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Kerry M. Abel, Rusty Bittermann, Julie Cruikshank, Donald Fyson, David McCrady, Gerta Moray, Lisa Ornstein,


The Clio Prizes


Rusty Bittermann.  Rural Protest on Prince Edward Island: From British Colonization to the Escheat Movement, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2006.
To an historiography habitually accused of insularity, Rusty Bittermann has contributed an innovative new study of an old theme. His account of rural protest on Prince Edward Island during the period 1763 to 1842 not only provides a new interpretive vehicle for understanding the early colonial period in British America’s most agrarian polity, but contextualizes Island events within the larger British imperial world. The result informs both spheres.
Prince Edward Island’s “Land Question,” its unhappy addiction to an increasingly anachronistic leasehold system of land tenure, is a much ploughed field in Island historiography. Yet Bittermann makes it yield important new insights. Historians have long since transcended the simplistic formula of “heroic” tenants versus “evil” absentee proprietors that once provided the storyline for early Prince Edward Island, but Bittermann both nuances the Land Question equation and adds to it. He argues convincingly that land reform agitation in early Prince Edward Island was not simply the cynical manipulations of contesting elites, but a genuine grassroots protest movement. And he links that movement to radical reform movements elsewhere in both the British Isles and British North America. Not only were they aware of, and influenced by, each other, but the Colonial Office perception of reform sentiment on Prince Edward Island was conditioned by this broader set of influences. So, too, was the perspective of the emerging proprietorial faction, anxious to protect its interests against levelling tendencies. Bittermann adeptly dissects their position as well. And, if historians such as J. M. Bumsted have established the essential, self-interested role of local government in land issues on Prince Edward Island, Bittermann identifies within Island politics a sort of “third way” during the early 19th century between land reformers and the proprietorial camp, a mercantile faction that felt the key to settlement and economic development was state-sponsored provision of infrastructure.
Broadly researched and perceptively written, Rural Protest on Prince Edward Island achieves that historiographical paradox of complicating yet clarifying. In the process, it provides a new interpretive vehicle for the early decades of the 19th century on Prince Edward Island that will also resonate with the larger scholarship on radical reform. It promises to become a standard reference in years to come.

Lifetime Achievement Award
Lisa Ornstein, Director of the Acadian Archives/Archives acadienne, University of Maine at Fort Kent.
The director of a small archives wears many hats, but Lisa Ornstein wears more than most. Over the course of her nearly two decades at the Acadian Archives in Fort Kent, she has been administrator, archivist, and educator, but also, ethnomusicologist, musician, curator, collector, programmer, grant-writer, fundraiser. From three empty rooms on the campus of the University of Maine, the Acadian Archives has burgeoned under her direction into a major repository for the francophone Acadian culture that permeates Maine’s Upper Saint John River Valley.  In the best -practice tradition of the modern archives, the Acadian Archives adheres to its core mandate to collect, catalogue, and preserve, while extending the institution into the wider community with an impressive array of creative outreach activities.
In an archival culture that is chronically under-funded (if not under-valued), the activities at the Acadian Archives are inevitably an extension of the multiple talents of its director since 1991, Lisa Ornstein. A concert-level violinist with a passion  for French-Canadian fiddle music, she completed a master’s degree in ethnomusicology at Laval University, working and performing for fourteen years in Quebec before bringing her energy, charisma, and many talents to the fledgling Acadian Archives at Fort Kent. That she moves so easily between academia and the local community is a testament to personal as well as professional qualities. “There are very few people,” writes one of her references, “who can, in a given day, instruct children in Acadian music, collect oral history among the elders, and then sit down in public meetings with government and university officials.” It is just such diverse activities that ensure the Acadian Archives is both valuable and perceived as valuable by that magic circle of funders, users, and potential donors whose support is required to secure any archive’s future.
To add one further hat to the many Lisa Ornstein wears, she is a bridge-builder, who connects academia with the culture it studies. Her bridge, of course, is the collection and programming at the Acadian Archives at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. Having, as one admirer asserts, “conjured an Archive center out of not much more than air,” she has fashioned a strong and durable span over which intellectual commerce passes both ways, and it stands as an outstanding legacy for the archival administrator with the fiddle in her hands.

Donald FysonMagistrates, Police, and People: Everyday Criminal Justice in Quebec and Lower Canada, 1764-1837, Toronto, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History/University of Toronto Press, 2006.
The committee is pleased to award this year’s Clio-Quebec Prize to Donald Fyson’s Magistrates, Police, and People: Everyday Criminal Justice in Quebec and Lower Canada, 1764-1837.  A book that explores the everyday workings of criminal justice in Quebec and Lower Canada between the British Conquest and the Rebellions of 1837-1838, it is ambitious in its scope and impressive in its mastery of the historical context.  Firmly grounded in the Quebec historiography and in the international literature of policing and criminal justice, Magistrates, Police, and People assesses the administration of criminal justice from a variety of angles, ‘top-down’ as well as ‘bottom-up’.  Fyson’s conclusions are incisive, nuanced, and convincing and are based on an exhaustive and rigorous analysis of judicial archives and the records of the colonial administration.  It is, finally, a beautifully polished book, attentive to detail in both its structure and its argument.  In sum, Magistrates, Police, and People is a study that forces us to rethink the conventional periodization of early Quebec and that will chart the course of future research in the field.

Kerry M. AbelChanging Places: History, Community, and Identity in Northeastern Ontario, Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.
To those who fault social history for having made our profession’s concerns too small and too obscure, this book is a superb rejoinder.  In it, Kerry Abel unfolds a story that spans two centuries of life in a hard, beautiful place – today’s Porcupine-Iroquois Falls District.  The people here came from widely varied backgrounds.  Their goals were many, and sometimes conflicting.  It was anything but likely that they would come to see each other as allies and alike.  Yet, Abel argues, over the course of the first half of the twentieth century, the material and the imagined coalesced in Northeastern Ontario to form a local identity and a sense of community.
In remarkably short order early in the twentieth century, railways, mining, and forestry transformed an economy based on the fur trade. Economic inequalities produced oppression and resistance, local First Nations faced new challenges, and ethnic and gender relations contributed tensions of their own.  But this is no reductive narrative of inevitable conflict.  The tendency to form a community was present, too, as forest fires, flu epidemics, and other crises offered the people of the Porcupine occasions to see each other as sources of help and participants in shared projects.  The routine experiences of work and daily life – in school, church, union, choir, town council, and team – provided, not just the frameworks of difference, but also the conceptual categories for cooperation.
Insisting always on the interplay of circumstance and character, Abel applies to the world of Northeastern Ontario a subtle understanding of social theory’s central questions.  Her vivid portrayal of place, blended with a masterful treatment of major ideas, makes this work a treasure.  Changing Places will become a reference work for students of Ontario history and a model, too, for all historians who aim to write social history, full of human detail, that is also a guide to the most broadly significant questions of politics.

The Prairies
David McCradyLiving with Strangers: The Nineteenth-Century Sioux and the Canadian-American Borderlands, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 2006.
Conceived as a study of the borderlands history of the Sioux in the western Canadian/American plains, this book makes an important contribution to both western and Native history. Sioux bands who lived on the borderlands between the United States and Canada have been poorly treated by both Canadian and American scholars, who have confined the Sioux to domestic narratives.  McCrady performs a very valuable service by constructing a narrative chronology to understand these peoples and their relations to other native groups and the different state powers.
This book shifts the interpretive landscape of borderland studies in two respects.  The first is McCrady’s use of partition as a central concept. Organizing his narrative around this concept places the Sioux’s story in the context of global process of colonial expansion and empire in the 19th century.  The establishment of the border between western Canada and the United States is less the story of how two nation-building states incorporated their Native peoples than how partition destabilized and reshaped the fate and identities of the Sioux peoples. How the Sioux came to be identified with the American nation is the subject of lucid and exhaustively researched narrative.
The second interpretive shift is a recentering away from the process and geography of treaty-making systems toward a narrative focussed on the movement of specific peoples and their subsistence and diplomatic strategies. His book reaches beyond the traditional dichotomy of Native-white relations to deal with interactions between other First Nations groups. McCrady finds that exchanges with other Native groups were as important to the Sioux’s well-being as their dealings with Canadian and American authorities. Indeed, McCrady convincingly argues that Native history was not determined solely by settler colonialism, but also involved negotiations between multiple and diverse groups.

British Columbia
Gerta MorayUnsettling Encounters, Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 2006.
Unsettling Encounters is a remarkable and deeply researched book which situates Emily Carr and her work within the context of an evolving encounter between settlers and First Nations people in British Columbia. Moray draws on Carr’s paintings, sketches, notebooks, and a range of other primary materials, the latest scholarship on British Columbia’s settler society, and her own extensive fieldwork to show Carr and her work as very much a product of their times. Moray reveals Carr as someone who cared deeply for First Nations people and the power of their art forms, empathized with their struggles and hardships, and attempted to champion their culture to a Euro-Canadian society that generally viewed native peoples as either “vanishing” or in need of “civilizing.” At the same time, by situating Carr within a humanitarian strain of settler politics, Moray offers us another way of thinking about settler perspectives in British Columbia and complicates our understanding of settler-First Nations relations. All of this is done by Moray in an intellectually sophisticated and careful way.
Beyond an incredibly detailed study of Carr’s world, Unsettling Encounters represents an impressive attempt to make sense of the way Carr absorbed Northwest Coast First Nations artistry in her work. Moray reveals Carr as an artist powerfully drawn to First Nations artistic forms and imagery but understandably limited in her understanding of them. As a result, Moray provides us with a fresh interpretation of Carr’s work as a hybrid production which made use of native forms and images to make its own expressions. This is a beautifully produced book with a large section of colour plates of  Carr’s work and many black and white photographs throughout the text which greatly enhances the argument. In her concluding remarks, Moray wonders if Carr’s “Indian” work will remain relevant in a time when First Nations people, “are so actively engaged in their own cultural production and self-representation.” Unsettling Encounters will certainly keep Carr alive as example of a complex, moving, and hopeful encounter experience between a settler and First Nations people and their culture in British Columbia. The British Columbia committee is pleased to be able to honour Gerta Moray for Unsettling Encounters.

The North
Julie CruikshankDo Glaciers Listen?  Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters & Social Imagination, Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press, 2005.
Do Glaciers Listen? is a timely culmination of anthropologist’s Julie Cruikshank’s thirty year career spent listening to the stories of Aboriginal elders in the Yukon.  This cross-border, transnational work takes as its entry point the varying histories and meanings of glaciers in the liminal space of the St. Elias Mountains, offering a remarkable contribution to our understanding of the encounter between Tlingit and Southern Tutchone local knowledge and western exploration and science. Drawing from a rich theoretical literature on colonialism and oral tradition, Cruickshank marshals evidence from oral narratives, travel writing, scientific surveys, songs and carvings to argue eloquently that understanding human relationships with glaciers can tell us how humans give shape to their world.  Epistemologically, local Aboriginal peoples saw glaciers as sentient and held appropriate respect for them, whereas Euro-American newcomers tried to understand them as separate from culture, as quantifiable and scientifically explicable.
This book not only sheds new light on the era of the Little Ice Age (1550-1900) in northwestern North America, but is also a hauntingly powerful appeal to listen to the people who have listened to the land for centuries.  This is especially relevant at a time when the trend towards setting aside vast tracts of land for World Heritage Sites is, as Cruikshank suggests, further separating the land from those who have occupied it for thousands of years.  This innovative exploration of northern history in the context of local knowledge and colonial encounters makes a significant contribution to scholarship across a number of disciplines, including environmental studies, anthropology, Indigenous studies, and history.