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Northern Visions

Northern Visions: New Perspectives on the North in Canadian History

Kerry Abel
Ken S. Coates
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Northern Visions
    Book Description:

    Northern Visionscalls upon historians of both region and nation to broaden their range of research, to connect regional developments to activities in other northern regions of the world, and to think much more widely about the place of the North in the understanding of Canada's past.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0277-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. INTRODUCTION: The North and the Nation
    (pp. 7-22)
    Kerry Abel and Ken S. Coates

    Canadians have long held ambivalent feelings about the North. At times we have celebrated our northernness as a key part of what makes us unique. At other times, the North has been a symbol of sterility or danger lurking at the margins of our complacency. For many Canadians, the North is a treasure chest of natural resources riches ripe for removal. For others, it is a homeland to protect and cherish. It is hardly surprising that Canadian historians have reflected this ambivalence in their work. At one time, they celebrated the epic story of the pioneers who fought against the...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Winter and the Shaping of Northern History: Reflections from the Canadian North
    (pp. 23-36)
    Ken S. Coates and William R. Morrison

    Early in this century, the American author Jack London, who had travelled in northern Canada during the Klondike gold rush, wrote a story called “To Build a Fire.” A man travelling alone in the North during the winter falls through the ice of a sub-Arctic creek. Wet and freezing, he knows he must get warm and dry, or die. His fingers numb, he struggles to build a fire, using his dwindling supply of matches. On the last match, a small pile of twigs catches fire, and soon he has a roaring blaze. Steam begins to rise from his clothes; soon...

  5. CHAPTER TWO A Very Long Journey: Distance and Northern History
    (pp. 37-44)
    Bill Waiser

    On April 14, 1999, the TorontoGlobe and Mailcarried a letter in which an irate reader accused Canada’s so-called “national newspaper” of striking another blow in the war to alienate Northern Ontario from the rest of the province. “In your feature,” Stephen Chase of Thunder Bay scolded, “Sandy Lake Reserve, the birthplace and early home of Norval Morrisseau, is described as being ‘near Thunder Bay.’ If you check your atlas, you will find that this is like saying Toronto is near New York City. The distances are about the same.”² Chase had good reason to be annoyed. But this...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Parks Canada and the Commemoration of the North: History and Heritage
    (pp. 45-76)
    David Neufeld

    Every human group holds a set of intellectual tools based upon the experience and example of its forebears to guide relations within itself and with the wider world. This counsel from the past plays a dual function. First, it provides members with a sense of group identity and articulates a set of values that help individuals to live a fulfilling life. This set of values has been described as heritage. Second, it provides members with the skills to enable more effective interaction with the surrounding environment and larger society. This capability is drawn from what we know as history.¹ To...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Change, Continuity, Renewal: Lessons from a Decade of Historiography on the First Nations of the Territorial North
    (pp. 77-90)
    Mary-Ellen Kelm

    Canadians need a highly developed sense of irony in order to understand their own history. This is particularly so when we think about the role that the “North” plays in the Canadian imagination, that is, in the imaginations of those who reside, for the most part, within 200 kilometres of the American border. As Canadians we tend to think of the North nostalgically as a place where the stalwart Inuit and Dene eke out diminutive lives upon a vast landscape, symbolically demonstrating Canadian pluck.¹ Yet at the same time as we have, through language, myth, and ideology, indigenized the North,...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Inuit History in the Next Millennium: Challenges and Rewards
    (pp. 91-106)
    Shelagh D. Grant

    At present, there are two distinctly different histories of the Arctic: one focusing on the white man’s experiences, the other on the indigenous people, the Inuit. In terms of Inuit history, there are also two very different versions. Following the oral tradition, Inuit Elders passed down their history in the form of stories and songs, whereas the white man’s interpretation of Inuit history was recorded in a variety of sources, most prominently in detailed studies by ethnographers and archaeologists. Although both recognized the Inuit peoples’ close ties to their environment, the former portrayed the past from an Inuit perspective, the...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Women, Gender, and the Provincial North
    (pp. 107-116)
    Nancy M. Forestell

    As a feminist historian who has been doing research on northern Ontario for almost a decade now, I welcome the opportunity to reflect in this piece on the historical literature which has been produced on women, gender, and the Ontario North. As a recent dialogue by Canadian historians has made clear, the North is not only a physical space, but also an imagined place whose contours have been historically constituted and contested.¹ An increasing number of historical studies are beginning to make evident that gender along with class, race, ethnicity, and sexuality have been central in shaping these contours. Moreover,...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Creating New Angles of Repose: Northern Canadian Communities in a National Context
    (pp. 117-126)
    Charlene Porsild

    In October, 1930, three Danes and an Inuk set out from the village of Aklavik on the Mackenzie River delta. They had just taken their boats out for the winter and were heading for Reindeer Station by dog sled. The party was led by my grandfather, Robert Thor Porsild, a Greenland botanist hired to assist in the doomed reindeer project by which the Canadian government hoped to turn the Mackenzie Valley people into ranchers. Bob was accompanied by my grandmother, Elly Rothe Hansen Porsild, his bride newly-arrived from Copenhagen that summer, now pregnant with the couple’s first child. With them...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT History and the Provincial Norths: An Ontario Example
    (pp. 127-140)
    Kerry Abel

    If the history of the North has been generally neglected in Canada, there has been an even more conspicuous lack of interest in the histories of northern Quebec, Labrador, and the northern regions of the other provinces that lie “south of 60.” Many Canadians have a mental map in which “north” means arctic and “province” means farmland and industry. But a significant portion of Canada fits neither of these categories. These “provincial norths,” as they have become known, deserve closer scrutiny by historians. Through an examination of the case of Northern Ontario, I hope to engender more enthusiasm for the...

  12. CHAPTER NINE Alaska and the Canadian North: Comparing Conceptual Frameworks
    (pp. 141-158)
    Stephen Haycox

    In his bold, formative analysis of Northern historiography in the journalNorthern Reviewin 1994, Ken Coates argued that, contrary to myth and tradition, exceptionality is not the defining characteristic of the Canadian North and Alaska.¹ Despite the tenacity with which most residents of these northern regions, particularly non-Native residents, cling to the conviction that the North is “different,” there is in fact far less in northern cultural reality that is exceptional. Coates is surely correct in his assertion, for despite the uniqueness of the physical landscape, the general culture and daily existence of people living in the North is...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Whither the Northern Natives in Russian History?
    (pp. 159-176)
    Aileen A. Espiritu

    Unlike the historiography on the Canadian North, the scholarship in Russian on the Russian and Soviet North is abundant. Moreover, it is wide-ranging and what we in North America call interdisciplinary, since it includes ethnohistory, historical sociology, historical geography, anthropology, and archaeology. History departments in the former Soviet Union incorporate all of these disciplines, and their members have been researching the Russian North and Siberia since the late nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the scholarship on the history of the Russian North and Siberia before the early 1990s was impoverished because of the Soviet regime’s control over it. Beginning in the 1930s,...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN Reflections on a Career of Northern Travelling, Teaching, Writing, and Reading
    (pp. 177-186)
    Bruce Hodgins

    In 1996, Ken Coates and Bill Morrison published and edited yet another brilliant book entitledThe Historiography of the Provincial Norths,with essays by various scholars.¹ In their introduction, I was linked to the dean of northern history, Morris Zaslow, and referred to as “redoubtable” for my passion, as they asserted, “in both his life and his writing” about Northern Ontario. Thinking “redoubtable” meant “formidable” or “deserving of respect,” I took it as a compliment; perhaps they meant “fearsome” or “dreaded,” which my dictionary provides as alternative definitions. Anyway, I reviewed the book very favourably for theCanadian Historical Review.I...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 187-216)
  16. Contributors
    (pp. 217-218)
  17. Index
    (pp. 219-224)