CHA Prizes

The Aboriginal History Best Article Prize 

The Aboriginal History Group, a committee affiliated with the Canadian Historical Association, is pleased to offer a prize for the best article in aboriginal history.

2018 – Winner

  • Micah A. Pawling
    The Aboriginal History Best Article Prize

    Micah A. Pawling, “W?last?kwey (Maliseet) Homeland: Waterscapes and  Continuity within the Lower St. John River Valley, 1784-1900”. Acadiensis XLVI, no. 2 (Summer/Autumn 2017).

     In “Maliseet Homeland” Micah Pawling builds an empirically-nuanced and theoretically-informed argument demonstrating Maliseet strategies for remaining in their homeland despite intense pressures caused by colonial immigration. Focusing on the southern Saint John River, between the colonial centres of Saint John and Fredericton, Pawling’s article uses the concept of waterscape and an analysis of memory to reorient our attention away from the political, social, economic, and cultural boundaries that often structure the historian’s craft. What Pawling makes clear is that, by using both formal and informal strategies, during the 19th century many Maliseet continued living in their homeland despite settler-caused pressure on resources and the colonial state’s efforts to erase their presence. In so doing, Pawling’s work develops recent scholarship on decolonizing methodologies, historical memory, space, place, dispossession and survivance.  

2017 – Winner

  • Allan Downey

    Allan Downey, "Playing the Creator's Game on God's Day: The Controversy of Sunday Lacrosse Games in Haudenosaunee Communities, 1916-24", Journal of Canadian Studies 49, no. 3 (2015).
    Masterfully weaving together the experiences of communities and local cultures and politics with broader national policies and processes, Allan Downey’s analysis of the controversy surrounding Sunday lacrosse games in two Haudenosaunee communities (Akwesáhsne and Six Nations) in the early decades of the last century carefully documents the spectrum of Indigenous and non-Indigenous viewpoints while demonstrating convincingly that the struggle was never only about sport or religion, but about self-determination. It is an important and timely contribution to our understanding of the nature of modern colonialism and of the forms of Indigenous resistance.

2016 – Winner

  • Jason Hall

    Jason Hall, "Maliseet Cultivation and Climatic Resilience on the W?last?kw/St. John River During the Little Ice Age,"Acadiensis 44, no. 2 (2015): 3-25. 

    Weaving together documentary sources and oral traditions, Hall’s reconstruction of the history of Maliseet plant cultivation on middle reaches of the W?last?kw/St. John River over the last millennium offers a powerful challenge to received notions about Indigenous economies, the impact of European contact, and the significance of the Little Ice Age in the Northeast. At Meductic, thanks to a favourable microclimate and Maliseet ingenuity, techniques of maize cultivation persisted through climatic changes that doomed the practice elsewhere and prepared the ground, quite literally, for the later establishment of European agriculture there and elsewhere in the region.

2015 – Winner

  • n/a

    No prize was given in 2015

2014 – Winner

  • Isaiah Lorado Wilner

    Isaiah Lorado Wilner, “A Global Potlatch: Identifying the Indigenous Influence on Western Thought,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 37, no. 2 (2013): 87–114.
    In a “A Global Potlatch” Wilner reads the global history of ideas from the inside out, arguing that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the Kwakwaka’wakw people of British Columbia did more than merely react to the process of colonialism initiated and directed by outsiders. As demonstrated through the life and writing of German-­?American anthropologist Franz Boas, Indigenous intellectuals and leaders such as George Hunt actively sought to communicate to outsiders their vision of a world where people are not separated by difference so much as united by their shared capacity for transformation. Boas proved receptive and his new understanding of culture as process, now recognized as a major element of Western thought, deserves to be recognized as having its roots in the laws, lifeways, and philosophy of the Kwakwaka’wakw peoples.

2013 – Winner

  • Miles Powell

    Miles Powell, “Divided Waters: Heiltsuk Spatial Management of Herring Fisheries and the Politics of Native Sovereignty" in The Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Winter 2012, pp. 463-484).

    Powell’s important article links history to contemporary politics and offers dynamic insights from a variety of disciplines. It is a welcome contribution to the growing literature on the utility and successful implementation of traditional practices within aboriginal communities. In brief, Powell demonstrates how the Heiltsuk effectively managed their herring fisheries through complex systems of marine space. It traces this management by looking at how the Canadian state originally deemed these systems primitive and unlawful, but later adopted a quota system that paralleled its aboriginal antecedents. Powell effectively demonstrates how this new spatial order continued to privilege the interests of the colonizers.


2012 – Winner

  • Keith Carlson

    Keith Carlson. “Orality about Literacy: The ‘Black and White’ of Salish History,” in Keith Thor Carlson, Kristina Fagan, and Natalia Khanenko-Friesen, eds., Orality and Literacy: Reflections across Disciplines (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011)


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