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Finding Directions West: Readings that Locate and Dislocate Western Canada's Past

Submitted by davidsoa on Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:52am

Finding Directions West

George Colpitts (Editor)
Heather Devine (Editor)
978-1-55238-882-2 (Institutional PDF)
978-1-55238-883-9 (ePub)
978-1-55238-884-6 (mobi)
$34.95 CAD / $34.95 USD
330 pages
24 illustrations, notes, bibliography, index
The West
February 2017


About the Book: 

In the past, Western Canada was a place of new directions in human thought and action, migrations of the mind and body, and personal journeys. This book anthology brings together studies exploring the way the west served as a place of constant movement between places of spiritual, subsistence and aesthetic importance. The region, it would seem, gained its very life in the movement of its people. Finding Directions West: Readings that Locate and Dislocate Western Canada's Past, showcases new Western Canadian research on the places found and inhabited by indigenous people and newcomers, as well as their strategies to situate themselves, move on to new homes or change their environments to recreate the West in profoundly different ways. These studies range from the way indigenous people found representation in museum displays, to the archival home newcomers found for themselves: how, for instance, the LGBT community found a place, or not, in the historical record itself. Other studies examine the means by which Métis communities, finding the west transforming around them, turned to grassroots narratives and historical preservation in order to produce what is now appreciated as vernacular histories of inestimable value. In another study, the issues confronted by the Stoney Nakoda who found their home territory rapidly changing in the treaty and reserve era is examined: how Stoney connections to Indian agents and missionaries allowed them to pursue long-distance subsistence strategies into the pioneer era.

The anthology includes an analysis of a lengthy travel diary of an English visitor to Depression-era Alberta, revealing how she perceived the region in a short government-sponsored inquiry. Other studies examine the ways women, themselves newcomers in pioneering society, evaluated new immigrants to the region and sought to extend, or not, the vote to them; and the ways early suffrage activists in Alberta and England by World War I developed key ideas when they cooperated in publicity work in Western Canada. Finding Directions West also includes a study on ranchers and how they initially sought to circumscribe their practices around large landholdings in periods of drought, to the architectural designs imported to places such as the Banff Centre that defied the natural geography of the Rocky Mountains. Too often, Western Canadian history is understood as a fixed, precisely mapped and authoritatively documented place. This anthology prompts readers to think differently about a region where ideas, people and communities were in a constant but energetic flux, and how newcomers converged into sometimes impermanent homes or moved on to new experiences to leave a significant legacy for the present-day.

About the Author(s): 

George Colpitts is a professor in the Department of History at the University of Calgary. He has published five books, as well as contributing numerous chapters and journal articles to academic publications. Colpitts is the winner of both the American Society for Ethnohistory's 2012 Robert F. Heizer Prize and the 2010 Frederick C. Luebke Award for outstanding regional scholarship.

Heather Devine is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Calgary. Her publications, research, and teaching specialties focus on Canadian Native History, Museum and Heritage Studies, and Western Canadian ethnic history, with a particular focus on Métis ethnohistory. She has worked in curatorial and consulting capacities with the Archaeological Survey of Alberta, the Royal Alberta Museum, the Nickle Arts Museum, and the Canadian Museum of History. She is author of The People Who Own Themselves: Aboriginal Ethnogenesis in a Canadian Family, 1660–1900, winner of the Harold Adams Innis Prize for 2004–2005.