History as healer


Published on

Slides for a presentation at the conference of the Association of Canadian Archivists in Victoria, British Columbia, in June 2014. The talk was about an event aimed at bringing communities together. It grew out of a finding aid of historical documents which had been used to support a First Nations land claim in Eastern Ontario (http://www.archeion.ca/culbertson-tract-land-claim-supporting-documents-collection;rad).

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide
  • Definition of archival activism from a Queen’s University blog post
    Two aspects – this presentation is about the first, subsequent presentation by Melanie Hardbattle on punk and Occupy Vancouver is about the second.
  • I’m talking about this event, held in October last year.
  • Geographical context: Deseronto is midway between Ottawa and Toronto
  • Dark grey area is the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory – Deseronto partially surrounded by it and was originally a part of it.
  • Land claim submitted in 1995 – accepted under the Specific Claims Policy in November 2003
  • Tensions in the area high after lack of progress on settling the claim.
  • Building top left is the new Band Office for the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. Building underneath is the Town Hall of Deseronto (once the Bank of Montreal, built 1904). Negotiations happen between MBQ and the Government of Canada, leaving the Town of Deseronto unaware of what is happening, even though it is closely involved in the outcome of the negotiations.
  • The Town submitted an Access to Information request in relation to the claim to the Department for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in 2007. In response, they received all the supporting documentation for the claim, but not the claim itself. Many pages of photocopies of 18th and 19th century handwriting.
  • The first finding aid I wrote was for records held entirely in other people’s repositories!
  • Also probably the most detailed finding aid I’ve ever written, more of a ‘calendar’ – and it was an absolutely fascinating collection of documents, charting the history of the relationship between this group of people and the British and Canadian governments over the last two hundred years. Also would just like to mention that Saltern Givins the missionary to the Mohawks was the son of James Givins, superintendent of the Indian Department – but no hint of their family relationship in their correspondence!
  • Report to Council, which was followed up by a meeting with the Town’s solicitor that summer.
  • We hoped to use the documents as the basis of an event which would bring the community together.

    Marlene was a professor in Trent University’s Native Studies department, the first to be established in North America. She was co-director of research for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2004.
  • Paul addressing Hastings County Council
  • Target audiences – particularly hoped to reach the second two.
  • Decided even if it was a disaster, it would be worth talking about!
  • Promotion and registration
  • Scary for someone who has tended to rely on PowerPoint!
    Only person to use PowerPoint was Nathan Brinklow, who gave the traditional Haudenosaunee (hoe-di-no-show-nee) opening in the Mohawk language with an English language gloss
    Chief Don R. Maracle took away my copy of the readings.
  • Blanket exercise a way of teaching the native history that was not taught in schools
  • People were divided up geographically with coloured name tags to help get the conversation going
  • The Deseronto Wikipedia page suggests some success (I have edited this page but I didn’t add these notes.)
  • This is my mother-in-law, Edna, who is the same age as Marlene but not quite so alert and on the ball. She was visiting from England when the Symposium took place and I brought her along for the day, but wasn’t quite sure what she would make of it all.

    As we drove home, she said to me, in a tone of wonder: “I hadn’t realised at the beginning, but a lot of those people were actually Indians, weren’t they?”

    I thought to myself, well, if we’ve done nothing else today, we’ve brought one elderly Englishwoman into contact with a group of people she would never otherwise have met.

    And we can hope that this was also true of some of the other people who attended.
  • History as healer

    1. 1. History as Healer Amanda Hill
    2. 2. 2007 Access to Information request
    3. 3. April 16th, 2008 Archives Board meeting minutes 6. Any other business … b) Land Claim documents Councillor Tumak presented copies of documents received from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs as the result of an Access to Information Request for background papers surrounding the Culbertson Tract land claim. It was agreed that the archivist would review the papers and create a summary listing of the materials provided. After the summary listing of the documents is completed, Board members agreed that on the Town's behalf, they would share the responsibility of reviewing the papers for content relevant to the history of the Culbertson land claim.
    4. 4. What next? • Initial reluctance by the Board to share the finding aid online • By November 2011 this had changed and the finding aid was shared on the Deseronto Archives site and also added to Archeion
    5. 5. May 9th, 2012 Archives Board meeting minutes 5. Any other business … b) Land Claim Symposium Paul Robertson reported on a meeting with Marlene Brant-Castellano to talk about the possibility of organizing an event on different cultural perceptions of land ownership, with particular reference to the Culbertson Tract claim. The archivist expressed willingness to be involved, with the perspective from the documents in the archives.
    6. 6. Political support • Deseronto Town Council • Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Band Council • Hastings County Council • Belleville City Council
    7. 7. • Belleville and Hastings Community Archives • Hastings County Historical Society • Professor John S. Milloy, Trent University • Panellists and speakers Practical support
    8. 8. Programme planning…
    9. 9. Mission To create a safe place where First Nations and non-First Nations people of Eastern Ontario may come together to learn about and to share understandings of the common land that sustains us all.
    10. 10. ACA proposals due September 2013 “…This presentation analyzes the steps taken in garnering support for the event and assesses the effectiveness of actively using the materials of the past to promote present-day understanding and future co- operation.” Event hadn’t actually happened when I submitted the proposal for this talk…
    11. 11. On the day • Deliberately low-tech event
    12. 12. Blanket exercise http://www.kairoscanada.org/dignity-rights/indigenous-rights/blanket-exercise/
    13. 13. Discussion session
    14. 14. Post-event reaction and results
    15. 15. http://www.insidebelleville.com/news-story/4185206-symposium-reflects-on-the-great-robbery-/
    16. 16. Increasing co-operation •Archives working in collaboration with MBQ research unit on World War I project to identify local people who joined the services •Discussing possible joint events around the anniversary of the war •Talk using documents has been given to other local groups
    17. 17. Regrets • Not as much participation from Deseronto residents as we’d hoped • Might have been better to hold the event in Deseronto • How do we reach those less open to learning more? Can we?
    18. 18. “…if we are not helping people understand the world they live in, and if this is not what archives is all about, then I do not know what it is we are doing that is all that important.” F. Gerald Ham, 1975 ‘The Archival Edge', American Archivist, January 1975, p.13
    19. 19. Final thoughts • Be prepared to step out of what’s comfortable and familiar • Accumulate allies in different communities • Use archives to build understanding • To demonstrate the relevance of the past to the present
    20. 20. Thank you! deserontoarchives.wordpress.com