A Structural Pandemic: On Statues, Colonial Violence, and the Importance of History (Part II)

Guides and Scouts at Old Sun School, Alberta, . 1930
Credit: Archives of the Girl Guides of nada, APH2374

Kristine Alexander and Mary Jane Logan Mcllum

As we documented in our previous post, looking more closely at the history of Scouting and Guiding reveals that the divide between colonialist violence, fascist discipline, and peaceful pedagogy was not quite as stark as Baden-Powell and his supporters would have us believe. Instead of insisting on the ideologil opposition between Scouting and the fascist youth groups of interwar Europe, it might make more sense to understand them as different points on a continuum – what Franziska Roy refers to as a “common grammar” of physil discipline and a desire for racial regeneration that reached across national and politil boundaries.[i] An additional key point in all of this – one that has largely eluded both historians and supporters of Scouting and Guiding – is the fact that colonialism and fascism are related entities. As Aimé Césaire?wrote seventy years ago, Hitler “applied to Europe colonialist procedures which until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India, and the blacks of Afri.”[ii]

Continue reading

A Structural Pandemic: On Statues, Colonial Violence, and the Importance of History (Part I)

Members of the Scout movement salute Baden-Powell as the statue was boarded up. 12 June 2020. Credit, Daily Mail and w8media (Used without permission)

Kristine Alexander and Mary Jane Logan Mcllum

2020 has been intense. Living in lockdown, uncertain about the future, watching the body count from Covid-19 and police violence continue to rise. Time, shaped by anger, grief, and fear, moves differently, as the pandemic – like other disease outbreaks before it – exposes and deepens socio-economic divisions and inequalities. Despite the best efforts of conservative politicians and social commentators, it is no longer possible to deny or ignore the fact that racist violence and dispossession are at the core of national histories and still shape social relations and institutions in the twenty-first century.

The relationship between past and present looms particularly large in public consciousness just now, and we are writing as historians – one Indigenous (Mcllum) and one settler (Alexander) – whose lives and reers have been shaped by the legacies of British imperialism and nadian settler colonialism. In quarantine, while grappling with changed domestic and work routines and worrying about loved ones, we read the news. Headlines blend into one another: infection and unemployment rates, racist attacks and anti-racist protests, and the creeping spread of authoritarianism in Western democracies. Signifintly for us, there are also stories – a new one every day it seems, about increasingly fractious disagreements regarding what to do with statues of “great men.” This week, we explore issues around commemoration, rights and the pandemic beginning with this post on the life and work of Lord Robert Baden-Powell and recent debates about how he should be remembered, and commemorated.

Continue reading

Indigenizing the Teaching of North Amerin History: A Panel Discussion

In late-October, Active History editor Thomas Peace met with Marie Battiste,?Alan Corbiere, and?Sarah Nickel?to discuss decolonization and Indigenization in the teaching of North Amerin history. Over the course of an hour, the conversation explored the meaning of decolonization, Indigenizing the ademy, Indigenous resurgence in the Indigenizing of history, assessed specific anticolonial strategies for affecting change in the discipline, and provided advice for history teachers and professors about how to change pedagogies and curriculum.

To extend the conversation, we asked the panelists to provide a list of useful resources history teachers and professors n use to learn more about the subjects addressed during the session. Here is their reading list:

History Slam Episode 170: Being Fat

      No Comments on History Slam Episode 170: Being Fat

By Sean Graham

In 1984, Participaction ran a television commercial telling viewers that “fat is not where it’s at.” Produced long before the “keep fit and have fun’ messages of Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, the ad has been cited as an example of fat shaming in nadian culture. Instead of ideas of ‘movement as medicine’, these types mpaigns placed tegorized people based on the ‘proper’ body type. In doing so, they created a strong sense of unbelonging in those who do not fit within this socially constructed ideal.

The story of those who pushed back against this and engaged in fat activism is the subject of Jenny Ellison’s new book?Being Fat: Women, Weight, and Feminist Activism in nada. Making extensive use of interviews with activists, Ellison explores how these women organized and created things like ‘fat only fitness classes’ and businesses that tered to this underserved market. In doing so, the book analyzes the reach of second wave feminism and its influence on the daily lives of nadians.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Jenny Ellison about the book. We talk about the origins of fat activism, the strategies used by activists, and the tensions with second wave feminism. We also talk about fitness and healthy eating mpaigns, the role of fashion, and the entrepreneurship of some activists.

Continue reading

Monumental Questions: Practil Experiences of the Politics of Commemoration

As cities and communities across nada confront the legacies of colonialism and racism, monuments and memorials have become a hot topic of public debate. On November 14th, London, Ontario’s Words Festival, brought together Lisa Helps, Mayor of Victoria, Moni MacDonald, co-chair of Halifax’s Cornwallis Taskforce, and University of Toronto History Professor Melanie Newton, for a discussion on the deliberative processes that communities have undertaken to tackle the difficult subject of historil monuments and commemorations, especially when the figures or events they honour confront us with nada’s legacies of systematic racism and slavery. Join Active History editor Thomas Peace in exploring with the panelists how cities have confronted their monumental legacies, the civic production of history and heritage, and strategies you n draw upon to better understand the politics of historic monuments and place names.

Learn More:

Cindy Blackstock, Spirit Bear: Echoes of the Past (First Nations Child & Family ring Society)

City of Toronto Briefing Note Responding to the Petition to Rename Dundas Street

City of Victoria – Reconciliation Programs

Moni MacDonald, Resting History: How CBC Television has Shaped nada’s Past (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019)

Melanie Newton, “Henry Dundas: Naming Empire and Genocide,”?History Workshop (Nov 2020)?

Emma Renaerts, “The Right Way to Topple a Statue,”?We Are Not Divided (Oct 2020)

Report of the Task Force on the Commemoration of Edward Cornwallis and the Recognition and Commemoration of Indigenous History

Remember/Resist/Redraw #26: 1995 lgary Workers Laundry Strike

Earlier this month, the Graphic History Collective released RRR #26 to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1995 lgary Laundry Workers Strike.

The poster by Mary Joyce and Alvin Finkel outlines the importance of rank-and-file militancy, much of it by immigrant women of colour, in the fight against austerity and privatization in places like Alberta. This poster is particularly pertinent beuse the Provincial Government of Alberta is today, 25 years later, launching new attacks on health re workers in the midst of a global pandemic.

We hope that Remember | Resist | Redraw encourages people to critilly examine history in ways that n fuel our radil imaginations and support struggles for social change. Learn more about how you n support the project on our website, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Continue reading

History Slam Episode 169: Jeannie’s Demise

      No Comments on History Slam Episode 169: Jeannie’s Demise

By Sean Graham

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Ian Radforth about his new book?Jeannie’s Demise: Abortion on Trial in Victorian Toronto, which examines the murder trial following the 1875 death of Jeannie Gilmour, a young woman who had gone to Arthur and Alice Davis to have an abortion. We chat about crafting a narrative from the story, how the se was sensationalized by the press, and the Victorian idea of ‘Toronto the Good.’ We also talk about Arthur and Alice and how they advertised, Jeannie’s path to them, and how Jeannie’s story fits within the wider history of abortion in nada.

Continue reading

Rev. William Scott and the Oka Question

      No Comments on Rev. William Scott and the Oka Question

Donald B. Smith


Without any doubt, Dunn mpbell Scott, Deputy Superintendent General of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932, was nada’s best-known Indian Affairs civil servant. His views of Indigenous peoples were often intolerant and harsh, and he believed “the happiest future for the Indian is absorption into the general population.”[1] Though much has been written about Dunn’s reer and writings, we know little about his childhood and how his upbringing shaped his views and reer ambitions.

Historil digging has revealed an interesting link between Dunn’s hard line on Indigenous issues and his father, Rev. William Scott (1812?-1891). In 1883, Rev. Scott wrote an in-depth report on the Mohawk land struggle at Kanehsatake/Oka that reveals his inability to see the power and strength of Indigenous peoples and the land. The document reveals the Methodist minister’s fluency as a writer, his ability to master and organize a great deal of material, his knowledge of French, and his total and unconditional support of the newly-established Department of Indian Affairs, a department his son would go on to lead only twenty years later. Rev. Scott’s report is available online (William Scott, Report Relating to the Affairs of the Oka Indians. Made to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs (Ottawa: Printed by MacLean, Roger & Co., 1883) and it deserves greater historil attention, as does the life of its author.

Continue reading

Conspiracy Theories and the nadians who Love Them

      1 Comment on Conspiracy Theories and the nadians who Love Them

Kevin Anderson

In April and May of 1956, Lethbridge, Alberta, Social Credit MP John Blackmore gave two speeches over the radio to his constituents where he claimed that on recent versions of nadian dollar bills, there was clearly the likeness of a demon hiding in the Queen’s hair. Blackmore related how a correspondent, William Guy rr, had drawn his attention to this fact. Each man agreed that this was a sign that the agents acting behind the scenes of the “Anglo-Saxon Celtic administrations, British and Amerin” and who had facilitated recent victories against “Christianity and the Bible, against the United States and the British Commonwealth, and the whole free world” (e.g. Communism spreading in Asia) had become bolder. Blackmore reassured his audience that this was serious; he would not listen to rr if he were an “extremist.”

A first reaction to such claims is perhaps to laugh (as I did when I first stumbled across it while researching the federal Social Credit Party), to enjoy it from an ironic distance, or to dismiss it as part of the lunatic fringe. In other words: Who res? By examining such strange ideas, do scholars not risk bestowing status upon them?

While these reactions are initially justifiable, they become less defensible with context. Blackmore was first elected in 1935 and was re-elected five times. There he sat in the House of Commons, discussing funding of public buildings on one day and emphasizing the need to strike a committee to investigate the “Mongolian-Turkic-Red” conspiracy behind Communism on another.

rr was a respected and well-known nadian navy man and author whose books were positively reviewed in the pages of the Globe and Mail in the 1940s. His retirement in 1945 elicited a glowing two column article by that venerable paper.[1] Folklorist Bill Ellis, however, characterizes him as the key revivor of Illuminati-based conspiracy theory in postwar North Ameri upon publition of his anti-Semitic screed Pawns in the Game in 1955. The Illuminati remains one of the foundational elements of conspiracy theory.

Blackmore and rr are part of nada’s conspiratorial heritage, a very real heritage that was/is constantly interacting with transnational currents attempting to explain the modern world. Continue reading

Introducing Historia Nostra: Episode 1

      No Comments on Introducing Historia Nostra: Episode 1

How is history taught at heritage sites and museums in North Ameri? What n the history of museums and heritage sites tell us about how they operate today? And how do other resources, like historilly-based films, allow us to access history at home? These are all questions explored on Historia Nostra, a new YouTube channel about North Amerin history.

Historia Nostra (which means “Our History”)? critilly explores how North Amerin history is taught at museums and heritage sites, on film, and in other less conventional ways. Museums and historic sites provide, for many North Amerins, our first exposure to history and offer tangible connections to the past. Historilly based films and other such media also have signifint sway in how history is popularly understood. These formative experiences have important, lasting impacts on how we as a society interact with history, but on an individual level museums and other historilly based ephemera are often marketed as fun first rather than edutional. Presenting history as entertainment n support good histories, but it n also compromise edutional value. Historia Nostra investigates how these experiences with history operate in practice through three sub-series: “Experiencing History,” “Doing History,” and “The Frontier on Film.”

Join host, Erin Isaac, as she visits heritage sites across North Ameri—including well known historic sites like Jamestown, VA and lesser known examples like Kejimkujik, NS—in our “Experiencing History” series. Continue reading