Monday, December 19, 2022

Book notes: Darrell Prefontaine on Olive Dickason

How many Canadian historians have biographies?  Donald Wright's impressive Donald Creighton stands out. After that the list thins down to a handful of memoirs, and...?  

Now there is at least one other, Darrell Préfontaine's Changing Canadian History: The Life and Works of Olive Patricia Dickason 

Dickason is the author, perhaps most notably, of Canada's First Nations, a much reprinted survey history, but she's just as notable for her work to make indigenous history... well, we have to say "credible,"... in Canadian academia.  To start graduate studies at the University of Ottawa at the age of 50 in 1970, she first had to convince the department that indigenous history was history. Her Wikipedia profile quotes her as saying, "I was lucky ... [a] Belgian fellow, who didn't know much about Native people, but knew a lot about discrimination, took up my cause, and the university eventually admitted me." The Belgian fellow was Professor Cornelius Jaenen, who himself soon joined the early wave of studies of indigenous history.

And of course, she had her own indigenous roots in the Manitoba Métis community. Her story of impoverished childhood, marital struggles, successful journalism career, crusader against mandatory retirement, and commitment to Métis causes provides much material for a biography than the average historian's life. And despite her late start, she continued to contribute to indigenous historical scholarship right to the end of her long life. Appropriately, her biography is published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute of the Saskatchewan Métis Nation.

Follow @CmedMoore