Revived Stories Promote Reconciliation Across Cultures and Across Time

This is the fourth in a five part series featuring the Lost Stories Project.

By Keith Thor Carlson

The same week that a mob of torch-carrying white supremists marched through Charlottesville Virginia protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee a group of Indigenous and settler Canadians gathered in Hope BC to celebrate the erection of a cedar memorial pole commemorating the Stó:lõ boys who had been kidnapped during the 1858 Fraser River gold rush.  Carved by Chief Terry Horne, the work depicted a Stó:lõ father and his son reaching for one another, but their hands not quite connecting.  The pole was a work of commemorative public art, part of the Lost Stories Project. The creation of Terry Horne’s carving and the story that it tells are at the heart of Sandra Bonner Pederson’s film, Kidnapped Stó:lõ Boys.

Image 4.1: Commemorative Pole by Chief Terry Horne. Courtesy Sandra Bonner Pederson

According to obscure records in the colonial archives, the Stó:lõ boy depicted in Horne’s carving was but one of the “great many” who had been kidnapped by “vicious white men” (American miners) and taken to California. The father’s name was Sokolowictz. He tried repeatedly over four years to secure his son’s rescue and repatriation.  Ultimately these efforts were in vain.  The boy died in the custody of his kidnapper, and today he remains buried in the Sacramento pioneer cemetery under the name Charley Crum – the moniker assigned him by his abductor George Crum.  Sokolowictz’s fate is unknown, but Indigenous oral traditions recorded forty years after the kidnappings shed light on the ways the kidnappings affected families.  One Stó:lõ father is described as having searched frantically in the woods for his kidnapped son only to die of grief a few days later. Continue reading

The Yees Return to Regina

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This is the third in a five part series featuring the Lost Stories Project.

By Ronald Rudin

Mamie Wong left Regina in 1947, never expecting to return. But this all changed when she learned a story about her father that had been largely lost to her family for decades and which is now featured both in a public art project by Saskatoon-based artist Xiao Han and in the Lost Stories film Yee Clun and the Exchange Café by Regina-based filmmaker Kelly-Anne Riess.

Yee Clun was a Regina restaurateur who came to the attention of historians — if not his own family — because of his role in the 1920s in challenging Saskatchewan’s White Women’s Labour Law. Legal historian Constance Backhouse has provided a detailed discussion of this law in her 1999 book, Colour Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, showing how it was designed to prevent Chinese-Canadian businessmen (such as Yee Clun) from hiring white women.[1]

This was no small matter for Mr Yee given that in 1921 there were only four women among the 250 Chinese residents of Regina. The gender imbalance was a result of the discriminatory legislation of the time that worked against the immigration of entire families from China. It was through no fault of his own that Yee had no Chinese women to choose from, but this situation alarmed some Saskatchewan leaders who feared that sexual improprieties were inevitable if Chinese men were allowed to be in close contact with white women. As a result, the provincial law only allowed such hiring if the employer was able to secure a municipal license, and this is where Yee Clun became a public figure. Continue reading

Outside the Frame: The Making of Qamutiik: From the North to Ottawa’s Southway Inn

This is the second in a five part series featuring the Lost Stories Project.

By John C. Walsh

I played a lead role in the Lost Stories episode Qamutiik: From the North to Ottawa’s Southway Inn, serving as associate producer of the film. Due to this involvement, whenever I watch it I am able to see what sits just off the screen, somewhere outside the frame. There were moments, people, and things related to this project that were never filmed or were edited out. For whatever reason, knowing what is outside the frame affords me a unique viewing experience, and it is one I will share here.

I do so for two purposes: First, I want to shine some light on how doing public history is hard, often slow, and almost always unpredictable work. There are confines – budgets, deadlines, and often contracted “deliverables” – but the journeys taken in making public history projects, such as Lost Stories, create moments of both challenge and opportunity that no amount of planning can predict. And, secondly, I want to share a glimpse of personal experience that I hope enriches what you see when watching the film, and that underlines how the sharing of interpretive authority and resources produces effective and affecting public history.

Other than filming done at the home studio of the project artist, Couzyn van Heulven, I was on set, not only to make sure things went well but also to learn more about how a documentary film set operates. What I did not expect, was that I would become so involved: Continue reading

Public History is Messy

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This is the first in a five part series featuring the Lost Stories Project.

By Ronald Rudin

In mid-June 2017, I received a phone call from a senior official in the New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture. He wanted to talk with me in regard to the Lost Stories Project that I direct. We seek out little-known stories from the Canadian past, hand them over to artists to create works of public art, and document the process by way of short documentary films. The project was designed, in part, to show what happens when stories about the past are told in public space. When we see a piece of public art making reference to the past, it appears as if it couldn’t have told any other story, taken on any other form, or been located in any other location. The Lost Stories Project offers an opportunity to show that the process was far from straightforward since there are invariably numerous interests that need to be heard and challenges that had not been expected.

During 2017, with Canada 150 funding from the federal government, we created four new episodes from across the country, selecting from nearly 200 stories that were brought to us following a call to the public. While subsequent Active History posts this week will explore other episodes, my phone call was pertinent to one that I led, which told the story of individuals — mostly Acadians — who contracted leprosy and were in the 1840s confined to Sheldrake Island, near the mouth of New Brunswick’s Miramichi River; and until that phone call, everything connected with this particular episode had gone according to plan. Continue reading

Podcast: Setting the Plains on Fire: How Indigenous Geo-Politics and the U.S.-Dakota War Shaped Canada’s Westward Expansion

On April 22, 2017, Michel Hogue delivered his talk “Setting the Plains on Fire: How Indigenous Geo-Politics and the U.S.-Dakota War Shaped Canada’s Westward Expansion.” The talk was part of “The Other 60s: A Decade that Shaped Canada and the World,” a symposium hosted by the Department of History at the University of Toronto as part of its Canada 150 events.

This talk is part of our History Chats podcast series. You can subscribe to the History Chats feed wherever you get your podcasts.

Remember/Resist/Redraw #14: The 1864 Tsilhqot’in War

Last month, the Graphic History Collective re-launched Remember / Resist / Redraw: A Radical History Poster Project as an ongoing series.

Earlier this week, we released poster #14 by Gord Hill and Sean Carleton that examines the Tsilhqot’in War of 1864 and reflects on the recent state apologies in the context of continued colonialism and capitalist development in what is currently British Columbia.

We hope that Remember | Resist | Redraw encourages people to critically examine history in ways that can fuel our radical imaginations and support struggles for radical change. Learn more about how you can support the project on our website, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Continue reading

Active History in 2018: Taking Stock

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Daniel Ross

Since we founded Active History in 2009, it has grown into a big, exciting, and often eclectic project. The theme of our 2015 conference in London, Ontario was “New Directions in Active History”; that title captured something essential to what were were doing, in that the website and the networks of people it brings together continue to evolve in new directions today. However, much of that change and growth gets lost in the day to day activities that keep the site running. It’s rare that those of us in the editorial collective take the time to think about the bigger picture, and ask questions like: what are we building at ActiveHistory.ca? What are we doing day-to-day? What does the future look like?

In this post, I’d like to begin to tackle these questions by providing a look back over the past (academic) year of Active History. This post will be at most a sketch, and perhaps a starting-off point for a renewed discussion about the work we are doing, a discussion that can continue online, and for those who are attending, in person at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association in Regina (May 28-30).

The blog continues to grow

ActiveHistory.ca is the site where people working on and interested in the Active History project meet and communicate. It may not be the most aesthetically innovative place in the history blogosphere, but one thing that sets it apart is its incredible productivity. Over the last 9 years, our blog has built up a wide network of readers and contributors across Canada, the United States, Europe, and beyond. Since this time last year, we’ve published approximately 220 posts on the site, which translates to between 4 and 5 posts per week throughout the year. We’re deeply appreciative of the hundreds of people who have chosen (or given in to pressure) to write for the site: you are what makes ActiveHistory.ca truly active and relevant. Continue reading

The Place of History in the Alberta Social Studies Curriculum

This month, as part of the review of the History and Social Studies curriculum across Canada, Profs. Lindsay Gibson and Carla Peck from the University of Alberta have reviewed the Alberta’s Social Studies curriculum to situate the current revisions within a larger context.

Current Curriculum Context

Intersection of School Road and Alberta Street in Trochu, Alberta

Based in “progressive” child-centered, inquiry-based curriculum reform that began in the mid-1930s, Alberta is the only province that requires students to take issues-centred, interdisciplinary Social Studies courses through to the end of high school. The current Alberta K-12 Social Studies Curriculum was introduced in stages from 2005-2009, and history is one of six interrelated “strands” that reflect the nature of social studies as an interdisciplinary subject. Alberta also has a mandatory social studies diploma exam in Grade 12 that is worth 30% of students’ final mark, and mandatory social studies Provincial Achievements Tests in grades 6 and 9.

Canadian history topics are introduced thematically in different grades throughout the K-12 curriculum, which has led to critiques of the curriculum for over-privileging thematic approaches and disregarding chronology. For example, in grade 2 students learn about three Canadian communities: Iqaluit, Meteghan, and Saskatoon, and one of the foci are the changes in those communities over time. In grade 4 students learn about the land, histories, and stories of Alberta, and in grade 5 students learn about the land, histories, and stories of Canada, including an examining Canadian identity. In grade 6 students focus on historical models of democracy including the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and in grade 7 the curriculum focuses on the origins, histories and movement of people both before and after Confederation. Grade 9 includes a few isolated topics in Canadian history including the Indian Act and treaties 6, 7, and 8. The three compulsory senior high school courses are organized around multidisciplinary investigations of globalization in Grade 10, nationalism in grade 11, and ideology in grade 12. Canadian history topics are interspersed in these curricula, but not in any systematic or comprehensive way.

Given that the Alberta social studies curriculum was written and implemented while Peter Seixas was still conceptualizing the initial framework of historical thinking and the Historical Thinking Project was still in its nascent stage, the articulation of historical thinking in the Alberta K-12 curriculum is underdeveloped. Historical thinking is included as one of six “dimensions of thinking” (critical thinking, creative thinking, historical thinking, geographic thinking, decision making and problem solving, and metacognition) that assist students in making connections to prior knowledge, assimilate new information, and apply learning to new contexts. Although historical thinking is included in the curriculum at each grade level, historical thinking concepts are not specifically named and the concepts are not coherently organized to increase in complexity throughout the K-12 curriculum.

The “New” Curriculum Continue reading

Reconsidering the Digital Historian Project

In 2014, the Digital Historian Project began as a partnership in Experiential Learning between 3 secondary schools in Dufferin County (the Upper Grand DSB) and the Duffern County Museum and Archives (DCMA). The goal was to offer a 4-Credit semester-long intensive program taught in situ at the Museum to senior students, in which curriculum would be delivered by a History & Math ‘team-teaching’ model. The lessons would integrate numeracy and historical thinking skills, and focus on rich archival research using a digital platform. Students were recruited from Grade 10, and take the DHP in their Grade 11 Year. In 2015, the DHP was awarded the Government of Canada History Award, and also received an  ‘exemplary program’ designation from the Ontario Ministry of Education. The DHP was cancelled by the UGDSB for 2018-2019. Today ActiveHistory.ca runs two letters from program graduates about the project’s influence.

By Avery Bettonvil

When I was a grade 11 student at Westside Secondary School, I was given the opportunity of being a part of the Digital Historian Project. It provided me with so many opportunities to develop as an individual. Collaborating with two other high schools, learning about our rich Canadian history and travelling to Europe to honour our veterans are just some examples of the amazing aspects this program had to offer.

Students in the Inaugural DHP

I was heartbroken when I heard this program was being cancelled. It played a critical role in my high school career and I feel that it has such potential to do so for future students.

I am now entering my third year in kineseology at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and am thankful for the skills this program helped me develop. The DHP taught me many lessons through a combination of math and history that help me in my current studies, such as advanced research skills, group collaboration and critical thinking. Continue reading

Reconsidering the Digital Historian Project

In 2014, the Digital Historian Project began as a partnership in Experiential Learning between 3 secondary schools in Dufferin County (the Upper Grand DSB) and the Duffern County Museum and Archives (DCMA). The goal was to offer a 4-Credit semester-long intensive program taught in situ at the Museum to senior students, in which curriculum would be delivered by a History & Math ‘team-teaching’ model. The lessons would integrate numeracy and historical thinking skills, and focus on rich archival research using a digital platform. Students were recruited from Grade 10, and take the DHP in their Grade 11 Year. In 2015, the DHP was awarded the Government of Canada History Award, and also received an  ‘exemplary program’ designation from the Ontario Ministry of Education. The DHP was cancelled by the UGDSB for 2018-2019. Today ActiveHistory.ca runs two letters from program graduates about the project’s influence.

By Riley Tilson

I was finishing my second year as a double major in History and Politics at Queen’s University, when one of my profs said: “History is all about perspective. You have to change how you look at the world to understand it.” I found familiarity in this statement, because it was an idea that had been sparked inside me not too long ago, when I participated in the Digital Historian Project in its pilot year in 2015.

In the program, I found myself with sixteen other students from three local high schools in Dufferin County. We were a ragtag bunch who had been selected to participate in a four credit program that was designed to mesh Canadian History, Indigenous Studies, Data Management, and independent projects powered by research at our local museum, the Dufferin County Museum and Archives. You’d think that seventeen kids in Grade 11 wouldn’t be very interested in taking an in depth look at Canadian History, especially with the fact that this innovative program had the possibility of many hiccups in its first year. But it surprised us all and, instead, left us with a better understanding of our country, and the county we call home.

The DHP was the first time I was encouraged to look at our history critically. Unlike previous history classes, history was no longer a list of dates and facts. The DHP transformed it into so much more. In the DHP we were encouraged to look at how history was a set of contingent events, where the past repeats itself daily. We examined the “big” and “little” picture (as we called it), examining how national events affected local histories in Dufferin County. Continue reading