Ocean affecting global weather patterns. With just weeks remaining before the start of the main cropping season in the country, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for urgent funding to assist farmers in sowing their fields in order to abate drought stricken areas from falling deeper into hunger and food insecurity. With a future saddled by the “uncertainty of what nature has called down upon it”, Ethiopia, as CBC’s Margaret Evans among many others have characterized it, is once again “on the edge.”
Currently, Ethiopia has an estimated 10.2 million people in need of assistance throughout 2016, with another 5.75 million children at risk of going hungry. Up to 2 million children are currently suffering from malnutrition, with 400,000 acute cases. The numbers are once again staggering and overwhelming, leading many to proclaim that this is evidence of “history repeating itself”. Continue reading
By Patricia Kmiec
If you live in Canada, you have likely received your invitation to complete the 2016 Census of Population this week. The 2016 census is a celebration of sorts in Canada, with many historians, researchers, educators, policy-makers, and members of the public relieved to hear that this year’s census comprises a mandatory short-form (completed by the entire population) and a mandatory long-form (completed by approximately 25% of the population). This is unusually celebratory news as the previous Conservative government eliminated the long-form census and replaced it with a voluntary survey for our last census year, 2011. Not surprisingly, much of the data collected from the voluntary survey was found to be unreliable, and, in many ways, useless to researchers.
While it is certainly good news that the mandatory form has returned, I hope that Canadians will continue the conversation about how accurate census data is essential in providing a strong understanding of the population. Unfortunately, assumptions about Indigenous identities, race, and labour, all deeply rooted in historical biases, continue to shape how questions are posed, how information collected is categorized, and how present-day realities for many populations are made invisible. Continue reading
By Neil Orford
Though it may be apocryphal, Thomas Aquinas was reputed to have said that “History is a foreign land to which few will ever travel.” After teaching history for 30 years in the Ontario Secondary system, I believe he may have been right.
The notion of ‘Active History” is an intriguing one – knowledge mobilization for students, designing a new robust curricula founded upon Historical Thinking Concepts, demanding 21st century digital competencies that present historical understandings in multi-dimensional ways – an idea which is rich in possibility, inventiveness and intellectual rigour.
Yet the October 2015 Conference on “New Directions, challenged me to make a frank assessment of the current state of history education, albeit from a decidedly “Ontario-Centric” perspective. The workshops, speakers and roundtable debates suggested that public history (and history education) are at a crossroads between teaching traditional narrative to establish ‘the story of Canada’ or teaching for critical inquiry and skill-development. True, the two ‘directions’ are not mutually exclusive and they can (& do) intersect with ease. However, within the limitations of a compulsory semester-long Grade 10 history course, which should be the ‘road more-travelled?’
Perhaps more to the point; which provides the better chance for ‘active historical’ engagement? Continue reading
By Mark Leier
Making a safe space
Writing real life
Making assignments matter
Doing more with less
The assignment made all of us squirm. Some broke into a sweat; others made little nervous jokes. At a workshop on teaching writing, we — professors, graduate students, librarians, deans — were asked to take five minutes to complete a short writing exercise that we would share with others. We were seasoned veterans with countless theses, books, articles, memos, and position papers between us, yet being asked to write something made us uneasy.
The sportswriter Walter “Red” Smith is alleged to have said, “Turning out a column is easy. I just sit at my typewriter until beads of blood form on my forehead.”
I took that lesson to heart as I redesigned my first year survey course, “Canada since Confederation,” as a “writing intensive” course. The aim is not to teach writing skills such as “Our Friend the Comma” or “27 Keys to the Successful Term Paper.” Rather, writing is one of the skills we work on in the class, and writing is emphasized as a way to learn. But if a simple assignment at a voluntary workshop made us nervous, what would writing do to students who know they are about to be weighed and judged?
The problem is particularly acute in “Canada since Confederation.” Continue reading
By Sarah Nickel
Cover from The Trail of Broken Treaties: B.I.A. I’m Not Your Indian Any More (Akwesasne: Akwesasne Notes, 1973)
When approximately thirty members of the Idle No More and Black Lives Matter movements entered the Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAC) office in Toronto on April 13, 2016 to protest government inaction on the suicide crisis in Attawapiskat, the group, calling itself #OccupyINAC was drawing on long established political strategies. Indigenous peoples have occupied Indian Affairs offices before. Perhaps the most well-known was the 1972 American Indian Movement (AIM) occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters in Washington, DC. The BIA takeover concluded the Trail of Broken Treaties—a cross-country march organized to protest broken treaty promises and the poor living conditions of Native American peoples across the country. When the caravan reached Washington, 500 American Indians took over the BIA office, destroyed records, and began a seven-day occupation, during which they presented AIM’s “Twenty Point” position paper to President Nixon, listing their demands. Less well known are the occupations that occurred in British Columbia three years later. Continue reading
(Editor’s note: this post first appeared in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives in April 2016)
By Gabriel Pizzorno and Heidi Tworek
Credit: Jonathan Palmer
One truism about World War I is the incompetence of German propaganda in the United States. The classic stories feature German officials forgetting briefcases with secret documents on the New York subway and ham-fistedly delivering speeches about German culture. But what if we look beyond urban centers to examine the thousands of news items from a German news agency printed in American newspapers during the war? And what if we integrate students into this research adventure?
Over the past few years, the history department at Harvard University, where one of us teaches and the other has taught, has implemented an independent-study course, History Lab, that uses active learning to offer students hands-on experience in historical research and digital methods. Conceived by Dan Smail in 2013, the course addressed a long-standing desire among undergraduates to get involved in research. It also reflected growing faculty interest in applying digital methods and teaching these skills to history majors. Participating faculty propose research projects. Students register for a project and meet weekly with the faculty member; they receive ordinary course credit and must produce a final product (for example, an online exhibition or a visualization) comparable to a major term paper. They also consult regularly with the department’s digital historian, Gabe Pizzorno, who coordinates the methodological aspects common to all the projects.
Research papers and senior theses allow students to stumble on their own; History Lab uses the collaborative nature of digital scholarship to foster collective rather than individual learning. Continue reading