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Ruth Compton Bower, Catherine Larochelle, Helen Olsen Agger, Allyson Stevenson, Robert A.J. Macdonald

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The Clio Prizes

2022

Atlantic Region

Ruth BowerRuth Compton Brouwer,  All Things in Common: A Canadian Family and Its Island Utopia.  University of Toronto Press, 2021.

In 1909, an extended family of Comptons, with residential hubs in Belle River and Bangor, Prince Edward Island, pooled their resources and began operating a cluster of communally owned businesses, subsequently incorporated as “B. Compton Limited.” Dispersed family members, motivated as much by employment security as ideology, returned to this Island commune from the Prairies and New England to work in enterprises that ranged from a sawmill to lobster boats to farms. In All Things in Common: A Canadian Family and Its Island Utopia, Ruth Compton Brouwer, herself a Compton descendent, eloquently and with a gracious understanding of human frailties explains that although the Comptons never called their PEI communities a “utopia,” their Island ventures held many similarities to such utopian endeavours as Sointula on Vancouver Island or Oneida in upstate New York.

In Brouwer’s skillful telling, this “Island Utopia” becomes a sweeping history of the aspirations of generations of Comptons, beginning with loyalist refugees William and Sarah Compton, who journeys included Cape Breton and the Prairies, New Brunswick and New England, before a cluster settled in Prince Edward Island. It is also a history of dissenter Protestantism, with a focus on the little-known but robust McDonaldite sect, founded by the renegade Church of Scotland missionary, Donald McDonald, on Prince Edward Island in the early 19th-century. Brouwer found his followers in dispersed parts of North America, offering their fellow sectarians a safety net in their wanderings. All Things in Common is not a sanitized or romanticized story. Rather Brouwer unflinchingly relates both the praiseworthy and the questionable, relating details of unconventional sexual and marital relations, bad business decisions, and failed aspirations. In an exemplary blending of local details and broad transatlantic and transcontinental trends, All Things in Common: A Canadian Family and Its Island Utopia is a history that will resonate with Canadians across the country, but which is still firmly anchored in the Atlantic region.

Québec

Catherine LarochelleCatherine Larochelle, L’école du racisme. La construction de l’altérité à l’école québécoise (1830-1915)

For her book L’école du racisme, Catherine Larochelle fully deserves the Clio Québec 2021 Prize. The result of a remarkable research in its breadth and depth, Catherine Larochelle gives us a glimpse of the Other – the Indian, the Muslim, the Chinese – as it was presented to young Francophones and Anglophones in Quebec during a period covering almost a century. Her look at the making of racism helps us understand how, in this view of the Other, traditional linguistic divides give way instead to civilizational oppositions within the framework of an imperial vision and the rise of nationalisms. Contrary to a perception centered on Quebec, we can see through the book how students are called upon to inscribe themselves in the world, but from a racist perspective. After presenting her solid theoretical framework, the author situates us in the world, then examines this school of racism from the angle of observation (the body), the figure (the Indian), the medium (the image) and the theme (the missions). Finally, with a dense and pleasant writing style, she also demonstrates that it is possible to conduct engaged research while respecting the highest scientific criteria. In short, this book is remarkable for its innovative approach and its contribution to research on history in Quebec.

Ontario

Helen Olsen Agger

Helen Olsen Agger, Dadibaajim: Returning Home Through Narrative. University of Manitoba Press.

Dadibaajim: Returning Home Through Narrative, by Helen Olsen Agger, is an original and significant contribution to our understanding of histories rooted in Namegosibii Anishnaabe, which are connected to narratives frequently and infrequently told about the places we have come to call Ontario and Canada. It makes critical historiographical and epistemological interventions in regional and more than regional histories simultaneously.

Dadibaajim emerges from intergenerational teaching and learning relationships between Agger and her mother, Elder and language steward Dedibaayaanimanook Sarah Keesick Olsen, and a wider circle of seven Namegosibii Anishnaabe Elders. Through these relationships we learn that dadibaajim narratives are critical for understanding lived experiences of settler colonialism in Treaty 3 territory, adding a crucial human dimension to the “at all costs” approach to regional development and resource exploitation during the period from the 1930s to 1950s in northern Ontario. Critically, Agger shows that sharing her and her Elders’ knowledge isn’t simply about recovering the histories of the Namegosibii Anishinaabe or piecing together the larger important story of Anishinaabe persistence. It is about reckoning with the cultural fragments that have survived purposeful destruction, of which Canadian history as a discipline is deeply implicated, and thinking carefully about how we go about documenting and sharing histories of the past. In important ways, Dadibaajim centres Anishnaabe ways of being, and of thinking about, asking questions of, and learning from the past and present that are rooted in Anishinaabemowin, in lands and waterways, and the unique and dynamic lives and relationships of Namegosibii Anishnaabe. Agger’s frequent use of Anishinaabemowin is an especially powerful method for disrupting non-Anishnaabemowin speakers’ ways of thinking and compelling readers to inhabit the text and the world differently.  Ultimately, this book is a profoundly generous offering of Namegosibii Anishinaabe dadibaajim, for which readers owe a great debt of gratitude.

The Prairies

AllysonAllyson D. Stevenson, Intimate Integration: A History of the Sixties Scoop and the Colonization of Indigenous Kinship. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2021.

Allyson D. Stevenson’s Intimate Integration is a timely work that shines a light on the often-neglected topic of Indigenous transracial adoption in post-War Canada, with a particular focus on Saskatchewan. Stevenson’s meticulously researched, theoretically rooted and accessible work provides an insightful analysis of transracial adoption as a settler-colonial project that sought to dismantle Indigenous kinship systems in the pursuit of “Indigenous elimination.”

The author maps out Indigenous resistance to assimilative and genocidal policies as well as efforts to rebuild kinship ties in the wake of these policies. Stevenson’s book is a moving work infused by a sense of compassion that only enhances its sound scholarship. The author manages to weave the personal into a larger institutional story without ever losing a connection to the wider historical currents of gender, race, and settler colonialism in post-War Saskatchewan and Canada.

In a year with many excellent submissions, we are happy to recommend Allyson D. Stevenson’s Intimate Integration: A History of the Sixties Scoop and the Colonization of Indigenous Kinship for the Clio Prize in Prairie History.

British Columbia

Bob MacdonaldBob McDonald, A Long Way to Paradise: A New History of British Columbia Politics.

A Long Way to Paradise is a comprehensive, nuanced analysis of how a distinctive political culture took shape in the province of British Columbia between 1871 and 1972. McDonald draws on extensive primary sources, and deftly engages the secondary literature on BC history, to provide a fresh perspective on longstanding questions about the apparent polarization of the province’s political culture. Departing from earlier studies that emphasized class, McDonald convincingly argues that ideology was at the heart of most political divisions in the province. Such divisions reflected varying perspectives on how BC should meet the changing conditions of modernity, and were grounded in competing strands of the liberalism which McDonald identifies as the “commonsense foundation of the province’s mainstream political culture.”

The book offers new insights on the many intriguing leaders and events that comprise BC political history. The approach taken is, however, far from traditional and top-down. Instead, McDonald sets forth an innovative, textured analysis of BC’s political culture – a culture that was broadly based yet contested, that varied in critical ways by region, and that was grounded in, and sustained by, patriarchy, whiteness, and the ongoing denial of citizenship rights to Indigenous and Asian peoples. Richly detailed, accessible, and engaging, A Long Way to Paradise will appeal to all who are interested in deepening their understanding of BC, and is certain to become the go-to reference work for the province’s political history for years to come.

The Clio-North prize was not awarded this year.