Athabasca UniversityLois Hole Campus Alberta Digital Library


Click the name of one of the presenters from the list below to access their abstract and an .mp3 recording of their presentation. To start the audio, click the play button below the abstract.

The Fork in the Trail: The Diverging Paths of Women’s History
Sue Armitage, Washington State University

No abstract available.

Reconciling Human Rights with Feminism: The Dubious Success of Human Rights Law in Prohibiting Sexual Discrimination in British Columbia, 1953-1984
Dominique Clement, University of Victoria

The following paper challenges the assumption that human rights legislation promoted gender equality in Canada. British Columbia was the first jurisdiction in Canada to prohibit sexual discrimination. By the 1970s, the provincial human rights branch was dedicating most of its resources to dealing with complaints of sexual discrimination in the employment, services and accommodation. The following paper evaluates the success of the human rights state in light of feminists' objectives using newly-released records of the provincial human rights commission, the Department of Labour and the papers of several women's organizations in British Columbia.

Historians of social movements are ideally placed to challenge the statist and legalistic assumptions which dominate the current literature on human rights. Statists, in looking to the state to solve human rights violations, are essentially advocating an increase in the power of states. Such an approach can be misleading if the obligation to deal with human rights problems lies with agencies lacking the power to solve the problem. In the case of British Columbia, human rights legislation proved to be a weak vehicle for advancing gender equality. As a locus of activism in Canada by the seventies, with the first gay rights organizations and parades, the most radical feminist organizations, and the home of Greenpeace and dramatic student protests, as well as the most progressive human rights legislation in the country, British Columbia is an ideal case study for examining the intersection of human rights discourse with feminist activism.

'It's a Landmark in the Community':  The Commemoration and Conservation of Historic Places in Saskatchewan, 1911-2008
Bruce Dawson, Saskatchewan Ministry of Tourism, Parks Culture and Sport

For nearly a century, Saskatchewan residents have been conserving buildings and erecting plaques in an effort to commemorate the people, places and events which shaped the history of the province.  These activities have not only provided a physical connection with an earlier time, and facilitated the use of these places as sources of historical research, but have also shaped the discourse of history itself.  By studying the ways in which these places were selected for commemoration, and the diverse and changing ways in which people have engaged with, and interpreted these places, much can be learned about the values and power relationships in Saskatchewan history and their role in shaping how subsequent generations perceive the history of the province. 

Download his book chapter from AU Press by going to the AU Press website or clicking the PDF icon for a direct download

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Dawson, Bruce. (2010). “It’s a Landmark in the Community”: The Conservation of Historic Places in Saskatchewan, 1911–2009.  In. Finkel, A., Carter, S., & Fortna, P. (Eds). The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined "Region" (397-416). Edmonton: AU Press.

Digitizing the Alberta Woman's Institute's 'Books of Remembrance'
Mae Deans, Independent Researcher & Evelyn Ellerman, Athabasca University

No abstract available.

Vernacular Currents in Western Canadian Historiography: The Passion and Prose of Katherine Hughes, F.G. Roe, and Roy Ito
Lyle Dick, Parks Canada

In a 1985 review article on Gerald Friesen’s The Canadian Prairies and Pierre Berton’s The Promised Land, David C. Jones argued for a new approach to Canadian historiography, specifically a fusion of best practices of the genres of academic and popular history.  Here, I want to focus attention on another important but neglected dimension of historical production over the last century – the vast and under-valued production of vernacular or grass-roots history.

In western Canada and other regions, vernacular history occupied a critical place in the practice of history even as advancing concepts of professional history after 1900 generated the new category of “amateur” as its binary opposite and prelude to the marginalization of grass-roots practitioners. The emerging master narrative of academic history as the triumph of enlightenment over ignorance held sway for nearly a century, and its mythical strains persist even today.  Undoubtedly professionalization brought certain advances, such as the application of theoretical or interpretive frameworks, and social scientific techniques, although this shift also produced losses as well as gains. One of the principal casualties of professionalization was the loss of multivocality, as the diverse grass-roots voices bearing on historical experience were appropriated and subsumed under the monological syntheses of scholars as “authorities.”  The rise of social history as a sub-field focussed research on various social groups, but did not extend to according these groups a voice in representing their own experience, as it was thought best to leave the writing to the professionals as preferred mediators of historical knowledge.

The examination of the careers and works of some noted vernacular historians of Western Canada  suggests that the master narrative of professionalization warrants revisiting.  These grass-roots practitioners include Katherine Hughes, a journalist, Alberta’s first provincial archivist and author of the first biography of Father Albert Lacombe; F.G. Roe, a homesteader, railroader, and author of the North American Buffalo and The Indian and the Horse; and Roy Ito, a Japanese Canadian war veteran, school teacher and author of several notable works on Japanese Canadian history.  Each of these authors brought commitment, compassion, intelligence, and skill to their respective investigations into history.  Hughes pioneered in oral history, careful scholarship, and in employing forms of representation enabling the people she was studying to speak for themselves. Roe was animated by a passionate concern to correct the reifications of historical writing of his own era, wherein stereotypes and careless generalizations often inaccurately and unjustly marginalized the historical role of Aboriginal people. More recently, Roy Ito recorded, translated, and published accounts by witnesses of Japanese Canadian history in an era when their stories attracted little interest from professional historians.  Each of these authors drew on her or his own personal experiences as witnesses to history to add significantly to our understanding of the people and events they were writing about.  Their works attest to the dynamism of the vernacular impulse and the importance of recovering and nurturing this strain to the revitalization and future viability of the practice of history in western Canada.

Download his book chapter from AU Press by going to the AU Press website or clicking the PDF icon for a direct download

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Dick, Lyle. (2010). Vernacular Currents in Western Canadian Historiography: The Passion and Prose of Katherine Hughes, F.G. Roe, and Roy Ito.  In. Finkel, A., Carter, S., & Fortna, P. (Eds). The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined "Region" (13-46). Edmonton: AU Press.

Five Generations of Historical Writing, 1900-2000
Gerald Friesen, University of Manitoba

No abstract available.

Alternative content

Download his book chapter from AU Press by going to the AU Press website or clicking the PDF icon for a direct download

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Friesen, Gerald. (2010).  Critical History in Western Canada 1900-2000.  In. Finkel, A., Carter, S., & Fortna, P. (Eds). The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined "Region" (3-12). Edmonton: AU Press.

The Nikka Yuko Centennial Garden and the Commemoration of Japanese-Canadian Wartime Memory in Alberta
Aya Fujiwara, Grant MacEwan University

My paper uses the Nikka Yuko Centennial Garden in Lethbridge, Alberta, which was opened in 1967, during the commemoration of Canada's centennial, to explore the impact that Japanese Canadians had on local identity in Southern Alberta. The political and historical discourses that were attached to the garden by the local Japanese symbolize their distinctively Albertan contexts in the history of the Japanese Canadians. First, Alberta was a unique province in which a recognizable pre-World War II Japanese community received the evacuees en masse. Second, the Japanese in Alberta, unlike those in British Columbia, were mainly farmers, who regarded themselves as an integral part of Canada's economic development and nation-building. This orientation toward the occupation of farming was reinforced by the arrival of post-war agricultural trainees from Japan. Finally, Alberta, which did not have a large number of Asians, rarely regarded the Japanese as a menace. Therefore the community seldom faced excessive anti-Japanese sentiment.

Working in Hartley Bay: A Case Study in Historical Anthropology
Liam Haggarty, University of Saskatchewan

Hartley Bay is a small, largely Aboriginal fishing village located south of Prince Rupert on the west coast of British Columbia and is accessible only by boat or seaplane.  Perhaps best known to outsiders as the home of the fisherman who rescued passengers from a sinking British Columbia ferry in summer 2006, it remains both remote from and connected to the province’s economic and material growth.  By tracing the history of work in Hartley Bay, my proposed paper examines Gitga’at subsistence economies at the turn of the twentieth century and their relationship to emerging commercial fishing and other resource extraction industries in the twentieth century.  In so doing, I use innovative methodologies, championed by Marshall Sahlins and others, that fuse anthropological inquiry and its emphasis on culture and structure with the historian’s study of past events.  The goal is to produce a rich, balanced, and culturally meaningful history of work in Hartley Bay that engages continuity and change, accommodation and resistance, social structure and human agency.

Two Wests, One and a Half Paradigms
Elizabeth Jameson, University of Calgary

This paper focuses on both the historical similarities and differences between the labour movements in the western regions of the United States and Canada in the twentieth century, with an emphasis on the resource industries. It considers the impact of both political economy and social struggles in producing particular labour strategies. The paper particularly emphasizes the struggles of women in working-class communities, both in terms of women in the workforce and in terms of women in one-industry towns where jobs for women were at a premium.

Download her book chapter from AU Press by going to the AU Press website or clicking the PDF icon for a direct download

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Jameson, Elizabeth. (2010).  Two Wests, One-and-a-half Paradigms, and, Perhaps, Beyond.  In. Finkel, A., Carter, S., & Fortna, P. (Eds). The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined "Region" (181-199). Edmonton: AU Press.

A Queer Eye View of the Prairies: Restoring Queer Histories to the West
Valerie J. Korinek, University of Saskatchewan

This paper explores the history of lesbian and gay peoples in Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon & Winnipeg from 1970-1990. Focused on the growth of gay social, commercial and activist spaces, this paper argues that such work affords a new perspective of the modern, urban prairies. Employing a series of case studies, this paper explores how the history of sexuality, specifically, reconstructing the creation of gay and lesbian spaces in the prairie west demonstrates key dissonances within the region. It explores how the stereotypes of family, rurality and religiousity were not the sum total of our parts particularly in the post World War II period. These case studies provide another angle on rural de-population, inter-regional migration, and the growth of urban ‘culture’. Ultimately I hope that by offering a ‘queer eye’ view of prairie history, this paper offers an innovative approach to historicizing the modern prairies and to advancing our knowledge and debates about meanings and interpretations of ‘the west.’

Download her book chapter from AU Press by going to the AU Press website or clicking the PDF icon for a direct download

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Korinek, Valerie J. (2010). A Queer-Eye View of the Prairies: Reorienting Western Canadian Histories.  In. Finkel, A., Carter, S., & Fortna, P. (Eds). The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined "Region" (278-296). Edmonton: AU Press.

Crossing Paths: Accessing Stó:lō Fishing Sites in the Twentieth Century
Katya MacDonald, University of Saskatchewan

Drawing on conversations with Stó:lō fishers, and supplemented with anthropological and historical analyses, this paper examines interactions at and about Stó:lō fishing sites on the Fraser River.  The river is a central feature of Stó:lō history, identity, and daily life, and as such, it forms an important place of access.  European intervention here has added and complicated paths of access to twentieth-century Stó:lō fishing practices, and as a result, access to sites sometimes takes a2008 Western History Conference similarly complex route.  Indeed, when considering Stó:lō fisheries, access refers not only to physical access to fishing sites; it also encompasses intellectual and social access to protocols and traditions; access to political knowledge to circumvent, discuss, or adapt to government restrictions; and, above all, access to collective and individual histories and identities.

Where the West Meets the North: Integrating the Provincial North into Western Canadian History
Merle Massie, University of Saskatchewan

Scholarship on the Canadian West, particularly as represented in the original published papers of the Western Canadian Studies Conference, has shown a marked interest in the prairie south. Indeed, it seems (with some exceptions) that the only history worth studying (agriculture, urbanization, landscape, western protest, bloc settlement, prairie reserves…) stopped at the treeline. But there is a new shift in western history. Historians such as Anthony Gulig, Kerry Abel, David Quiring and Bill Waiser have turned their attention north, breaking the agricultural shackles that have bound the old western history and redefining the west to include the north. I propose a paper that will investigate this new northern history, through the lens of a case study on memory and commemoration. In 2005, the village of Paddockwood, a soldier settlement and depression re-settlement area in the Saskatchewan forest fringe, erected a commemorative stone to mark the old Montreal Lake trail, a freighting trail used during the 1920s and 1930s to move freight from Prince Albert to the northern fur and fish posts at Montreal Lake and La Ronge, and to haul cordwood, fenceposts, and fish back again. This stone represents an understanding of Paddockwood’s past that is more than mere agriculture, but a link to the resources and lifestyle of the north. The stone is an excellent example of the new shift in Saskatchewan and western Canadian history to embrace and celebrate its northern heritage.

Useable Bodies: Women as Gratuitous Labour and Propagators of Race in Settlement Propaganda of the Canadian West, 1886-1930
Catharine Mastin, University of Alberta

No abstract available.

Unlike the Rest of the West: Alberta and the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Issue
Heather Nelson, Mount Royal University

Insuring the automobile in mid- twentieth century Canada was contentious. The desire to compensate automobile accident victims sparked several debates over a variety of issues, including requirements for drivers and possible insurers. To address these issues, governments across Canada introduced legislation ranging from optional private insurance to compulsory public insurance. Private interests across the west questioned the need for public insurance, but only Alberta retained a private insurance model, resisting the western Canadian push to adopt public compulsory automobile insurance. The Alberta government, facing considerable pressure from private interests and without the same political motivation to introduce public automobile insurance, adopted a model that incorporated business interests and was closer the Eastern Canadian and American model than it was to its more liberal western Canadian counterparts. Alberta's decision to implement a conservative version of compulsory automobile insurance made it unlike the rest of the west.

What is Western Canada? De-territorializing Place
Adele Perry, University of Manitoba

Adele Perry is the Canada Research Chair in Western Canadian Social History and Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba where she is researching Canadian immigration policies and Aboriginal administration, and transnationalism in 18th and 19th century Western Canada. Her research acknowledges the significance of colonialism, racism and gendered power relations in the history of the West. She is the author of the award- winning book On the Edge of Empire: Gender, Race and the Making of British Columbia (2001) which was awarded the Canadian Historical Association Clio Prize in 2002 for the best book on the history of British Columbia.

Opening the Terms of Mattering: Alberta Centennial Celebrations & the Murdered ‘Sex Workers’
Sharon Rosenberg, University of Alberta

Through a juxtaposition of Alberta centenary materials with reports of women murdered "as" sex workers in and around Edmonton, this paper asks after - and endeavours to unsettle and open - the prevailing terms on which history and violent losses are made to matter in the oil-saturated present. Centennial narratives orchestrate the past both as "over" (marked in temporal distinction from the present) and for celebration (as a history of accomplishment, heroes and progress). Oriented in this way, they necessarily constitute as outside (of mattering) histories that continue to "live on" - both through a haunting of what has yet to be faced (Gordon, 1997) and through ongoing enactments of violence that render explicit the losses of life and the sufferings associated with colonial progress as it is contoured through the workings of gender and sexuality. Through an introduction of the notion of  "bearing witness to traumatic remnants", as a refiguring of the past-present relationship and a mode of theorizing social memory, this paper argues for moving beyond ideological critique toward what Irit Rogoff names as "criticality" - that is, an inhabitation of theory that does more than illuminate flaws and allocate blames (2004:  119). The paper is offered as a meditation on what such an inhabitation may mean for theorizing relations between living and (violently) dead.

Friends of Medicare and the Development of Health Insurance in Alberta
Esther Steeves, University of Alberta

In 1979 the Alberta Federation of Labour founded the Friends of Medicare to mobilize a coalition of social organizations concerned with the future of the province's health insurance program. At this time patient charges for health services were fostered in Alberta, even within the public health system. Friends of Medicare played a significant role in shaping the development of health policy in Alberta by vigorously promoting a higher standard of access to health care. The organization advocated the abolition of patient charge through submissions to government, public relations campaigns, and a boycott of extra-billing physicians - among other efforts. By 1983 Friends of Medicare claimed almost 200,000 members, constituting one of the largest pro-health insurance organizations in Alberta. Through its efforts, Friends of medicare played a formative role in the public debate that led to the eventual provincial abolition of patient charges for insured health services in Alberta.

Imagining Place in Winter: Photographic Albums and Growing Up in Banff, Alberta in the 1920s
Lauren Wheeler, Carleton University

I propose to present on how the adolescent residents of Banff used photographs in albums to perform and commemorate ideas of place.  Through analysing photographic albums from five individuals who grew up in Banff at the beginning of the twentieth century I will show how their Banff was based in visual remembrances, photographic albums, common experiences and outdoor pursuits. In it I will explore how the photographic representations created by these adolescents’ privilege people and activity over the landscape, often place an emphasis on winter rather than summer.  By approaching the albums as sites of memory and recognizing that the photographs within them were taken mainly by the adolescents themselves I will illustrate that it was through visuality they expressed the importance of winter and recreation to how their generation perceived of Banff as a place.

Download her book chapter from AU Press by going to the AU Press website or clicking the PDF icon for a direct download

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Wheeler, Lauren. (2010). The Banff Photographic Exchange: Albums, Youth, Skiing, and Memory Making in the 1920s.  In. Finkel, A., Carter, S., & Fortna, P. (Eds). The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined "Region" (349-374). Edmonton: AU Press.

Stó:lõ Traditional Food ‘Talk’ as a Metaphor for Cross-cultural Relations
Lesley Wiebe, University of Saskatchewan

Thus far, academics have explored two possible means of discussing twentieth century changes in Stó:lõ dietary practice.  On the one hand, historian Mary-Ellen Kelm pitted a time early in the century when Stó:lõ fished and hunted for sustenance—in addition to adopting various non-Native foods or methods of food production—against  a post-WWII “Euro-Canadian culinary imperialism” that both physically and symbolically weakened its Stó:lõ and other Aboriginal targets.   On the other hand, anthropologist Kevin Washbrook determined, based on informants’ evitable lists of plant uses in solving health problems in response to questioning about plant foods and technologies, that Stó:lõ plant ‘talk’ was a rhetoric emphasizing the power and efficacy of traditional knowledge over comparatively ignorant ‘White’ medical practices.   This paper posits that neither interpretation adequately encapsulates Stó:lõ understandings of the matter; so while Stó:lõ people discursively trace a historical decline in their collective health following their twentieth century shift from a traditional  to a ‘store bought’ diet, they simultaneously (and somewhat correspondingly) highlight the nutritional and spiritual superiority of their traditional food and methods of food production.  This paper places the debate surrounding dietary change and traditional vs. ‘store bought’ foods in terms of a larger discourse about the effects of ‘contact.’ But here, ‘contact’ is defined not as a fleeting moment in time subsequently erased by cross-cultural understanding or assimilation, but rather, as Keith Carlson defines the term, as “a series of moments that occurs repeatedly, and yet somewhat distinctively each time people speak across cultures.”

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