Unwritten Histories

The Unwritten Rules of History

Imagining a Better Future: An Introduction to Teaching and Learning about Settler Colonialism in Canada

Co-authored with Sarah York-Bertram

Note from Andrea: Sarah York-Bertram has been setting social media on fire with her wonderful Twitter essays on this subject. So of course I had to dragoon  ask her if she would be willing to co-author this post with me! And she is so kind that she said yes! Thank you, Sarah!

This is an image of Lake Louise in the winter. In the foreground is a view-finder, looking across the lake towards the mountains.

“If you come here to help me, you’re wasting your time. If you come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Lilla Watson

We wish to acknowledge that this blog post would not have been possible without the work of Indigenous scholars, many of whom are listed below, who have been researching and writing in this field for decades. We are deeply indebted to them for their generosity and patience. 


Like so many others, both Sarah and Andrea have been appalled, angered, and outraged by the Stanley decision, as well as the way in which so many people are in denial about anti-Indigenous racism in this country.  While we are heartened to see all of the great discussions online, we are alarmed to see that many individuals do not know or understand how settler colonialism has shaped the history and present of this place we now call Canada. As settlers, scholars, and historians, we believe that it is our responsibility to help rectify this situation. We also believe that we need to keep these conversations going, beyond the Stanley decision, and that they should be an integral part of the teaching and learning of history in this country. Further, we believe that it is important that we continually and actively fight against racism in all its forms. Anti-racism is an active approach to unpacking, accounting for, and dismantling systemic racism. It’s not about simply abstaining from being racist, it’s about doing what’s necessary to build an equitable, de-colonial culture and society that all humans can thrive in. What follows are guidelines, resources, and frequently asked questions that are informed by anti-racist and decolonial approaches to teaching about settler colonialism in Canada. This blog post is targeted specifically towards educators who want to increase their knowledge of the subject as well as integrate it into their teaching practice. However, it is our hope that this guide will also be of use to any individual who is interested in helping to imagine a better future for us all.


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Canadian History Roundup – Week of February 11, 2018

This is a Valentine's Day card that shows a cartoon grey kitten with a bow standing next to a gift box with flowers and a heart-shaped box of chocolates. The sentiment says: A Valentine gift for you.

A Valentine Gift for You
1900-1960, 20th century. C271_B8.03. McCord Museum.

This week’s top stories include the latest on Black History Month, the history of Canada at the Olympics, Valentines Day, and the role of history in the Stanley verdict.


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Inconvenient Pasts: Women’s Suffrage in English Canada

Picture of an old fashioned pen nib.

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you may have seen several recent references to the British suffragettes. That’s because last week marked the 100th anniversary of women obtaining the right to vote in Britain. On this side of the pond, there have been some questions raised about why there hasn’t been a similar celebration of the women’s suffrage movement, particularly since some people consider 1918 to be the year when Canadian women received the right to vote. While I can’t speak on behalf of the government, I can tell you that historians have some major reservations when it comes to celebrating the accomplishments of Canadian suffragists. So, in this installment of Inconvenient Pasts, we’re going to take a critical look at the women’s suffrage movement in Canada, discussing what it did and did not accomplished, and whether or not it should be celebrated.


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Canadian History Roundup – Week of February 4, 2018

This image shows a woman competing in an Olympic downhill ski competition. She is on the slopes, having just gone through two slalom gates. She is wearing a blue and white uniform, and a fiercely competitive look on her face.

Canadian woman entrant in women’s downhill skiing, Tenth Olympic Winter Games. February 1968. H.J. Leclair / Library and Archives Canada / 3241319. Copyright: Library and Archives Canada

The latest in blog posts, news, and podcasts from the world of Canadian history.

This week’s highlights: Color our Collections 2018 at Canadian institutions, Black History month, and the history of Canada at the Olympics.


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My latest post for Active History is up!

Check it out!

We Regret To Inform You: The Emotional Labour of Academic Job Applications

Andrea at the Canada’s History Forum!

Someone of you may also know this already, but last November, I was invited to give a talk at the 10th Canada’s History Forum. The video of my talk, completed with captions, is now available! Check it out!

Unpacking DNA Ancestry Tests

This photograph was taken from the perspective of someone standing on the ground, looking up in the the canopy of a forest. Tall tree trunks climb high in the sky, converging at one point in the centre of the image. You can see some blue sky between the leaves of the tree canopy.

Special thanks to Shannon Stettner for her help with this piece.

If you’ve spent any time either watching television or on social media in the past few months, there is a high likelihood that you’ve run into a commercial, blog post, or Youtube video featuring DNA ancestry tests. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have been pushing these tests as important ways to find out about your family history. Which sounds pretty cool. However, much like Canada150, many historians find themselves incredibly frustrated by the increasing popularity of these tests. I can neither confirm nor deny that some yell incomprehensibly at the television screen whenever one of the Ancestry.com commercials comes on. Now, there are numerous articles out there explaining the scientific limitations of these tests. For instance, this recent piece on Gizmondo talks about how the results of these tests aren’t always reliable, due to the limited availability of comparative data, which alleles are being used to access ancestry, and just plain error. However, there haven’t really been any detailed discussions about the limitations of these tests from a historical perspective. So, in today’s blog post, I’m going to talk about exactly that, with a particular focus on the complicated nature of historical populations, the “science” of race, the role of white privilege, and notions of belonging and community.


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Canadian History Roundup – Week of January 28, 2018

This image shows a Black woman who is presumably Matilda Newman, serving two little girls at a store counter. Newman is wearing a beige flowered shirt-dress. The little girl on the left is hearing a light blue jacket and grey skirt, and the little girl on the right is wearing a red jacket and knitted hat. In the background, there are shelves filled with grocery goods in 1960s packaging.

Ted Grant. “At Matilda Newman’s Store.” Africville Nova Scotia, c. 1964-1969. Library and Archives Canada / e002283006.

The latest in blog posts, news, and podcasts from the world of Canadian history.


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Best New Articles from December 2017 and January 2018

This is an image of a colourful pile of journals, stacked one on top of the other. You can only see the edge of the stack, however, and the rest of the photo is a grey background.

Because, let’s face it – who has time to catch up on all the journal articles published in Canadian history?


Welcome back to the Best New Articles series, where each month I post a list of my favourite new articles! Don’t forget to also check out my favourites from previous months, which you can access by clicking here.


This month I read articles from:

Here are my favourites:


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Canadian History Roundup – Week of January 21st, 2018

One male and two female skiers in a class at a winter resort in the Laurention mountains of Québec.

Gar Lunney, “One male and two female skiers in a class at a winter resort in the Laurention mountains of Québec,” February 1953, Library and Archives Canada. Copyright: Expired .

The latest in blog posts, news, and podcasts from the world of Canadian history.

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