Not Noted on the Voyage: Judith Desjarlais and John Rae

Panoramic black and white photo of a river.

Bloody Falls, Coppermine River. Credit: George Mellis Douglas / Library and Archives Canada / e003894445

By Sara Wilmshurst

Nearly every time I review archival documents, I bump into a story that I’m desperate to pursue, but it is not relevant to the project at hand. This time I decided to just do it. My Google Alerts tell me it is time; Parks Canada’s underwater archaeology team recently announced they are returning to the Franklin Expedition shipwrecks after a two-year pause. This story is about one of the people who searched for the Franklin crews when there was still hope of finding them alive. We are most fortunate Judith Desjarlais told her own story. It appears no one else did.

In 1900 at Peace River Crossing Judith Cardinal, formerly Hope, nee Desjarlais, applied for Métis scrip. While recounting her places of residence Judith reported she “went north with Dr. Rea’s [sic] relief expedition to assist Sir John Franklin.”

At first glance it is not surprising a Métis woman joined a Franklin relief expedition. European travelers often relied on Indigenous women to feed, clothe, and shoe the party, translate, negotiate, and guide, and generally keep everyone alive and upright. Dr. John Rae, the Orcadian physician turned fur trader turned explorer[1], openly admired the Indigenous women he encountered and valued their skills.[2] He was also unusual among his contemporaries because he usually named the Indigenous people he wrote about.[3] I read through Rae’s correspondence, journals, and autobiography, and historians’ accounts of his expeditions, but found no reference to Judith Desjarlais (or any other woman) in the parties. Continue reading

History Slam 214: Indigenous Voices, Resources, & Learning in Canadian Classrooms

By Sean Graham

In its final report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission included several Calls to Action regarding education. One of these was to develop and implement learning resources for all students in Canada so that more Indigenous voices, perspectives, and approaches were included in provincial and territorial curricula. As we’ve seen, however, some efforts to do this have not gone well. Fortunately, with better resources being made available to teachers, so many of whom are exhausted from over two years of pandemic teaching, the situation is slowly improving.

One such resource for teachers is Resurgence, a new volume edited by Christine M’Lot and Katya Adamov Ferguson. Organized using the 4-Rs – Resistance, Resilience, Restoring, and Reconnecting – it includes poetry, art, and narratives from a diverse group of Indigenous artists and writers. The book also includes resources for teachers that range from discussion questions to strategies for introducing Indigenous learning into classrooms. With material that can be used across provincial and territorial curricula and implemented in classrooms from elementary through high school, Resurgence is a terrific addition to the available educational material. Even if you’re not in an educational environment, though, you’re very likely to find plenty in the book to not only keep you interested, but to also learn/discover something new.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Christine M’Lot about the book. We discuss her education background and how that influenced the project (3:45), the 4-R framework and how the book is organized (8:15), and its ability to be used across educational systems (14:14). We also chat about the editors’ learning process (22:31), how audiences can approach the material and Indigenous learning (29:03), and the benefits of meaningfully incorporating Indigenous voices into classrooms (34:42).

Continue reading

Harvard and Slavery: The Moral Responsibility of History

By Andrew Nurse

On April 26, 2022, Harvard University announced “that it will spend $100 million” as part of a plan to address what it’s president called “profoundly immoral” practices in the university’s past.[1] At issue is Harvard’s relationship to slavery, racism and colonialism. Harvard is not the first university to grapple with a deeply problematic past, but its response is certainly among the most detailed, expansive, and challenging. I’ll confess I like it, not the least because it asks us to think about history and its implications in important ways.

American universities began to address their historical relationship to slavery nearly two decades ago. In 2003, Brown University in Rhode Island appointed the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. Its 2006 Report provided a model of comprehensiveness that Harvard seems to have tried to follow.[2] In the time since then, William and Mary, Emory, Alabama, UNC Chapel Hill as well as Dalhousie, Huron, and McGill, among others, in Canada have, in different ways, grappled with the same or similar questions.[3] Continue reading

Learning About Residential Schools At The Shingwauk Site 

Gallery space in an exhibition with red text and image panels on left and right walls. Door at far end of hallway.

Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall exhibition space at Algoma University, 2018.

Krista McCracken 

The Shingwauk Residential School operated in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario from 1874 to 1970. In 1971, Algoma University College – today known as Algoma University – moved onto the Shingwauk Site. Since 2010, I’ve been part of the staff at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC) that seeks to promote sharing, healing, and learning in relation to the legacy of the Shingwauk Site. My work involves caring for the archival collections of the SRSC, community outreach and access work. My role has changed a number of times since 2010, but the public education focus of my job continues to be present.

Before going any further, I’d like to highlight that none of the work of the SRSC would be possible without the guidance and work of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association (CSAA). The CSAA is a group of Survivor and intergenerational Survivors associated with the Shingwauk Site, who have been working to support Survivors and promote education since 1981. I am incredibly grateful to work alongside the CSAA. 

In this post, I am reflecting on how the SRSC’s outreach and education programming has shifted over the years. When I began working at the Centre it was common to have school and professional development groups visit who knew nothing or very little about Residential Schools. Likewise, it wasn’t unusual to meet people from Sault Ste. Marie who had no idea that there was a Residential School site located in the city. Continue reading

History Slam 213: Colonial Violence, National Myths, & the Lynching of Louie Sam

By Sean Graham

On February 24, 1884, Louie Sam, a Stó:lo teenager, was accused by an angry mob of starting a fire that killed James Bell, a shopkeeper in the settler community Nooksack, in what is now Whatcom County, Washington, which borders British Columbia. Without any evidence, the assembled mob determined that Sam was responsible and, despite him being arrested by Canadian authorities, crossed the border, took him by force, and hanged him. Nobody was ever arrested for Sam’s death, which simultaneously stands a rare documented lynching in Canada as well as a powerful example of the violence associated with colonialism.

Canadian mythology reinforces the idea that Canada was, and is, a ‘peaceable kingdom.’ Louie Sam’s case leads to the question of ‘peaceable for who?’ In 2006, Washington State legislators passed a motion expressing regret and their “deepest sympathies” to Sam’s descendants over the incident, which the CBC reported as being started by two white Americans “who stirred up the mob.”  Framing it as an American event ignores that the same colonial structures and racism shaped Indigenous-settler relationships on both sides of the border.

In his new book, Deadly Neighbours: A Tale of Colonialism, Cattle Feuds, Murder, and Vigilantes in the Far West. Chad Reimer explores the murder of Louie Sam, putting into a broader societal context and challenging the notion that it was a foreign event. In examining the wider colonial environment that surrounded the events of that February night, Reimer is able to provide tremendous depth to his analysis of the murder as well as how it can help us re-examine some of the main themes, narratives, and myths that have long shaped Canadian history.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Chad Reimer about the book. We discuss the existing tensions in the region at the time of the murder and the way Canadians have long thought of colonialism (8:59) as well as the challenge of wading through colonial documents to try and find an accurate representation of what happened (11:55). We also chat about how the violence was about so much more than Louie Sam’s alleged crime (19:40), settlers being conscious of colonialism (25:45), and connecting local stories to broader national narratives (30:34).

Continue reading

Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research? Part 5: The Institutions

By Kathleen Villeneuve

Translated by Robert Twiss from an original publication in HistoireEngagée.ca

On November 25 to 26, 2021 the Université de Montréal hosted the workshop “Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research?” Organized by professors Catherine Larochelle and Ollivier Hubert, the aim of the workshop was to survey the state of research in settler colonial studies, a field which, while it is more developed outside the province, is still in its infancy in Quebec. The workshop was therefore conceived as a first step in the development of the study of Quebecois colonialism, in a context in which “colonial agnosia” still limits debate, in this province perhaps more than elsewhere. The presentations were grouped into thematic panels representing the physical and symbolic spaces through which settler colonialism carves a path.

This fifth and final reflection on the workshop wraps the project up by featuring the work of Ariane Benoît, François Dansereau and Samir Shaheen-Hussain and settler colonialism’s still-visible institutional heritage. At the end, we reflect on the workshop’s concluding words by Caroline-Isabelle Caron and David Meren. Continue reading

Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research? Part 4: The Men

By Kathleen Villeneuve

Translated by Robert Twiss from an original publication in HistoireEngagée.ca

On November 25 to 26, 2021 the Université de Montréal hosted the workshop “Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research?” Organized by professors Catherine Larochelle and Ollivier Hubert, the aim of the workshop was to survey the state of research in settler colonial studies, a field which, while it is more developed outside the province, is still in its infancy in Quebec. The workshop was therefore conceived as a first step in the development of the study of Quebecois colonialism, in a context in which “colonial agnosia” still limits debate, in this province perhaps more than elsewhere. The presentations were grouped into thematic panels representing the physical and symbolic spaces through which settler colonialism carves a path.

Today, in the fourth of this five part series, Catherine Larochelle, Daniel Rück and Brian Gettler explore how the construction of gender, especially masculine gender, is intertwined with colonialism. Continue reading

Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research? Part three: Research and Education

By Kathleen Villeneuve

Translated by Robert Twiss from an original publication in HistoireEngagée.ca

On November 25 to 26, 2021 the Université de Montréal hosted the workshop “Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research?” Organized by professors Catherine Larochelle and Ollivier Hubert, the aim of the workshop was to survey the state of research in settler colonial studies, a field which, while it is more developed outside the province, is still in its infancy in Quebec. The workshop was therefore conceived as a first step in the development of the study of Quebecois colonialism, in a context in which “colonial agnosia” still limits debate, in this province perhaps more than elsewhere. The presentations were grouped into thematic panels representing the physical and symbolic spaces through which settler colonialism carves a path.

Today we post the third installment in this five part series reporting on this event. In this post David Bernard and Aude Maltais-Landry make interventions about research and education. Any authentic thinking about colonialism done primarily by Settler-descendants must ask itself the question of its own conditions of possibility.

David Bernard addressed this subject by reflecting on his work with the research coordination committee at the Ndakina office, which represents the Grand Council of the Wabanaki Nation. Continue reading

Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research? Part 2: The Land

By Kathleen Villeneuve

Translated by Robert Twiss from an original publication in HistoireEngagée.ca

On November 25 to 26, 2021 the Université de Montréal hosted the workshop “Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research?” Organized by professors Catherine Larochelle and Ollivier Hubert, the aim of the workshop was to survey the state of research in settler colonial studies, a field which, while it is more developed outside the province, is still in its infancy in Quebec. The workshop was therefore conceived as a first step in the development of the study of Quebecois colonialism, in a context in which “colonial agnosia” still limits debate, in this province perhaps more than elsewhere. The presentations were grouped into thematic panels representing the physical and symbolic spaces through which settler colonialism carves a path.

This week in a five part series, we are sharing with you the ideas discussed in November. Today, in our second instalment, we focus on Jean-Philippe Bernard, Mathieu Arsenault, Adèle Clapperton-Richard, Caroline Desbiens and Justine Gagnon presentations about the land. In Quebec, as in other settlercolonial sites, the settlers came to stay and to take over Indigenous territories.

While the study of words permits the exploration of colonialism’s rhetorical universe and collective representations, the way in which colonialism operates in physical space is also a fundamental component that must not be neglected. Continue reading

Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research? Part 1: The Words

By Kathleen Villeneuve

Translated by Robert Twiss from an original publication in HistoireEngagée.ca

On November 25 to 26, 2021 the Université de Montréal hosted the workshop “Settler Colonialism in Quebec: a blind spot of academic research?” Organized by professors Catherine Larochelle and Ollivier Hubert, the aim of the workshop was to survey the state of research in settler colonial studies, a field which, while it is more developed outside the province, is still in its infancy in Quebec. The workshop was therefore conceived as a first step in the development of the study of Quebecois colonialism, in a context in which “colonial agnosia”[1] still limits debate, in this province perhaps more than elsewhere.

The presentations were grouped into thematic panels representing the physical and symbolic spaces through which settler colonialism carves a path. Today we look at Philippe Néméh-Nombré, Ollivier Hubert, Mathieu Paradis and Sarah Henzi presentations about words and how they play a large role in both the production and invisiblization of colonialism.

Philippe Néméh-Nombré kicked the workshop off with an invitation to rethink terms like “colonialisme d’implantation” and “peuplement,” the French conceptual lexicon of settler colonial studies. Continue reading