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Colin Murray Osmond

Colin Murray Osmond

The John Bullen Prize


Colin Murray Osmond, “Paycheques and Paper Promises: Coast Salish and Mi’kmaw Work and Family Life under Canadian Settler Colonialism,” PhD dissertation, University of Saskatchewan, 2021.

Colin Osmond’s dissertation is an outstanding example of community-engaged research that amply illustrates the strengths of this framework while making a substantial contribution to the scholarship on First Nations labour history and to the historical analysis of settler colonialism in two very different settings. Building on a decade of engagement with Coast Salish communities, Osmond develops a comparative study of the lived experiences of the Tla’amin people of Tišosem (present-day Sliammon) in British Columbia and the Mi’kmaw people of Piktuk (Pictou Landing) in Nova Scotia through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing in particular on the role of waged labour and the dynamics of reserve creation (without treaty making) in both locales. Drawing on extensive archival sources and oral histories, the analysis takes into account the ways both localized manifestations of settler colonialism and Indigenous cultural contexts shaped daily life and work for these Tla’amin and Mi’kmaq communities. Further, it documents the multifaceted agency and complex strategies of First Nations who mobilized tradition to survive the challenges — economic, environmental, and political — posed by colonial intrusions on their lands. Osmond balances evidence of successful adaptations and community creation with the acknowledgement that, in the end, it was the amorphous, contradictory, and ever-shifting nature of settler colonialism that undermined Tla’amin and Mi’kmaw efforts to preserve an equitable share of, and control over, the economic resources of their traditional territories.

Osmond’s sensitivity to the ethical dimensions of collaborative research, thoughtful navigation of an asymmetrical evidentiary corpus, and commitment to producing knowledge that benefits the communities involved are models for work of this kind. It is most deserving of the John Bullen prize for 2022.


Melissa - BullenMelissa N. Shaw, ‘Blackness and British “Fair Play”: Burgeoning Black Social Activism in Ontario and Its Grassroots Responses to the Canadian Colour Line, 1919-1939,’ PhD dissertation, Queen’s University, 2021.

Melissa Shaw’s dissertation provides a detailed analysis into how Black Canadians experienced the colour line post-World War I in Ontario, with a focus on the roles of local community organizations in challenging anti-Black racism. Her deep analysis of these organizations unpacks their internal and external dynamics, noting the significant role of women as leaders and activists. The committee highlighted in particular, Shaw’s nuanced exploration of oral history interviews, church records, activist organization records, and newspapers as a means of uncovering the debates among activists, the struggles over colourism, and the impact that involvement in these community groups had on youth. This dissertation brings post-World War I Ontario to life from a perspective often unheard: Black women who through their positions in church and other community organizations combatted anti-Black racism and helped to inculcate intra-racial solidarity and Black pride. It is for the above reasons, the committee would like to note Melissa Shaw’s dissertation as an “honourable mention” for the 2022 Bullen prize.