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HUMANITIES 159 theorists (his citations, from Herder to Bhabha, and from Eliot to Weimann, are a role-call of the important positions on nation and literary tradition) to give us a well-informed study, one that will serve anyone who has worried about Canada. As who among us has not? It is impossible not to agree with Kertzer's conclusion. 'Instead of trying to transplant Herder to the Canadian soil,' he writes, 'we have to diversify our sense of what a nation is and should be, and through that diversity find ways of dwelling in Canada.' (RUSSELL BROWN) David T. McNab, editor for Nin.Da.Waab.Jig. Earth, Water, Air and Fire: Studies in Canadian Ethnohistory Wilfrid Laurier University Press. vi, 342. $29-95 Earth, Water, Air and Fire is a collection of fifteen papers presented at the Third Laurier Conference on Ethnohistory held at Bkejwanong (Walpole Island First Nation). The title is meant to reflect the four elements as conceived within an aboriginal cosmos, but only the four papers actually associated with Bkejwanong reflect this emphasis. The remainder of the papers address specific issues within other geographic areas withoutmuch reflection on the theme. Thepapers are organized by geographical!cuItural areas- Bkejwanong, Mi'kmaq, Southern and Northern Ontario, and the North - but could have just as easily been organized along other themes: resource exploitation, missionary activities, political development, treatyIlegal issues. While the opening two papers (Dean M. Jacobs and Olive Dickason) present a distinctly aboriginal point of view, the remainder fall within the boundaries of contemporary Western ethnohistorical research. Like much ethnohistory, each of these papers focuses on a narrowly defined historical issue, and in the process one might lose sight of the broader context in which these specific events are occurring. The various images of Canadian aboriginal history are made up of a warp and weft of various threads that try to give us a tapestry. Each of these papers tugs at a particular thread of history and by so doing unravels the current configuration of historical 'truth.' A good example of this is Janet Chute's paper, 'Mi'kmaq Fishing in the Maritimes: A Historical Overview.' By focusing directly on Mi'kmaq involvement in fishing, a highly contentious issue in Mi'kmaq studies to begin with, Chute is able to show that our image of Mi'kmaq history shifts. Despite Mi'kmaq valuation of big game hunting, intensive riverine (not maritime) fishing probably contributed significantly to the traditional economy, and Mi'kmaq involvement in the commercial fishery was important enough to evoke a strong response to government restrictions throughout the historical period. Similarly, Heather Rollason's reacting of Samuel Hearne neatly shows how positive 160 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 references to the activities of Chipewyan women in his diaries were elided from the published text. By relying on the published sources, both anthropologists and historians have mistakenly characterized the lives of Chipewyan women as 'beasts ofburden' (Rollason also 10cates and corrects the precise sources for this characterization). Such editorial revisions in Hearne's published text raise the vexed questions of why Hearne would choose to make this particular characterization and in whose interests such an image lies. By tugging the thread of aboriginal women's lives, Rollason continues to challenge our understanding of the place of the marginalized in history itself. The only paper that seemed to be out of place in this collection is Joan Fairweather's 'Is This Apartheid? Aboriginal Reserves and Self-Government in Canada, 1960-82.' Fairweather seems to be responding to Peter Carsten's well-known paper on 'Coercion and Change/ but I cannot find the reference anywhere in her work. She is quite right to question the validity of the comparison, especiallyon the grounds thatapartheid sought to create a 'reserVe army' of cheap labour in South Africa, while in Canada the Indian Act effectively removed aboriginal peoples from participation in the labour force. Any such broad comparison must work with the textures of similarities and differences between the two systems under analysis and perhaps Carsten's failure was to look for the similarities and overlook the differences, while Fairweather's is to highlight the differences and overlook the similarities. It cannot be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 159-160
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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