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Colloquium - October 14, 2022


The 2022 Rupert's Land Colloquium will be available online, free of charge. To register, email your name to rupert.land@uwinnipeg.ca with the word "Register" and your name in the subject line. We will send all registrants a Zoom link prior to the colloquium.

9:00 (Central Time) - Greetings and Opening Remarks by Roland Bohr

Roland Bohr completed his doctoral studies at the University of Manitoba in 2005, with a thesis on continuity and change in Indigenous peoples’ use of European and Indigenous weaponry. He currently teaches in the Department of History at the University of Winnipeg and serves as the Director of the Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies. He is the author of Gifts from the Thunder Beings: Indigenous Archery and European Firearms in the northern Plains and in the central Subarctic, 1670 to 1870.

9:30 a.m. (Central Time) – “Asiniskaw Ithiniwak (Rocky Cree) Place Names Project – Historical-Geographic Research in Northern Manitoba” by Roland Bohr

The purpose of this project is to recover, reclaim, revitalize, and validate Rocky Cree knowledge of their places and place names. The people of the Rocky Cree communities of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN, Nelson House) and O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (OPCN, South Indian Lake) have lived in the region of the Churchill River drainage since time before memory. The Asiniskaw Ithiniwak (Rocky Cree) have maintained their own histories and ways of knowing through traditions of recording and remembering, passed on in oral and written forms, through webs of relationships and culturally mediated protocols. This is especially important because many sites of cultural, historical, and spiritual significance to the Rocky Cree have been inundated since hydroelectric development began in the region in the 1970s. Since then, access to and knowledge of sites that were once visible markers of cultural and ethnic identity has been lost to the communities. This affects especially younger generations in both communities who often grapple with issues of identity springing from a lack of historical knowledge about their origins and those of their communities. The dispossession of Indigenous Peoples and the disenfranchisement of Indigenous communities from their home territories has been accomplished in part through non-Indigenous renaming of places. As an important step toward reconciliation and decolonization, knowledge keepers emphasize that local Indigenous place names must be restored, first through general circulation of this knowledge in their communities, but ultimately through an application to the Geological Survey of Canada and the Government of Manitoba. This project aims to recover the basic information to begin such a process.

Roland Bohr completed his doctoral studies at the University of Manitoba in 2005, with a thesis on continuity and change in Indigenous peoples’ use of European and Indigenous weaponry. He currently teaches in the Department of History at the University of Winnipeg and serves as the Director of the Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies. He is the author of Gifts from the Thunder Beings: Indigenous Archery and European Firearms in the northern Plains and in the central Subarctic, 1670 to 1870.

10:00 a.m. (Central Time) – “River Lots Revisited” by Lynn Whidden

After enjoying old French song as sung by the Métis for several decades, Lynn Whidden became convinced that the river lots have been unduly overshadowed by the buffalo hunt in the descriptions of historians and by museologists, that it was the river lots that were central to Métis lives in Saskatchewan. The paper focuses on the family history of Real Boucher, raised in St. Louis, Saskatchewan; on museum and historical “reporting”; and finally, the firsthand experience of Whidden and two companions, Ruth Swan and Ed Jerome, who, in August 2022, walked the original and still viable South Saskatchewan river lot of a Métis family. The paper concludes by briefly contrasting modern agricultural practices with the farming of the river lots, of Indigenous peoples and by pointing out the link between sustainability and human well being.

Lynn Whidden is an ethnomusicologist with many questions about music in environment and her quest for answers has taken her from Canada to Europe to Asia, South America and back to Canada’s Arctic and in August 2022 to the river lots of Saskatchewan. It has led her to question the biology of song; indoors and electronic settings for music; and more recently the problems of recording the outdoor sound environment. All of her research is fed by love of doing music and engaging in music with students, friends and family.

10:30 a.m. (Central Time) – “Fur Trading and the Business of the Bison Hunt in the Upper Red River District” by George Colpitts

George Colpitts examines two types of business at Fort Ellice in 1821/22 among plains Assiniboine, Cree, and Métis hunters in the Upper Red River District. By using transactions recorded by Edward Ermatinger in the post's daybook and converting gifts/debit/credit, and straight barter transactions into sterling values, the paper identifies the smaller scale but higher sterling valued fur trade supported by gifts. Over its business year, Ermatinger gave in gifts trade goods worth 63% of the sterling value of trade goods it used to mostly purchase furs in straight barter. A different transaction guided the post's purchases of bison products in a commercial borderlands in the region. Ermatinger struck agreements with three Assiniboine leaders, Iron Child, the Ground, and White Loon, and later the Cree leader Kan Wet, to pay two ball and powder per buffalo hunted by their bands in fall/winter pounds. Though Ermatinger paid a large gift to these leaders at the beginning of the season, apparently to seal their agreements, these leaders did not receive gifts like fur trading leaders did when they visited the post. Rather, they accumulated credits in their post accounts from which they continually debited goods until year-end. To encourage these agreements, the post sent Métis employees to Assiniboine camps to help in butchery and return bison products. However, the same Métis employees, who earned their annual salaries in Halifax dollar currency, added considerably to their own credit bison that they hunted and claimed for themselves in independent hunting or while they worked in Assiniboine camps. The Métis employees, then, hunted in respect to Halifax dollar currency alongside Assiniboine and Cree in own camps, themselves referencing their market hunting to the Made Beaver currency. The situational fur trade, supported by gifts, then, complemented Fort Ellice's borderlands commercial enterprise extending a market hunt within regional Assiniboine and Cree camps.

George Colpitts is an environmental historian at the University of Calgary with research interests in the history of the fur trade and the Great Plains bison hunt.

11:30 p.m. (Central Time) - “Whaling on Coats Island: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Legacies of a Whaling Tradition, 1920-1924” by Andrew Goodwin

During the brief history of the Hudson’s Bay Company post on Coats Island between 1920 and 1924, whaling became a significant summer activity, consuming a great deal of the post’s attention over these months, and being touted as a potential sideline venture that could financially complement the primary winter Arctic fox hunt. This late whale hunt drew deeply on an earlier legacy of European and American whaling in the region, as the waters of Roe’s Welcome Sound, off the coast of Southampton and Coats Islands, had been the site of a great whaling trade between 1860 and 1915. Furthermore, several Inuit working at the Coats Island Post were themselves former whalers. This late whale hunt reflected the mixed hunting economy of the late whaling period, where whaling was incorporated into a wider hunting and trapping routine, and while the small number of whales caught were unlikely to generate significant commercial profit for European newcomers, their meat and maktaaq was a significant boon to the Inuit hunters in the region. Ultimately this demonstrates the continued importance of bowhead whales in Hudson Bay waters, even after they had been hunted to near extinction in the early twentieth century.

Andrew Goodwin is a PhD student in history at the University of Calgary specialising in Northern environmental history, with his dissertation examining the significance of attempts to introduce reindeer herding to Indigenous communities in northern Canada and Alaska. He completed his MA at the University of Calgary, writing a thesis that investigated the ways in which animal products mediated the relationship between Inuit and Qallunaat newcomers in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut in the early twentieth century, and how Inuit were able to use their knowledge and skills to benefit from this trade. His undergraduate studies were completed at the Australian National University in Canberra.

12:00 noon (Central Time) - “Listening to the Fur Trade: Soundways and Music in the British North American Fur Trade, 1760–1840” by Daniel Laxer

Exchanging and sharing music, soundways, and musical materials was central to the operation of the fur trade at its peak in the decades around 1800. It was part of building trust and establishing relationships with First Nations. Dancing was more than a favourite pastime; it was how masters treated servants, retained employees, and strengthened connections with First Nations communities. Music was central to the fur trade. Many fur traders left detailed accounts of music and dance, and many examples of hybridized music and soundways developed out of the fur trade encounters and exchanges.

Daniel Laxer studied history and music for his undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta. He went on to study the history of the fur trade for his master's degree at York University and PhD at U of T. He has published in the academic journals of Ontario History, The Journal of Canadian Studies, and Material Culture Review. His newly published book Listening to the Fur Trade: Soundways and Music in the British North American Fur Trade is part of the Before Canada series with McGill-Queen's University Press. He currently serves as Research Coordinator for the Negotiations and Reconciliation Division of Ontario's Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.

1:00 p.m. (Central Time) - “Gender Roles in the Fur Trade and the Quest for Identity” by Chantelle Ranville

Journals from fur traders, monographs and personal correspondence allow for an overview of experiences and expectations within the fur trade pertaining to the role of men. There is minimal literature written and recorded about the identity of Indigenous women and their contributions to the fur trade. It is vital not to overlook the importance of Indigenous women, and how their perspectives deserve to be recognized further in this area of study. 

Chantelle Ranville is currently working at the Neeginan Learning and Literacy Centre in Winnipeg, as an Education Assistant. Her goal is to encourage students to find their voice through literature. In 2018, she graduated with honours from Red River College Polytechnic in the Aboriginal Self-Government Administration Program. She is now completing her bachelor’s degree in Indigenous Studies at the University of Winnipeg, and plans to pursue graduate studies in the near future.

1:30 p.m. (Central Time) – “Fort Chipewyan HBC Buildings, 1890 – 1964” by Brault Kelpin

Brault Kelpin will present photographs of the HBC buildings in Fort Chipewyan from 1890 to 1964. As a child, he played in and around the last two log structures before they were dismantled in the early 1960’s. Reviewing his father’s photographs from that time, he became curious about the history of these buildings, so embarked on a months-long search through the internet scanning provincial, federal and private archives for photos of the fort. Kelpin intends to discuss the history of the rebuilding of the fort in the early 1870’s, and then use key photographs to illustrate the changes to the site over the 70 years that photographs are available. The presentation will conclude with photos and discussion of the three HBC store buildings that served the community after the log fort was abandoned in 1939. The last of these is at the heart of the current Northern Store in Fort Chipewyan. Kelpin believes this unique collection of photos and references to their sources are of value to Rupert’s Land historians researching HBC structures.

Brault Kelpin’s childhood as the son of an HBC fur trader gave him a unique experience of Canada’s northland. His late father, Paul Kelpin, was a photographer whose 35mm slides have provided the basis for memories of their times in remote communities in the western arctic. Since retiring from his professional career in information systems, Kelpin has digitized and published some of these in a blog The North (http://braultkelpin.blogspot.com), and has a strong interest in physical evidence of the past as reflected on buildings and the landscape.

3:00 p.m. (Central Time) – “Alexander Henry's 1776 Map of the Northwest: Introduction and Background of the Map” by Harry Duckworth

This paper will discuss a large manuscript map of the Canadian Northwest, now in the Library of Congress (LOC), and dedicated by the fur trader Alexander Henry to Sir Guy Carleton, Governor of Canada. The map almost certainly dates between 1776 and 1778, and appears to be the earliest attempt at a map of the Northwest after the Conquest of Canada. Henry may have begun the mapping project during the one trading season he spent in the Northwest, 1775-6, when he wintered on what is now Amisk Lake on the canoe route between Cumberland House and the Churchill River. Related to this map are two sketch maps now in the William T. Clements Library. This paper will discuss what parts of the LOC map seem to derive from the Clements maps, and what parts must come from other sources, presumably Indigenous informants and other fur traders. Some examples will be given, to show how details on the Clements and LOC maps contribute to understanding the early development of the post-Conquest fur trade of the Northwest.

Harry Duckworth has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and taught chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Manitoba from 1972 to 2010. He served as head of the Department of Chemistry from 1994 to 2004, and published about 70 refereed papers on biochemical research. He also has an interest in Canadian fur trade history, and has edited three books of journals kept by fur traders of the North West Company: The English River Book (1990); The Yellowknife Journal (1999); Friends, Foes, and Furs: George Nelson’s Lake Winnipeg Journals (2019), in addition to various articles and presentations on Canadian fur trade history.

3:30 p.m. (Central Time) – “Alexander Henry's 1776 Map of the Northwest: Technical Features of the Map” by David Malaher

An analysis of Alexander Henry's map as held at the Library of Congress and his draft map at the Clements Library, University of Michigan. The maps depict the area northwest of Lake Superior to Lake Athabasca as portrayed around 1775.

David Malaher is an independent researcher in the history of the US/Canada boundary, particularly the influence of the fur trade. Malaher's documentary research includes visits to libraries, universities and museums in Canada, France, the US, the UK and Russia.   Along with exploring selected boundary sites related to the fur trade, Malaher brings practical surveying experience to the subject as a (retired) professional engineer.  He has served as Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of Manitoba and is a member of the Manitoba Historical Society, the Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies, and the Jedediah Smith Society (US).

4:00 p.m. (Central Time) – “Alexander Henry's 1776 Map of the Northwest: Discussion"

Harry Duckworth and David Malaher invite attendees to an open discussion about the construction of the map and its impact.

4:30 p.m. (Central Time) – “More than 350 Years in the Making: Moose Factory in Omushkego Aski, from Time Immemorial to 1673 to 2023” by Cecil Chabot, Virginia Barter, and Bernice Kapashesit

Moose Factory was established as a fur trade post by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1673. Next year will mark its 350th anniversary, but the history of the people goes back More Than 350 Years - from time immemorial. The Moose River Heritage and Hospitality Association (MRHHA) has launched the “More than 350 in 2023” initiative with the goal of leveraging this anniversary to examine the longer history of the region and to advance MRHHA's mission of “building a future with our shared past.” Our vision of reconciliation and holistic community development draws inspiration from the traditional ethic of reciprocity and the property and hospitality, rooted in lessons from the land. It is expressed in the Cree concept of Shawenchikewin – “receiving with gratitude and a desire to give back.” We will share some of the unique aspects of this history and the long-standing relationship between European fur traders and the Indigenous Cree people of Hudson and James Bay. We will also present our plans for the year-long commemorative events and activities, following the Cree lunar calendar. One main highlight will be an International Knowledge Keeper's conference scheduled for September of 2023.                                                                                                       

Born and raised in the subarctic Cree community of Moose Factory, Cecil Chabot’s scholarly volunteer and professional work explores interconnections between Indigenous, Western and other cultures, and their environments, and seeks to bring their traditions into deep dialogue on fundamental human questions. He seeks to connect these fundamental questions with pragmatic social and idea entrepreneurship. Grounded in the primary discipline of history, this focus is informed and enriched by interdisciplinary scholarship and diverse professional, non-profit, community development experience.

Virginia Barter is a Toronto based historical writer/storyteller/musician and filmmaker. As an inter-disciplinary artist, Virginia is known for her style of teaching Indigenous history through the arts. A passionate advocate of Cree / Métis culture, she is currently working on an MA in history at York University. Her family ties to James Bay Cree are at the root of her more than decade-long engagement with the Moose River Heritage and Hospitality Association, where she now serves as Co-Chair of the More than 350 in 2023 Planning Committee.

Bernice Kapashesit is an educator, and has been in the field for the past 20+ years in various capacities, locally and regionally. She is a descendant of one of the Treaty 9 signatories, Andrew Wesley. She was born and raised in Moose Factory, Ontario, and has raised her family there for the most part.  Currently she works with University students in a community-based program through Queen's University and Omushkego Education. She loves to learn about history, and specifically the history of omushkego aski and their people.