The Clio Prizes
William C. Wicken, Mi’kmaq Treaties on Trial: History, Land and Donald Marshall Junior (University of Toronto Press, 2002).
This original and readable study elegantly moves across time to explore and explain the historical origins of a complex contemporary issue. Grounded in the careful reading of legal documents across three centuries, the reader comes away with an understanding of 18th and 20th-century Mi’kmaq politics, imperial “diplomatic” relations and the challenges of using history and historical arguments before the contemporary courts. It advances our understanding of 18th-century Mi’kmaq society and of native-white relations by focussing on the 1725-26 peace and friendship treaty between the Mi’kmaq and the Nova Scotia government. In great detail, the author explains the complexities of treaty-making in the colonial era and offers insights into the role of oral tradition, and academic history, in court cases on aboriginal rights.
Wicken’s study demonstrates an understanding of Mi’kmaq social structure, kinship and economy and illustrates that the Mi’kmaq viewed the treaty making process as part of a continuing relationship. By implication, he indicates that a legal reading of the text as a document that stands alone would not be an accurate historical representation. Further, Wicken effectively establishes that the British military authorities were not exercising jurisdiction over Nova Scotia during the better part of the eighteenth century. By examining the meaning of various clauses of the pertinent treaties he shows British intentions to be modest. Wicken’s argument is that British intentions were to develop a legal category to govern the Crown’s relationship with Mi’kmaq. The discussion of British misunderstanding of the nature of the alliance between the French and Mi’kmaq is persuasive and the conclusion that the British thought they achieved more than they did through treaties is significant. This book will be of great interest to students of history, politics and the law, and serves as an important example, for academics and their students, that history ‘matters.’
Le Centre de recherche des Cantons de l’est / Eastern Townships Research Center
The sub-committee recognizes the remarkable contribution of the CRCE/ETRC in disseminating regional history in Quebec. For twenty years, starting at Bishop’s University, the CRCE/ETRC has been offering history researchers in the Eastern Townships a commendable administrative framework worthy of mention. It testifies both to the excellence of the leading research of recognized historians, and to the praiseworthy concern taken by this organization to popularize history, notably with its book launchings, the publication of a comprehensive newsletter and an annual conference that attracts a large audience. The CRCE/ETRC shows how exciting it is to have quality research produced in the region, research that is expressed in the two languages that signify the historical richness of the Eastern Townships. In order to properly commemorate the 20th anniversary of this organization, the Quebec sub-committee has decided to award a 2002 Clio Prize in recognition of the enormous contribution of the Centre de recherche des Cantons de l’est / Eastern Townships Research Centre.
Paul-Louis Martin, Les fruits du Québec. Histoire et traditions des douceurs de la table (Septentrion, 2002).
What a delightful book! The reader can’t help but be won over by the novelty of the subject matter, the discipline and the richness of the research, the author’s elegant and clear writing, and the exquisitely pleasing construction of the book. Following on the heels of innovative studies by Jean-Louis Flandrin and Massimo Montanari, Paul-Louis Martin reminds us of a flavourful world that we thought had been left behind forever with the globalization of trade. While delving into the history of these fruits and their soil – the elements of daily, if not ordinary, life – the author with great good humour acknowledges the contributions of ethnology, the economy and history, not to mention botany, agronomy and the natural sciences, to the knowledge of Quebec’s past, and of the first Aboriginal settlements to the different regions of contemporary Quebec. Paul-Louis Martin tactfully retraces the multiform influence of the Catholic Church – by naming different plant varieties – and also the effects of the multiple cultural influences which, through nature, have shaped Quebec society. Finally, he reveals to the fascinated reader the existence of an Aboriginal “plant heritage,” a heritage that is not confined to the invention of traditional cultures. An important and innovative addition to the Quebec historiography, Paul-Louis Martin’s work is a surprising and remarkable study that the reader, no matter how exacting, can’t help but devour at one go. With the unanimous agreement of its replete members, the Quebec sub-committee awards the 2002 Clio Prize (work) to Paul-Louis Martin and to his delectable book, Les Fruits du Québec. Histoire et traditions des douceurs de la table.
William Westfall, The Founding Moment: Church, Society, and the Construction of Trinity College (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002).
William Westfall’s small book is a gem. With gentle wit, sympathy, and a profound sense of irony, he relates the tale of Bishop Strachan’s ever-hopeful campaign to beat back the forces of secularising modernity and construct a godly, conservative society in mid-19th century Toronto. Furious at the state’s seizure of University College, Strachan defiantly launched Trinity College, with its independent funding and its required courses in “physiology in its relation to natural theology” and “the outlines of Ecclesiastical History,” taught by men who were, he boasted, both scholarly and gentlemanly. Trinity was to be a “Christian household” where young men would learn, as children did from their mother, the highest standards of Christian morality. The “moment” was brief: Strachan’s successors bowed before charges that they infantilised their students and did not represent the Church writ large, and they soon took down some of the religious barriers that Strachan had so carefully erected. Westfall deftly integrates institutional history with the history of education, religion, government, masculinity, the family, and the ‘invention of tradition.’ Highly readable and resting on impressive research and analysis, The Founding Moment is cultural history of the highest order.
Theodore Binnema, Common and Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental History of the Northwest Plains (University of Oklahoma Press, 2001).
Theodore Binnema’s Common and Contested Ground is a grounding-breaking monograph. In this sweeping history of the northwestern plains from 200 A.D. to 1806 (the year Lewis and Clark explored the upper Missouri River), Binnema carefully traces the complex relationships among landscape, animals and people over a longue dure. He challenges the dominant anthropological paradigm of culture groups and instead focuses on significant individuals, bands and events, outlining how kinship and the environment underlay social organization among people on the plains. Binnema explores the interaction between bison and hunters, and the interethnic relations among Blackfoot, Crees, Assiniboines, Shoshonis, Arapahos, Gros Ventres, Crows, Hidatsas, Salishans and Flatheads that led to distinct band formations and regional coalitions. In combining environmental history with diplomatic and political history, Binnema has refigured the Native history of the northwestern plains. His book provides both an argument and a model that will stimulate debate and new research in the field.
Cole Harris, Making Native Space: Colonialism, Resistance, and Reserves in British Columbia (UBC Press, 2002).
This impressive volume tackles a crucial question in British Columbia: the dispossession of First Nations from the land. Historical geographer Cole Harris, a previous Clio winner, provides an ‘historical narrative of geographical change,’ exploring the colonization of the province through the creation of the reserve system. This process ignored aboriginal title, appropriated land, and created some 1500 small reserves for First Nations people. Emphasizing that the discourse of colonialism was complex and contradictory, Harris begins by discussing the inconsistent nature of imperial policy in the middle of the 19th century. He then traces the colonizing venture to 1938, when the Indian reserves in British Columbia were officially transferred to the Dominion of Canada. The 1870s were pivotal, according to the author, for this decade witnessed the defeat of an option that included a more generous land policy, as well as a measure of self-government, for First Nations. Throughout the book the often competing voices of the British Colonial Office, the colonial and provincial governments, the Canadian government, the settler society, and the natives are heard. A final chapter considers the modern predicament; rejecting the policy of assimilation, Harris calls for a politics of difference, where land, resources and self-government for First Nations can begin a new relationship between the aboriginal and settler societies.
Elegantly written and thoroughly researched, the book moves fluidly from theories of colonialism to detailed, on-the-ground discussions between land commissioners and native chiefs over the size and makeup of particular reserves. Some fifty maps further ground the history in specific individual cases. For students of British Columbia’s past and present, Making Native Space is essential reading.
Shelagh D. Grant, Arctic Justice: On Trial for Murder, Pond Inlet, 1923 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002).
Shelagh Grant has provided a compelling and superbly researched analysis of the killing of Robert Janes by the Inuit of Baffin Island in March 1920. Janes died at the hands of Nuqallaq, an Inuk from North Baffin Island, who was acting on the basis of Inuit custom which justified the killing of an aggressive, threatening person on a pre-emptive basis. To Nuqallaq and his colleagues, the killing was an act of self-protection, but Canadian authorities had a different interpretation. Eighteen months after the killing, a Royal North West Police officer investigated the slaying and recommended that Nuqallaq and two others be charged. Following the trial, Nuqallaq was sentenced to ten years of hard labour at Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Manitoba. He remained only eighteen months, when he was released to return to Pond Inlet, where he died a few months later of tuberculosis.
The killing of Janes convinced the Canadian government that the time was right to assert national sovereignty over this long-ignored piece of the Dominion. Arctic Justice describes the tense and difficult intersection of Inuit and Canadian justice and documents the political and strategic motivations which underscored the Canadian government’s determination to intervene. Grant argues, as she has in earlier works on the extension of government authority into the Canadian North, that a preoccupation with sovereignty convinced the Canadian government to act. More originally, she provides an insightful analysis of the Inuit response to the murder, the police investigation and the subsequent court proceedings.
The strength of Grant’s work lies in the detailed and carefully reconstructed narrative and the nicely-contextualized analysis of the murder, the police actions, and the handling of the case by Canadian legal and political authorities. Where the book clearly stands apart from most other works of northern history is in the author’s extensive efforts to collect and use Inuit oral testimony in the reconstruction and explanation of the events and the cultural circumstances surrounding the killing and the subsequent trial. This is, in sum, a superb work of ethnohistory that capitalizes on the strengths of archival and oral documentation and shows a great deal of respect for both the canons of historical scholarship and the historical traditions of the Inuit of Baffin Island. Arctic Justice is well-illustrated, with useful and informative maps, reproductions of historical documents, and other well-chosen illustrative material. Shelagh Grant has written a masterful, compelling and insightful work, which fully deserves recognition as the winner of the Clio Award for Northern Canadian History.