How and When to Invite Indigenous Speakers to the Classroom

Circle of people in chairs outside

Photograph of Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre educational programming.

By Skylee-Storm Hogan and Krista McCracken, with Andrea Eidinger

In recent years, particularly since the publication of the TRC Calls to Action, there has been an increasing push to integrate Indigenous content into elementary and secondary classrooms across the country. While we believe that this work is essential, recent news reports have given us cause for concern. From the ongoing debates about Quebec’s latest high school history textbooks to the Ford government’s cancelling of the TRC curriculum writing session, there has been a significant pushback against the inclusion of Indigenous content.

Further, while provinces like BC and Alberta are working to integrate Indigenous content into their curriculums, they often fail to properly prepare educators. Several studies have shown that while many settler educators want to include more content about Indigenous history and culture, they often lack the confidence and training to do so. Some well-intentioned teachers either decline to include Indigenous content out of fear of offending anyone or misappropriate Indigenous stories, traditions, and even ceremonies. And in some cases, the results have been extremely problematic or even disastrous (content warning: racist language), and Indigenous educators are often faced with taking up the burden.

With this in mind, we are launching a new Beyond the Lecture mini-series, specifically dedicated to the issue of teaching Indigenous history and the inclusion of Indigenous content in the classroom. Our goal is to provide resources for educators at all levels to help navigate the often fraught terrain of teaching Indigenous content.

For the first post in this mini-series, we decided to tackle the issue of inviting Indigenous speakers into classrooms. To that end, Andrea compiled a list of commonly-asked questions about how and when to invite Indigenous speakers, and Skylee-Storm and Krista have written detailed responses. Continue reading

The Mysteries of a Hobo’s Life: Uncovering a Forgotten Revolutionary

[photograph of unknown man] (Canadan Teollisuusunionistinen Kannatus Liitto [CTKL] fonds)

Saku Pinta

An earlier version of this post appeared on the “Increasing Access to the Finnish Language Archives” project blog.

This black and white photograph appears, at first glance, to be quite ordinary. An unidentified man poses in front of a tar paper shack, possibly at a logging camp, hands clasped behind his back. His stony gaze is contemplative, confident. Perhaps even defiant. Little else is known about this individual, aside from the near certainty that he lost his life prematurely and tragically, likely dying for his convictions.

Who was this man? While it is possible that we may never know for certain, examining this photograph reveals a story interwoven with the enduring themes of class, ethnicity, justice, and memory.

The significance of the photograph, and the first clue in the difficult task of determining the man’s identity, is revealed through his inclusion in a collage of six labour martyrs. The creator(s) of the long forgotten collage, also unknown, believed that the unknown man belonged in this collection, suggesting that he too met a similar fate as the others. Yet unlike the others, the photograph of this individual is not a mass produced, postcard-sized portrait photo. Rather, it appears to be a one-off, original photograph, possibly local in origin.

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History Slam Episode 127: Firewater

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By Sean Graham

Unless you stop to really think about it, it’s easy to overlook the number of times the subject of alcohol comes up. From after work drinks to wining and dining a date to rec sports being referred to as ‘beer leagues,’ alcohol has a hold on Canadian culture. The popular culture we consume can also be heavy on references to alcohol – one of the most popular sitcoms of the 20th century was set in bar after all. The popularity of alcohol has even made it a political issue as Andrew Scheer has talked about alcohol taxes on multiple occasions and Doug Ford made $1 beer part of his campaign for premier of Ontario last spring.

Despite its celebrated place in the culture, alcohol can be dangerous. The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) concluded that in 2015-2016, 77,000 hospital admissions were caused by alcohol. To put that in context, heart attacks led to 75,000 admissions. That same report estimated that cost-related harm costs Canadians $14.6 billion a year, including $7.1 billion in lost productivity. Globally, the World Health Organization found that 3 million people died due to drinking too much alcohol in 2016. While a lot of people point to excessive drinking as the primary cause, there are an increasing number of studies showing that even a moderate amount of alcohol consumption is dangerous.

In his new book Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing my People (And Yours), Harold Johnson explores alcohol’s social, economic, and social harm. As a Crown Prosecutor in Saskatchewan, Johnson saw first-hand how alcohol can cause damage to families and communities. In his analysis, he looks at alcohol’s history, its myths, and its impact on Indigenous peoples. In confronting stereotypes and challenging alcohol’s social and economic power, Johnson has written a provocative yet engaging book that forces the reader to re-examine their personal relationship with alcohol.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Harold Johnson about the book. We talk about his motivation for writing the book, the “drunken Indian” stereotype, and how the criminal justice system deals with alcoholism. We also talk about trauma in Indigenous communities, reducing alcohol-related deaths, and how addressing these issues requires a communal approach.

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From Salò to Cult: Sadism, Terror, and Fascism in Fiction

The Four Libertines and their associates.

Alban Bargain-Villéger


It was this laconic, almost interjective title that first caught my eye. In the stifling Parisian heat of July 2002, somewhere in the Halles neighbourhood, the poster appeared in a surreal haze. A bridal party of dejected youths, the bride and groom dressed for the occasion, the rest stark-naked, advanced, seemingly resigned to their doom. Then the subtitle appeared: “or the 120 Days of Sodom.” While Salò obviously referred to the resort town where Benito Mussolini had established the capital of his short-lived Italian Social Republic, the rest of the title did not ring a bell. I had not yet become acquainted with Sade’s masterpiece, nor was I familiar with the director, Pier Paolo Pasolini. The cost of entry was cheap, as the showing was part of a Pasolini festival, on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of his birth. Clearly, I had no clue what I had gotten myself into, as Salò proved to be an aesthetically unpleasant experience featuring stomach-turning torture scenes and ritualistic rape. To cut a long story short, I almost threw up in the movie theatre. But I am the stubborn type, so I decided to stay until the end.

What prompted this post was not a sudden, random flashback to my first encounter with Pasolini. Rather, it sprang from a slow-evolving reflection on the seventh season of American Horror Story, entitled Cult, which aired in late 2017. Evidently, the two works differ in several ways. Conceptually speaking, one is a full-length film, and the other an 11-episode series; while Salò is a 1975 Italian production, Cult is part of an ongoing American – self-explanatorily US-centric – show. However, these works address the theme of fascism in comparable ways. First of all, both emerged in climates of political violence and instability, the Anni di piombo (Years of Lead) in Salò’s case, and of the Trump presidency in that of Cult. While one cannot easily compare the two contexts, the similar questions that they sparked in 1970s Italy and 2010s America deserve more attention on the part of historians. Secondly, the frequent, and often inappropriate bandying about of the word “fascism” in the media, popular culture, and politics, should not deter academics from studying such approximations. Just because Salò and Cult provide partial, mostly aesthetic takes on fascism, it does not mean scholars should throw the baby out with the bathwater and dismiss these works as flawed and not worthy of attention.


In other posts, I have criticized the hackneyed argument that the “1930s” were back. Continue reading

A Canadian Immigration Syllabus

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Examining new arrivals in Immigration Examination Hall, Pier 21. Chris Lund/National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque collection/Library and Archives Canada/PA-111579

Two years ago, following the election of Donald Trump to office, historians specializing in the history of migration and ethnicity in the United States compiled the #ImmigrationSyllabus to serve as a resource and teaching tool for instructors, students and the general public. It was an inspired collaboration, one that showcased how historians can play an important role in disseminating knowledge about the very genealogy of particular public policy debates and information that can shed light on lies, falsehoods and mythologies that animate many of these contemporary discussions.

Inspired by these efforts, and cognizant of the important work that has taken place on these topics in Canada, we set out to compile an immigration history syllabus (Canadian-style) with input from scholars across the country whose own work and professional service has shaped our commitment to collaborative research, resource-sharing and knowledge dissemination. This syllabus brings together key themes, readings, sources, and questions about the history of migration to and from Canada, offering a resource to educators and students, and valuable historical context for contemporary debates.

The immigration syllabus (Canadian-style) saw many incarnations over the past few months. The result is a blend of loosely chronological subjects that can be used in the classroom, beginning with some key readings on what constitutes migration history and why it might be an important topic to study. To lend some flexibility, there are a series of thematic units that can be exchanged if instructors would like to focus on a particular aspect of this field such as gender, religion, settler colonialism or Indigenous mobilities. The idea was to have foundations as well as flexibility, and we hope that the syllabus does just that. Continue reading Repost – Cold Cases: Hypothermia before, and after, Stonechild is on a hiatus for the winter break, and will return to daily posts in early January.  During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our favourite holiday and winter themed posts. Thank you to all our contributors, guest editors, and readers for making 2018 a very successful year. Happy holidays to all and we look forward to continuing our work in 2019!

The following post by Josh MacFadyen was originally featured on October 30, 2014.

The 2013 ice storm left hundreds of thousands of Canadians out in the cold and made some people pause to consider the fragility of urban energy systems in a changing climate. The idea of so many people spending Christmas in the cold made me reflect on some of the better-known cases of Canadians freezing to death in the past. Frankly – and aside from Sir Franklin – most of us likely couldn’t name a single person who died in this way. But one name we should all know is Neil Stonechild. His story, and the stories of other victims of hypothermia, should shape how we think about systemic racism and other social injustice.

Neil Stonechild (1973-1990), Saskatoon, SK undated photo
Neil Stonechild (1973-1990), Saskatoon, SK undated photo

This month marked the 10th anniversary of the inquiry that brought a police force, an entire city, and many parts of Canada to consider some of these problems. The body of 17-year-old Neil Stonechild was found in an industrial area at the northern edge of Saskatoon in November 1990. He had frozen to death in that position five days earlier, wearing light clothing and only one shoe. His face was bruised his blood alcohol content had been high, and some of his friends and family suspected foul play. They were told that a full investigation had been conducted and that the teen had wandered to this remote location under his own volition. A cold case if ever there was one.

Still, some wondered if Neil had been the victim of a “starlight tour,” or the un-authorized police practice of leaving drunk or rowdy people on the outskirts of the city to dry out. Some could survive the walk, but in the case of Stonechild and several other Cree men, drying out in a Saskatchewan winter meant freezing to death. Prairie winters are unforgiving, to put it mildly. Saskatoon’s average January temperature (from 1977 to 2012) consists of daily lows “around -20°C, falling below -33°C or exceeding -8°C only one day in ten.” On the night Stonechild went missing, the temperature fell to -28°C.

Ten years later Darryl Night told a police officer that he had been left in a field one January evening, and he only survived the -20°C temperatures because he found his way to a power station and called a taxi. Night did not expect anyone to believe him. But days later the frozen bodies of two other Aboriginal men were found in a similar location and the police officer consulted Night and asked him for a full report. This began a long process of investigation and reconciliation that reopened the Stonechild case and culminated in a Commission of Inquiry and a report revealing what really happened to Neil Stonechild. The police officers were charged with a minor offence and relieved from their duties. The police chief was replaced, and a series of recommendations were advanced to build better accountability and begin repairing the trust between First Nations communities and the police.

Click here to continue reading this post. Repost – Cold Comfort: Firewood, Ice Storms, and Hypothermia in Canada is on a hiatus for the winter break, and will return to daily posts in early January.  During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our favourite holiday and winter themed posts. Thank you to all our contributors, guest editors, and readers for making 2018 a very successful year. Happy holidays to all and we look forward to continuing our work in 2019!

The following post by Josh MacFadyen was originally featured on January 9, 2014.

Many Canadians had a brush with homelessness, or at least heat-lessness, over the holidays. Over half a million customers across Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick spent Christmas in the cold and dark, and ten days after the 2013 ice storm homes were still coming online. With the region currently experiencing snow storms and extreme cold temperature warnings, Canadians may be thinking about the fragility of urban energy systems and our level of preparedness for extreme weather events. (At least we seem to be intrigued by travel delays, frost quakes, ice mayors, historic frozen negatives, boiling squirt gun experiments, and of course Frozen, as well as more serious local relief efforts such as Coldest night of the year and “In from the Cold” campaigns.)

The ice storm was deemed the largest in Toronto history, but since it follows only fifteen years after a similar ice storm in Quebec and Eastern Ontario these may not be isolated 100-year events. Extreme weather events appear to be on the increase, and 2013 was a banner year. Debates over the Toronto’s preparedness and resilience are ongoing. Anthony Haines, CEO of Toronto Hydro, promised there will be discussions regarding future improvements and “there is no doubt, learning is to be had.” Winter storms can be especially risky when cold weather and power outages overlap, and historically, extreme cold has been far more lethal than floods and heat waves.

I suggest that the kind of learning “to be had” includes a broad understanding of our historical relationships with extreme weather and urban energy supplies, including food and heat. Climatologists will be working to identify the frequency of these weather events, but historical climate data also allow historians to create detailed risk-maps of extreme cold weather events in Canada over time. Historical research in energy, transportation, and urban planning may then show us how Canadians adapted to these challenges over time.

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Holiday Repost – Gin and Tonic: A Short History of a Stiff Drink is on a hiatus for the winter break, and will return to daily posts in early January.  During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our favourite holiday and winter themed posts. Thank you to all our contributors, guest editors, and readers for making 2018 a very successful year. Happy holidays to all and we look forward to continuing our work in 2019!

Planning on enjoying a drink as part of your New Year’s Eve celebrations? Grab a glass and settle in to read this post by Jay Young was originally featured on August 14, 2012.

Gin and Tonic. Image from Wikipedia.

The Gin and Tonic – what better a drink during the dog days of summer?  Put some ice in a glass, pour one part gin, add another part tonic water, finish with a slice of lime, and you have a refreshing drink to counter the heat.  But it is also steeped in the history of medicine, global commodity frontiers, and the expansion of the British Empire.  

Let’s start with the gin.  Although it is commonly known as the quintessential English spirit, the history of gin underlines the island’s connections to the outside world. The origin of gin – unlike the drink itself – is quite murky.  Sylvius de Bouve, a sixteenth-century Dutch physician, is the individual associated with the development of gin.  He created a highly-alcoholic medicinal concoction called Jenever.  It featured the essential oils of juniper berries, which the physician believed could improve circulation and cure other ailments.  The berry, deriving from a small coniferous plant, had long been treasured for its medicinal properties, including its use during the plague.

Some students of the spirit argue that English soldiers discovered it while fighting in Holland in the 1580s during the Dutch War of Independence, whereas others trace England’s gin tradition to the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648).  The English nicknamed the drink “Dutch courage,” but what stuck was gin, a derivation of the Flemish word genever.

Gin’s popularity grew in England after William of Orange had become King of England following the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  Parliament exerted its superior authority by ousting from the throne the Catholic King James II.  With William’s reign came high import duties on French brandy – the dominant hard liquor in England at the time.  The English began to produce a gin at a low cost.  As John Watney notes in Mother’s Ruin: A History of Gin“[a] revolution in drinking habits, equal to or perhaps surpassing in importance the Glorious Revolution in politics, was about to occur.”  Parliament ended the royal monopoly on spirit distilling within London and its surrounding area, and statutes promoted distillation from grain grown by English farmers.

Click here to continue reading this post. ? Repost – Lace Up: A History of Skates in Canada is on a hiatus for the winter break, and will return to daily posts in early January.  During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our favourite holiday and winter themed posts. Thank you to all our contributors, guest editors, and readers for making 2018 a very successful year. Happy holidays to all and we look forward to continuing our work in 2019!

The following History Slam episode was originally featured on November 29, 2017.

For the past three-and-a-half years I have had the pleasure of working with Jean-Marie Leduc and Julie Léger on a book looking at the history of skates. Mr. Leduc is a renowned expert on skates with one of the biggest private collections in the world that has been displayed at museums and exhibitions across the country, including during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. When the opportunity came up a few years ago to work on a book, it seemed to me an interesting idea that would make for a good read. On November 10, Lace Up: A History of Skates in Canada was released. The book traces the development of skates from bone skates used by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years to the skates used by today’s world champions. Through Mr. Leduc’s collection, the book explores how skates and their technological innovations shaped how people got around on ice. At the same time, as skates continued to evolve, new winter sports were invented based on the improved technology. For instance, the development of stop picks on figure skates allowed for the speed, agility, and aerial components required in today’s competitions.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Jean-Marie Leduc about Lace Up. We talk about the origins of his extensive skate collection, how he built the collection, and some of his favourite pairs. We also talk about the book, how we put it together, and what readers can expect.

Sean Graham is an editor with and host/producer of the History Slam Podcast Repost – An (Ice) Bridge to the Past: Niagara Falls has Frozen is on a hiatus for the winter break, and will return to daily posts in early January.  During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our favourite holiday and winter themed posts. Thank you to all our contributors, guest editors, and readers for making 2018 a very successful year. Happy holidays to all and we look forward to continuing our work in 2019!

The following post by Daniel Macfarlane was originally featured on March 5, 2015.

Niagara Falls has frozen. Well, not really. The entire water flow of the famous Horseshoe Falls doesn’t actually freeze, despite ‘polar vortexes’ (more commonly known to most Canadians as ‘winter’). Water keeps flowing underneath the ice. The American Falls does occasionally dry up due to ice jams upstream (and this has happened once in recorded history to the Horseshoe Falls: see note [1]). Tourists are nonetheless flocking to see the gelid cataract – and some people are even climbing it!

Wind can send large chunks of ice from Lake Erie down the Niagara River. Ice jams at the base of the waterfalls form what are known as “ice bridges.”  In the 19th century these congealed water spans became an occasion for festivities, as the two Niagara Falls communities on either side of the international border would use them for transnational ice parties. Talk about having a drink on the rocks!

LAC MIKAN no 3318088
 Niagara Falls Ice Bridge around the turn of the century. Wikimedia Commons
People congregating on the Niagara Ice Bridge. Wikimedia Commons


That is, they had ice parties until one fateful day. On February 4, 1912, the ice bridge broke away and raced downstream. 3 people perished. From that point on, such festivities on the ice were prohibited.

But that wasn’t the end of disasters related to ice build up. In 1938, another ice bridge broke free and took out the famed Honeymoon Bridge (see a video of the collapse here).

Obviously there was an ice problem, at least from an anthropocentric perspective.

But ice wasn’t the only aspect of the Niagara system that Canadian and American officials wanted to change. Bilateral efforts had already led to the diversion of massive volumes of water around the falls for hydro and industrial production. These efforts reached their apogee with the 1950 Niagara Treaty. This accord authorized the remaking of the actual waterfalls themselves, with up to ¾ of the water diverted around the waterfall to power stations downstream.  I won’t get into all that, however, since I’ve previously done so on the NiCHE website and other places. [2]

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