Best New Articles April 2017

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: 

Emma Battell Lowman, “Mamook Kom’tax Chinuk Pipa/Learning to Write Chinook Jargon: Indigenous Peoples and Literacy Strategies in the South Central Interior of British Columbia in the Late Nineteenth Century,” Historical Studies in Education 29, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 77-98.

Author’s Twitter: @EmmaJBL


What it’s about: This paper is an investigation into the flourishing of Chinook Jargon, and its shorthand writing system, Chinuk pipa, in the interior of British Columbia from 1858 to the 1904. As opposed to English, Chinook Jargon and Chinuk pipa were widely adopted by Indigenous people in the BC interior. In doing so, Battell Lowman overturns widespread beliefs that Indigneous people lacked any form of written languages prior to the arrival of Europeans, while also challenging the idea that power with respect to education and literacy was solely in the hands of missionaries. Furthermore, Battell Lowman also considers the use of pidgins and literacy as “important histories of dynamic Indigenous resistance, adaptation, and social change in an era of intensive colonial invasion and disruption.” (p. 80)

What I loved: In the interest of full disclosure, I should be clear here that Emma is one of my oldest and dearest friends. She is also a scholar that I greatly respect and admire. So it’s pretty inevitable that I will like pretty much anything she publishes. That said, aside from my undying love for Emma, this article is superb on its own merits. What I loved best about it is its focus on Indigenous resistance and resilience. Rather than simply considering Indigenous peoples as historical and static, she shows how they adapted and adopted new ways of thinking, and were very much contemporary. I also greatly appreciate the research that went into this article, something that is well showcased in the endnotes. It is also clear that, unlike many white settler scholars, Battell Lowman privileges Indigenous voices in her work, relying on interviews as much as textual documents. Significantly, she also thanks two of her Indigenous teachers for sharing their knowledge with her. Finally, this article goes above and beyond by showing how the past, the present, and the future are all interconnected, and the important role that our histories play in how we understand the world around us, whether you are Indigenous or not.

Favourite quote(s): “Newcomer words and terms were added to the already multilinguistic reality of Indigenous peoples, but did not displace those Indigenous languages. For example, the Chinook Jargon names for English and American people—“King George men” and “Boston men” respectively — assimilated English words into the cultural understandings of the differences between these two groups without displacing the underlying world views that inform Indigenous languages.” (p. 88)


“If, rather than an inevitability, Indigenous language learning and literacy is a site of colonial contestation that is not always already decided in favour of the colonizers, then our readings—and constructions—of language histories in Indigenous-Settler contexts must be revisited.”(P. 91)

Suggested uses: Honestly, I think everyone should read this article. It’s that fantastic, while also being accessible and easy to read. This article is definitely a must-read for anyone who studies the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, particularly for white settler scholars. I can also see this article being used in any course on Indigenous history in Canada, BC History, and the history of empire, as well as in historical methods courses, particularly when discussing the subject of whether/how non-Indigenous peoples should do Indigenous history.


Thomas Peace, “Borderlands, Primary Sources, and the Longue Durée: Contextualizing Colonial Schooling at Odanak, Lorette, and Kahnawake, 1600-1850,” Historical Studies in Education 29, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 8-31.

Author’s Twitter: @tpcanoe


What it’s about: More a historiographical review and prospectus for future research, this article argues for a need to consider Indigenous education and literacy in a broader geographical and chronological context. Specifically, Peace argues that alphabetic literacy, formal education, and engagement with missionaries were all tools employed by Indigenous communities as well as sites of engagement between Indigenous peoples, missionaries, and settlers. Peace connects existing literature on Indigenous education in New England to his findings on Indigenous education among the Kanien’kehá:ka of Kahnawake, the Abenaki of Odanak, and the Wendat of Lorette. By looking on both sides of the border, as well as over the course of 250 years of Indigneous-settler interaction,  he is able to show that Indigenous communities selectively chose to engage with these schools once it became clear that colonial pressures on their lands and resources had reached a breaking point. These decisions were largely political and strategic, designed to help Indigenous communities better secure their position vis-a-vis the colonial governments.

What I loved: As is the case with Battell Lowman’s article, this article stood out to me for its emphasis on Indigenous resilience and resistance.  Peace shows how Indigenous communities in the St. Lawrence Valley were active agents who approached Western education strategically in an effort to benefit their communities. I also find his suggestion that the decision to send their children to Western schools was  part of a larger tradition of the use of captives to facilitate political alliances, much like fosterage, fascinating! When combined with his discussion of the intellectual tradition of Indigenous peoples in this area, this seems to suggest further continuity between Indigenous education in the pre and post-contact eras. I love that this article adds to the growing body of literature showing the ingenuity and adaptability of Indigenous communities as well as the incomplete or partial nature of settler colonialism. I hope to see more soon!

However, what I love best about this article is that it acknowledges its limitations. From the very beginning of the article, he clearly establishes his own positionality as an Anglo-Canadian scholar, the limits of his evidence, and the tentative nature of his conclusions. Rather than being the last word on the subject, this article is an invitation to other scholars to engage in dialogue about this subject. I wish that more articles took this approach, because I feel that we have so much to learn from each other.

Favourite quote: “If the average settler had few formal educational opportunities as the eighteenth century progressed, then the Kanien’kehá:ka, Abenaki, and Wendat living in these communities were indeed fundamentally different from their French neighbours. Rather than resisting schooling and the development of alphabetic literacy skills, as the historiography suggests, some people in these communities had material incentives tied to the rapid Euro-American resettlement of their Lands to understand the written culture of the European newcomers. Perhaps, better put, the emergence of alphabetic literacy and schools in these communities was one of the few options these people had to confront the rapid changes taking place upon their Land. Unlike colonial settlers — most of whom were farmers — the principal economies of these communities and their need for diplomacy increasingly required familiarity with written texts. Within this context, schooling and the development of literacy skills became more, rather than less, important: the exact opposite of what we see within the colonial population in the St. Lawrence valley.”(p. 24)

Suggested uses: Again, as is the case with the previous article, I think that this piece will be of interest to those who study Indigenous history, the history of education, and the history of empire as well as courses on these subjects. But in my opinion, this article will be most beneficial to graduate students, no matter their field. Too many graduate students today are taught that historiography means simply listing and describing other scholarship. Peace’s article is a model for graduate students and established scholars of how to do historiography the right way! Finally, I think this article should be essential for any course or study that considers Canada in a larger global/transnational context, since it is a showcase for just how much we can learn from taking a transnational approach!


Robin Ridington and Jillian Ridington, “The Listener: Remembering the Dane-zaa Soundscape Recordings of Howard Broomfield,“ BC Studies, no. 193 (Spring 2017): 147-161.


What it’s about: This text is a written accompaniment to an audio file compiled by the authors featuring recordings made by Howard Broomfield from 1979 to 1982, plus additional recordings made by Robin Ridington in 1966, at the Doig River Reserve with the Dane-zaa First Nations. This audio file is a soundscape of life on the reserve from the period, the kinds of sounds that would have permeated the environment and embedded themselves into the collective and personal memories of the Dane-zaa people.

What I loved: I cannot tell you enough how much I loved this piece. You absolutely must listen to the audio file. I’ve always found soundscapes to be fascinating, especially because I have such a personal connection with them. As I was listening to the recording, I remembered the soundscape of summers in Montreal during my childhood, the cicadas humming, lawn mowers going in the background, singing silly songs at summer camp, and listening to music on the radio. Even now, particular sounds are inextricably linked in my memory with certain events and periods. I also love that this is an example of community-based research based on an ethos of “for and with” Indigenous peoples, rather than “on and about.”

Favourite quote: The children singing “Who Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar.” But seriously, the whole track is gorgeous.

Suggested uses: For those who also believe that the historical is personal, as well as scholars who are interested in new digital history techniques, community-based research, soundscapes, Indigenous history, and more. This would also be fantastic to use in a course on historical methods as well as Indigenous history to talk about these very issues.


Also Recommended:

  • The whole Historical Studies in Education 29, no. 1 (Spring 2017) issue
    • Seriously, did you have to put some of my favourite people all together in one journal issue and then make me choose? Thanks for the guilt-trip. 😛
  • Sarah Rotz, “‘They took our beads, it was a fair trade, get over it’: Settler Colonial Logics, Racial Hierarchies and Material Dominance in Canada,” Geoforum 82 (2017): 158-169
    • This isn’t strictly a Canadian history article, which is why I’ve included it down here. Rather, this is a social-science based analysis of settler colonial logics and narratives among contemporary white male farmers, particularly with respect to attitudes towards Indigenous peoples and immigrant workers. However, it does do a great job of showing how historical narratives are embedded into settler colonialism as well as constructions of “others” in Canada, as well as the need, on the part of settlers, for ongoing self-reflection about their role in this oppressive regime.


That’s it for this week! Have you read any of these journal issues yet? Any favourite articles? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on the social media platform of your choice. And don’t forget to check back on Friday for our regular Upcoming Publications in Canadian history for June! I’ll see you then!

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