Write for Us!

writing-hand-1443450529gznOver the past year, much has changed at ActiveHistory.ca. Long time editors Ian Milligan and Kaleigh Bradley left the project as their careers have taken them in different directions, while we’ve added three new contributing editors to the team (Welcome Stephanie Bangarth, Erika Dyck, and Colin Coates!). Following New Directions in Active History, a conference we held last fall, we launched a new exhibits program and revamped our ‘papers section’ into one more focused on ‘featured projects.’ Over this time we’ve moved increasingly towards publishing series of short essays, on topics including Confederation, Indigenous history, Marijuana policy, and Canada’s history of welcoming refugees, and Technoscience. Canada’s First World War, a web series edited by Sarah Glassford, Chris Shultz, Nathan Smith and Jon Weier, has published nearly forty essays and tomorrow will launch a new partnership as part of their work (I won’t spoil the surprise here!).

As we begin a new publishing season, we want to encourage renewed participation in the project. Over the years we’ve identified weaknesses in our online publishing in areas such as Indigenous and Black-Canadian histories, histories of abilities, as well as imbalance in the cultural, class and gender of our authors. Though we have worked to rectify these gaps, as a volunteer-run and submission-based project, our content is only as rich as the diversity of our contributors. As such, we would like to broaden the team working on this project in three ways:

  • New contributors: If you have a short 800-1,200 word essay that you think would be of interest to our readership (historians and history-professionals, policymakers, journalists, and the broader public), please send it along to info@activehistory.ca. Submissions should be clearly-written and original, and we encourage the inclusion of images and other media. We can usually get new posts up within a couple of weeks.
  • New Regular Contributors: On Thursdays, we run posts written by people who write for us on a regular basis (4-5 times a year). Taking on this task allows you to develop ideas over time, become more familiar with the project as a whole, and, for many, provide opportunities for structured reflection on key issues facing our work as historians.
  • New Contributing Editors: This year we introduced new contributing editor positions. People who have agreed to build the project in this way help to invite new contributors to the project and/or have coordinated a theme week or web series for the site.

If you are interested in taking on any of these roles, or would like more information, please drop an e-mail to info@activehistory.ca.

Thank You Kaleigh Bradley – ActiveHistory.ca repost

In our final repost of the summer we’d like to highlight the work of an outgoing member of our editorial collective. Kaleigh Bradley joined the project as a regular contributor in 2010 with a post “Memento Mori On the Web: What Happens When Photos are Digitized?” In 2012, she took on the role of book review editor, before joining the editorial collective. During her time helping build ActiveHistory.ca, Kaleigh has edited dozens of blog posts, coordinated theme weeks with guest editors, and helped organize the New Directions in Active History conference in October 2015. Although she is stepping back from her work as an editor, we hope that from time to time she will continue to write timely and thoughtful posts like the one featured below . The editorial collective thanks Kaleigh for her many contributions to the site and for all of her help in growing this project over the past six years.

Why Non-Indigenous Canadians Need to Share the Burden of the Residential School System

An earlier version of this post was originally published on 49thShelf.com, as part of a special series of essays and book recommendations called Talking History. Follow the link to see the rest of the series and to explore the more than 80,000 Canadian books listed on the site. The author would like to thank Crystal Fraser for her comments and feedback.

By Kaleigh Bradley

9780889227415

Cover photo of Bev Sellars’ Memoir.

In the nineteenth century, near present-day Sault Ste. Marie, Chief Shingwaukonse dreamt of a teaching wigwam where Anishinaabe children could learn vocational and academic skills. Chief Shingwaukonse wanted children to have these tools so that they could preserve Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language), and adapt to a modernizing economy and society. Indigenous peoples, with the help of church missionaries and government officials, sought the creation of schools for their children, but the schools later became an instrument for cultural genocide.

The Indian Residential School (IRS) system began in the early nineteenth century with the missionary work of different Christian groups across Canada. Government and churches designed the IRS system to assimilate and transform Indigenous children into self-reliant citizens by removing parental involvement in their intellectual, spiritual, and cultural development. Schools were perceived as an ideal solution to the late-nineteenth-century “problem” of incorporating Indigenous peoples into Euro-Canadian settler-society. In 1876, the federal government consolidated the IRS system with the passing of the Indian Act, and by the late 1880s, government-funded schools were operating across Canada, run by Anglican, Presbyterian, Catholic missionaries and volunteers. Did you know that Gordon IRS, the last residential school, closed less than twenty years ago in 1996?

Schools were often sites of emotional, physical, and psychological abuse, and the legacy of the schools—language loss, broken families, children alienated from their communities and culture, addictions and mental health issues, intergenerational trauma, health issues due to disease and neglect—continues to ripple throughout Indigenous communities. Institutional life was often traumatic for students, and the education received typically left them ill-equipped for capitalist ways of living. The schools did not lead to the assimilation of Indigenous peoples, although they caused irreparable suffering and damage to Indigenous communities and cultures. Indigenous cultures are no longer as vibrant today as they were prior to the creation of the IRS system.

It’s important to note that the history of residential schools is also a story of survival, resiliency, mobilization, and cultural revitalization. Students and communities often resisted assimilation and survivors acquired the tools for political resistance and mobilization.

In the fall of 2011, I was hired as a research consultant to research for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I had recently graduated from my Master’s program and in this economy, I was grateful to have a job. My project manager told me to show up at a church archive the following Monday, and I was sent detailed instructions along with a file that was over four hundred pages, which outlined the history of residential schools. I was never taught this history during elementary school, high school, and even as an undergraduate student in university. I was to uncover links between the schools and Indigenous communities and in particular, I was supposed to flag anything in the archives that suggested evidence of abuse, neglect, missing children, or unmarked cemeteries. Continue reading

ActiveHistory.ca repost – One Monument Too Many: Why R.B. Bennett Doesn’t Deserve a Spot on Parliament Hill

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.   Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on September 16, 2015.

By Sonya Roy and Steve Hewitt

bennettwIn recent years, non-experts, with the Harper government leading the way, have advocated and pushed for a conservative rewriting of Canadian history in an effort to find “heroes”[1]. This “great man” rewriting of Canadian history focuses on White, middle-class politicians and businessmen, militarism, and monarchism and leaves out the experiences of ordinary people and related subjects such as the labour movement, social justice struggles, immigration, feminism and colonization. A perfect example of this trend is the 20 August piece in the Globe and Mail “Let’s give R.B. Bennett his due” which portrays Bennett through the lenses of “happy history” as some sort of benevolent and prescient Canadian “Daddy” Warbucks. In making this case, the authors, a collection of journalists, an ex-politician, and a former civil servant, fail to engage in any way with considerably less savoury aspects of his time in office that might help to explain why he does not have a monument on Parliament Hill and why he should not have one in the future.

That’s not to say that Bennett deserves the blame for the Great Depression. Canada’s millionaire prime minister clearly does not. His record responding to the economic calamity, however, does deserve scrutiny and not sanitizing or ignoring. Take his government’s response to record high unemployment. Some measures such as $20 million in unemployment relief after taking office proved insufficient to deal with the growing human cost of the economic collapse. Instead of attempting to address the dire plight of thousands of people, the Bennett government sought to silence those refusing to quietly accept their fate. His government’s big concern related to single unemployed men not because of their lack of jobs or misery but because they were seen as a potential threat to social peace. The solution of the Bennett government in 1932 was to put into practice a proposal by Major-General Andrew McNaughton and establish military-run relief camps throughout Canada where unemployed men could be sent to, in effect keeping them in quarantine far away from urban centres and potential agitators.[2]

Click here to read more.

ActiveHistory.ca repost – Paved with Good Intentions: Simply Requiring Indigenous Content is Not Enough

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.   Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on January 13, 2016 during the Indigenous Histories theme week edited by Crystal Fraser.

by Adam Gaudry

Over the past year, the University of Winnipeg and Lakehead University have mandated that incoming undergraduate students complete an Indigenous degree requirement before graduating. This requirement takes the form of an Indigenous content class chosen from a number of options relevant to the student’s degree program. Given the popular response, many other universities are following suit, a byproduct of both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s “Calls to Action” and an arms race to be at the forefront of progressive curricular reform.

Generally speaking, this is a good thing, and I believe that this is an effective strategy, especially at universities like these with substantial capacity to provide this curriculum. It is not my intent to critique those universities who have taken the lead on this, but I think that universities without this experience must move ahead cautiously. In the rush to get students learning about Indigenous-Canada relations, little friendly criticism has challenged this popular desire for curricular change. A sobering analysis by Daniel Heath Justice, however, shows just how difficult this project really is, and how poor implementation of a requirement could actually work against this goal. The stakes are high, much higher than benefiting good public relations in mandating an “Indigenization” program. In implementing an Indigenous content requirement universities need to think long and hard about how to do this effectively.

Indigenous content requirements aren’t actually new: they’ve been around for a while, in some cases, decades. Older content requirements were usually program-specific or a prerequisite for entry into a professional degree. At the University of Saskatchewan, where I work in the Department of Indigenous Studies, Education, Nursing, Aboriginal Public Administration, and Social Work[1] students are required to take two Indigenous Studies courses to complete their degrees (all programs which train front-line workers in a province with a large Indigenous population). What these new proposals do, then, is expand the content requirement to a wider range of students—particularly into the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences—where the justification for its implementation is more intellectual (this is something you should know) rather rationalized as job training (this is something you’ll need to know to practice your profession effectively).

Click here to read more.

ActiveHistory.ca repost – Who Teaches Digital History in Canada?

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.   Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on April 6, 2016.

By Sean Kheraj

Digital history is coming to York University in Fall 2016. That is to say, I finally got around to organizing and preparing to teach digital history. As I get ready to teach this course, I am surveying the landscape of digital history teaching in Canada, looking for ideas. Readers of this article, I hope, will help by posting suggestions and links to resources in the comments below.

For many years now, I have integrated digital history skills, assignments, and exercises into my history courses. This has included the development of a couple collaborative digital history projects in my fourth-year research seminar on the history of Toronto. “Development of Toronto: Urban Histories of Toronto and Its Region” is a collaboratively produced website featuring original student Web essays on topics in Toronto history. “Stories of the Development of Toronto” is a new collaborative project to develop audio tours of historic sites in Toronto. Using the tools provided by IZI.travel, we are developing tours that are integrated into a mobile app and website.

Building upon these types of digital history projects, I will now be offering a dedicated course in digital history. Last week, I launched the website for this course at digitalhist.com. The overall learning objectives for the course are to:

  1. Introduce students to key tools and technologies used in historical scholarship and public history
  2. Discuss and debate key issues concerning the use of digital technologies in history
  3. Engage in practical hands-on exercises in the use of such technologies

Click here to read more.

ActiveHistory.ca repost – Baba Wore a Burqa, and Nona wore a Niqab

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.   Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on October 16, 2015.

Doukhobor women are shown breaking the prairie sod by pulling a plough themselves, Thunder Hill Colony, Manitoba (Library and Archives Canada, Creative Commons)

Doukhobor women are shown breaking the prairie sod by pulling a plough themselves, Thunder Hill Colony, Manitoba (Library and Archives Canada, Creative Commons)

By Karen Dubinsky and Franca Iacovetta

Last week two high profile Canadian Muslim women, writer Sheema Khan and Zunera Ishaq (the woman at the centre of the niqab controversy) publically questioned the safety of Muslims here.   Khan lived here in the aftermath of 9/11; she says it’s worse now. These admissions amount to a tragic statement about the use of the niqab as an election issue. Yet as Canadian women’s historians, we have heard it before. Intolerant Canadians, from political elites to ordinary citizens, have long attempted to impose their notions of what it means to be a Canadian on the bodies of immigrant women. Today’s veiled Muslim woman joins a long line of immigrant women whom this country has feared or pitied, but always stereotyped, for at least a century.

Consider those Doukhobor women harnessed to a plough, breaking the tough Prairie. Their photos, faces almost hidden by their babushkas, have graced Canadian history textbooks for decades. The widely shared image – reproduced as a postcard inviting everyone to get a look – struck many Canadians as the personification of a backward European peasant culture that treated its women like downtrodden beasts of burden. These women posed a striking contrast to the prevailing middle-class ideal of the Victorian woman – that morally superior angel in the home.   Consider too the distinctive dress of the women who completed the portrait of Immigration Minister Clifford Sifton’s ideal Eastern European peasant “in a sheepskin coat” with “a stout wife and a half-dozen children” grudgingly welcomed to Canada. Someone needed to do the backbreaking labour to settle what was portrayed as an empty Prairie, the original First Nations inhabitants having been shoved aside to a number of reserves. Even Icelandic pioneer women, easily assimilated, one might expect, into the Nordic race, were castigated for their typical headdress: a dark knitted skullcap with tassel. Such women may now be considered Old Stock Canadians, but not so long ago, their Anglo neighbours viewed them as second-class. According to historian Sarah Carter, Anglo women’s organization in Alberta thought Ukrainian girls so deficient in the standards of proper womanhood that they too should be sent to residential schools.

Click here to read more.

ActiveHistory.ca repost – Bleeding Him White: How Canada Stole an Indigenous Veteran’s Identity

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.   Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on February 2, 2016 s part of  “Canada’s First World War: A Centennial Series on ActiveHistory.ca”, a multi-year series of regular posts about the history and centennial of the First World War.  

By Lynn Gehl

In the Anishinaabeg tradition dibaajimowinan, which translates to personal storytelling, is valued as a valid and legitimate method of both gaining and conveying knowledge. The dibaajimowinan method is holistic in that it values knowledge that is more than what is rational: it is emotional and spiritual too. As most know, the oral tradition was recognized in the 1997 Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada decision. Remaining within my ancestral knowledge tradition, it is in these ways of knowing that I offer this Algonquin Anishinaabeg history.

CFWW Gehl Figure 1 - Joseph Gagnon (Gagne) in uniform

Figure 1 – Joseph Gagnon (Gagne) in uniform. All images are of items in the author’s possession.

Most days, and especially Remembrance Day, are a bundle of contradictions as my lived experience is laden with the genocide by colonial Canada both historical and in a contemporary sense. Through family oral history I know that my great grandfather, Joseph Gagne (also spelled Gagnon), served in the First World War (1914-1918). I was told that his mother, who is my great great grandmother, Angeline Jocko (also spelled Jacco), once resided at a mission settlement in the Lake of Two Mountains which was first established in 1721.

CFWW Gehl Figure 2 - Lynn Gehl holding wampum belt. Photo credit Nikolaus Gehl

Figure 2 – Lynn Gehl holding wampum belt. Photo credit Nikolaus Gehl.

The Lake of Two Mountains mission settlement was a place where the Algonquin, Nippissing, and Mohawk people lived together, each nation retaining their own council houses (Day and Trigger 1994). Through the oral tradition I know there is a wampum belt that represents this relationship. This belt has three human icons encoded, as well as a cross representing the three Indigenous nations and the community as a Christian settlement.[i]

Click here to read more.

ActiveHistory.ca repost – Science, Technology and Gender in Canada: An ActiveHistory.ca Exhibit in Collaboration with the Canadian Science and Technology Museum

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.   Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

This post and corresponding exhibit were originally featured  on November 20, 2015 during the Tehcnoscience in Canada theme week.

By Beth A. Robertson and Dorotea Gucciardo

"Ferut" Memory Tube c.1951 (with box) CSTM Collections

“Ferut” Memory Tube c.1951 (with box) CSTM Collections

What do a glass memory tube, an electric range, a botanical painting, a player piano and two different aircrafts have in common? This first Active History exhibit dedicated to Science, Technology and Gender will provide a few answers to that question that may surprise you.

This introductory post marks the launch of a new section of the ActiveHistory.ca website entitled “Exhibits”. The purpose of the new section is to extend the partnerships between ActiveHistory.ca and other forms of “active history” primarily through collaborating with museums and archives across the country. Each online exhibit, powered through Omeka, will be organized around a theme. The exhibits will showcase a select number of objects, documents, and images from a single collection that you may or may not have heard of. Academics, public historians as well as museum professionals and archivists will be asked to place each object in context as it relates to the overarching theme.

Situating an object within its historical context can be a formidable task, especially in the absence of printed materials, which can lend insight into the object’s uses or socially constructed values. Without context, the object becomes a “thing” — something indefinable. So how do we go beyond the “thingness”[1] of something to identify and analyze the object? For that, we can turn to authors like E. McClung Fleming or Jules Prown, who define material culture — that is, the objects created by a particular society — and suggest methodologies for identifying an object and determining its social meanings.[2] The most important task is to accept the artifact as an expression of culture, and to engage with it using all of our senses to unravel the values, assumptions, beliefs, either conscious or unconscious, encoded in it by the society that created it.

To that end, the contributors of this first theme of science, technology and gender, will explore artifacts with the specific goal of determining how those objects can be expressions of gender — either as being gendered themselves or telling us something about the expectations of those who used them.

Click here to read more. Or head straight to the Science, Technology and Gender exhibit to explore alternative histories and politics through material culture objects.

Science, Technology and Gender Exhibit

ActiveHistory.ca repost – What about the People? Place, Memory, and Industrial Pollution in Sudbury

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.   Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on November 5, 2015.

By Stacey Zembrzycki

A view of the slag storage area, from Gutcher Street in Gatchell, circa 1970. Anonymous local photographer.

A view of the slag storage area, from Gutcher Street in Gatchell, ca. 1970. Anonymous local photographer.

Much of the industrial ruins resulting from nearly 130 years of nickel mining in Sudbury, Ontario, are now hidden from plain sight, camouflaged under a successful re-greening program that has led to the planting of over nine million trees, and the clean-up of many area lakes and thousands of hectares of soil. And yet, despite this invisibility, vestiges of the industrial past continue to exist and do harm. “Making connections where they are hard to trace,” as Ann Laura Stoler reminds us, “is not designed to settle scores but rather to recognize that these are unfinished histories, not of victimized pasts but consequential histories that open to differential futures.”[1] Understanding the visible and invisible tolls that heavy industry has taken on residents’ bodies requires a willingness to explore these unfinished histories, a subject that is deeply implicated in an Environment Canada investigation in the region.

On October 8, 2015, Sudbury’s local media received an anonymous email stating that Environment Canada and the RCMP had spent the day “raiding” the headquarters of Vale (formerly Inco Limited) in Copper Cliff, a small nickel mining community just west of Sudbury, searching for files that pertained to a 2012 federal investigation into alleged Fisheries Act violations.[2] Nearly three weeks later, details about this investigation became public, revealing that the local mining company has been accused of allowing industrial effluents to leach into a number of local waterways since at least 1997, and perhaps even going as far back as 1963. The CBC reported that the Environment Canada warrant “accuses the company of allowing ‘acutely lethal’ seepage from the smelter waste piles into water frequented by fish, and of knowing about the leakage for years.” As an oral and public historian actively engaged in a SSHRC-funded project entitled Mining Immigrant Bodies: A Multi-Ethnic Oral History of Industry, Environment, and Health in the Sudbury Region, which examines the “inescapable ecological” relationships that have been forged between Sudburians and the landscape since the postwar period, I have spent the last year listening to stories that intersect in important ways to this latest investigation.[3]

Click here to continue reading.

ActiveHistory.ca repost – A Smudgier Dispossession is Still Dispossession

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular and favourite posts from the past year.   Thanks as always to our writers and readers.

The following post was originally featured on January 11, 2016 during the Indigenous Histories theme week edited by Crystal Fraser.

By Leanne Betasamosake Simpson 

SimpsonL

Photo by author.

The waning months of 2015 signaled a seemingly dramatic albeit likely superficial shift in Indigenous-state relations in Canada. When the fall began, the Prime Minister was steadfast in his refusal to call an inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which surprised few, as it was beautifully consistent with the contempt, paternalism and outright hatred that characterized Harper’s interactions with Indigenous peoples in general. By the time December rolled around, the next Prime Minister and his Haida tattoo were flanked with Indigenous drummers and dancers, clouds of smudge seem to follow him wherever he went, and Indigenous territories were being acknowledged at the beginning of events. The inquiry had been called and meetings with families were held, and recommendations from the past Royal Commission and current Truth and Reconciliation Commission were set to be implemented. Harper lowered the bar to such a level that the tiniest bit of humanity impressed us, and Trudeau was providing us with the mother load.

The cynical, critical, and loving decolonial part of me believed Parliament was photoshopped with all the expertise of a Cosmo retoucher. It was as if the state read Red Skin White Masks, thought recognition was a (still) great idea to control Indigenous desire for freedom, and while they were reading the book we were binge watching Netflix and eating corn chips. “Our people are drunk on Trudeau tears! I round danced my ass off through Christmas of 2012-2013, and all I got was (more) neoliberalism? Holy crap I AM cynical!” I thought, but didn’t tweet. It’s easy to be united and critical when the state is overt, violent, and just plain mean. It’s harder when they are sort of sorry and trying on nice.

Then one day while I was spending my eighth hour of the week on the bleachers at my kid’s indoor soccer practice, I decided to “tap” into iMessages what substantive change might look like. I say “tap” because it was more like “finger punching”. This was by no means a bulletproof analysis. It was mostly a self-imposed project so I didn’t have to talk to the other moms about the tinsel and the toils of baking Christmas cookies. More importantly, it is an ongoing conversation that we should be having (and some are) in communities of Indigenous peoples, and not just the ones we agree with. In reality, Indigenous peoples have said everything on this list in some way before and I’ve tried my best to point you in the direction of deeper Indigenous analysis.

Click here to read more.