TBT: R. James Sacouman’s “Underdevelopment and the Structural Origins of Antigonish Movement Co-operatives in Eastern Nova Scotia”

The blog will be going on a brief hiatus, but we will be back in September with new content. But before our hiatus, here is a Throwback Thursday post. One of the difficulties in editing the blog – perhaps the only difficulty – is choosing which article should be highlighted as a Throwback Thursday post. The challenge comes from the multitude of excellent articles that Acadiensis has published over its 40+ year history. This week, to simplify things, I decided to post the last article I read from the journal – R. James Sacouman’s “Underdevelopment and the Structural Origins of Antigonish Movement Co-operatives in Eastern Nova Scotia“.

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Black Women and the Civil Rights Movement in Nova Scotia

By Claudine Bonner

The 1960s and 1970s was an era of transformation and awakening for many young people, and especially for the African-descended peoples across the Diaspora.[1] To date, most scholarship focuses on how the American Black Power movement served to inspire and support the struggles of African Canadians.  What has yet to be fully explored are the lives of the people within these struggles beyond those most visible within its leadership. Even less examined are the experiences of the women within these movements.

This post explores why African Nova Scotian women, not part of organizational leadership, chose to join community organizations or self-defined Black Power[2] groups beginning in the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. Using oral history data collected from African Nova Scotian communities as well as documentary evidence and eye-witness accounts, this post examines the impetus for participation by these Canadian women.[3] I argue that the contextual particularities of African Nova Scotian history and its geographic location came together to shape a unique social and political consciousness.

In the fall of 1968, a number of events within the province reinforced broader consciousness raising that was happening across the Diaspora.  For example, the local community was shaken when a cemetery commission in Hants County refused to bury a Black child in October.[4] That event articulated long-standing understandings of racial separation that were held in Nova Scotia. Concurrently, the Africville community was in the throes of relocation and would soon be “destroyed, to be replaced by life in an urban ghetto.”[5] Socially, young people spoke of open discrimination in the hiring process, and Blacks were prohibited access in many public places of business.[6] The educational opportunities of students from the Black community continued to be limited, and few students were able to go beyond Grade 7. As a result of these varied experiences, the out-migration of black populations from the province was high. The effects of the historical legacies of enslavement and racial discrimination had adverse implications for the African Nova Scotian population, which was starting to experience many social problems including alcoholism, crime, increasing numbers of single-parent households and delinquency; in addition to this, physical and mental health problems were on the rise in the community.[7] Continue reading

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Based on “On the Edge of Canada: Creating Labrador Identity Within and Against the Settler State”

By Vicki S. Hallett, Ph.D., Department of Gender Studies, Memorial University

As part of a larger project on Them Days that focuses on the story of, and stories in, the magazine as tools of decolonization and reconciliation, I engage with the personal essays, speeches and letters of Doris Saunders who lived from 1941-2006 in Cartwright, and then Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador.  Saunders was the founding editor of Them Days magazine.  First conceived in 1974 by the Labrador Heritage Society and the Old Timers League of Labrador as a book about local culture and history, it quickly developed into a quarterly publication (that is still being published today) due to the tremendous amount of materials collected by researcher, and former trapper, Isaac Rich.  While Saunders was hired as editor for that first issue, she stayed on and her role quickly expanded “to include conducting interviews, research, writing and production of the magazine” (Beaudoin 3-4).  For her tireless and underpaid work of recording, telling, and crafting the story of Labrador’s past for almost three decades, she received the Order of Canada in 1986, and an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Memorial University in 1994.

Them days

Dr. Doris J. Saunders wearing a traditional Labrador silipak, c. 1998. Courtesy Gillian Saunders. From Them Days, 30, 3 (2006). Image source: themdays.com

Saunders was a woman of mixed Indigenous and European heritage.  Throughout her rich archive of personal documents, Saunders named herself variously as an Inuit woman, an Aboriginal, a Settler[1] (which in Labrador, until recently, referred to a person of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry), but first and foremost as a Labradorian. Reading Saunders’s archival documents through an interdisciplinary lens is an analysis of the personal and political relationships of resistance and resilience that inscribe this place, and the people who make and are made by this place[2].

Through Doris Saunders’ archived personal documents, we get a sense of who she was, what kind of place she imagined Labrador to be, and, in turn, how she constructed a complex, relational identity as a Labradorian, and an Indigenous woman.   This multifaceted identity was defined in part through its opposition to both Newfoundland and Canadian cultural hegemony and colonization, but it also emerged out of what Kristina Fagan has termed the “Labrador literary tradition”, an Indigenous literary tradition that grew in relation to the unique historical, social and cultural milieu of the place and its people. Continue reading

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Claire Campbell reviews Chet Van Duzer and Lauren Beck’s Canada before Confederation: Maps at the Exhibition

Chet Van Duzer and Lauren Beck. Canada before Confederation: Maps at the Exhibition (Wilmington, Delaware: Vernon Press, 2017).

By Claire Campbell

In July 1615, an Ottawa chief drew a map of the mouth of the French River for Samuel de Champlain. The map was drawn in charcoal on a piece of tree bark. My students were fascinated by such “ephemeral” mapping by Indigenous peoples, in both its material qualities (which did not carry over well in European modes of preservation) and its geographical knowledge. Europeans like Champlain were, too, although, as Chet Van Duzer and Lauren Beck note, his attitude toward Indigenous knowledge fell somewhere between curious, pragmatic, and exploitative (127).


Chet Van Duzer and Lauren Beck. Canada before Confederation: Maps at the Exhibition (Wilmington, Delaware: Vernon Press, 2017)

Amid thought-provoking conversations about teaching Canadian history, and specifically about teaching within the quest for reconciliation between Indigenous and settler Canadians,  Canada before Confederation is a welcome resource. The book reproduces the eighteen maps dating between 1508 and 1772 that made up a 2017 exhibition of the same name, “chosen for their cartographic importance or uniqueness, ability to contribute to a narrative of the development of the cartography of Canada, and use of Indigenous knowledge” (10). To their credit, the authors/curators favoured lesser-known and unpublished manuscript maps, and many are exquisite to look at. (The title is a bit of a misnomer, though, since the territory charted here is less “Canada before Confederation” than “the eastern half of the American continent before 1800”; more unwieldy, but also less determinist). The book reads very much like a collection of exhibition texts – useful capsule histories of contextual and cartographic history which would make it ideal for the classroom. (They do an especially nice job with the French & Indian/Seven Years’ War in what may be my favourite entry, a 1758 Plan du Cap Breton … dit Louisbourg). Continue reading

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Edward MacDonald Reviews Mark R. Leeming’s In Defense of Home Places: Environmental Activism in Nova Scotia

Mark R. Leeming. In Defense of Home Places: Environmental Activism in Nova Scotia (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2017).

By Edward MacDonald

In Defense of Home Places is a little book that encourages us to think big. Part of UBC’s interdisciplinary Nature|History|Society series, it traverses that most treacherous of historical territories, the recent past, examining the environmental movement in Nova Scotia between the early 1960s and late 1980s. The appearance of “Home Places” in the title is telling; it speaks to the concept of environmental localism, that jealous love of place, the intimate, sensory, psycho-social relationship with specific settings that so often underlies environmental activism. It is integral to Mark R. Leeming’s rationale for focusing on one province’s experience of environmentalism. Nova Scotia’s experience can be written into a larger story, certainly (and in any case requires no justification for any regional historian), but it is also essential to any deeper understanding of the nature of environmentalism and how it works. As Leeming puts it, the rooted, “place-loving” local is the indispensable counterpart to the “placeless modernity” that characterizes current environmental discourse (and, by implication, the writing about it).


Mark R. Leeming. In Defense of Home Places: Environmental Activism in Nova Scotia (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2017).

Series editor Graeme Wynn seizes upon this trope in his lengthy and thoughtful foreword, “Environmental Action and the Question of Scale,” a sober meditation on the nature of, and prospects for, environmentalism. Wynn invokes René Dubos’s now distant injunction to think globally yet act locally as an environmentalist mantra, a strategy for saving the planet incrementally, one local act at a time, though with an eye to the inter-relatedness of all things. At the heart of environmentalism, Wynn reminds us, is resistance, and at the core of Leeming’s book is the escalating tension between the local and the universal dimensions of environmental activism. Those two horses may – must – be harnessed, but that does not mean that they always pull together.

In contrast to Wynn’s discursive musings – meant to mediate the narrative that follows – Leeming’s concise, clipped prose quickly plunges into the deep end of the pool. His introduction is actually shorter than Wynn’s foreword, leaving much of the interpretive heavy lifting to his perceptive conclusion, where he makes his case for the fundamental importance of the local when considering environmentalism. Continue reading

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Erin Morton reviews Maudie

By Erin Morton

The story of the Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, self-taught painter Maud Lewis is one that has seen screen media attention since 1965, when the CBC television show Telescope first featured an episode on her life and work. Entitled “The Once-Upon-a-Time-World of Maude [sic] Lewis,” the program presented a glimpse into the life of a rural, disabled, impoverished artist who lived in a one-room cottage with her husband Everett. In many ways, this view of the Lewises set the stage for how film audiences would later perceive her—first, in the1976 National Film Board (NFB) documentary Maud Lewis: A World Without Shadows and then in a second, more extensive NFB treatment in 1998, The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis. Both films picked up where Telescope left off, building their narrative arcs around Maud Lewis’s financial, personal, and bodily struggles that she somehow overcame through the joy of painting. All three screen media treatments of the Lewises rest on similar premises of poverty and isolation from the dominant society around them. However, what does transition, is the treatment of their married relationship: in Telescope, Everett is a loving companion who does domestic work so that Maud can paint, and also because she is disabled and cannot perform gendered household task; in the 1976 documentary, we see Everett six years after her death, reminiscing on his love for her; by 1998, post-humous portrayals of Everett and Maud’s marriage ranged from loving to abusive, as he both championed her art and somehow also prevented her from achieving more.


Poster for Maudie.

It is interesting to read Aisling Walsh’s 2016 feature film Maudie, the fictional version of Maud and Everett’s troubled love story, with these historical representations in mind. The film tells the standard tale of their relationship and her artmaking, tracing her secure middle-class childhood to one of precarity with Everett as she moves from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, to life with him in Marshalltown after answering an ad Everett placed for a housekeeper. Immediately, the Atlantic Canadian viewer will observe that several communities in Newfoundland stand in for these places in Nova Scotia, a giveaway when Maud enters the local store that is held up on stilts along a rocky coast. Local landscape aside, the dim-light scenes of the Lewises once Maud moves into Everett’s cottage are very much drawn from the original Telescope footage—the only known moving images of Maud during her life. This domestic space is one of both love and abuse, which follows the standard narrative of Maud overcoming hardship through her art. In one scene, after Everett hits her, and she opens up a can of green paint and finger paints the walls from the kitchen table. The next scene shows her painting with sardine cans as her palette, as she decorates the cottage walls with blue flowers.

Continue reading

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CFP: Edited Collection on Cape Breton

To All Interested Parties,

Lachlan MacKinnon and Andy Parnaby are sourcing articles for a proposed edited
collection of material relating to the history of Cape Breton Island.

There is now a significant cluster of scholars working on material relating to the Island,
and there has been no sustained attention to the historiography of the area since the
publication of Cape Breton at 200 and The Island in 1985 and 1990, respectively. We are
keen to take a renewed look at where Island scholarship has come in the last 30 years and explore where it now appears to be heading.

The CCLH series has expressed some interest in publishing this collection through
Athabasca University Press, although we remain in the early stages of developing a
prospectus for a more formalized application.

It is our hope that this collection will help to reveal some of the historiographical and
theoretical trends affecting our research, including how the analytical lens has broadened, while also offering an opportunity for each of us to reflect in a sustained way on how our research fits into a wider image of Cape Breton Island through attention to social, environmental, and working-class concerns.

If you are interested, we ask that you submit a short CV and abstract (300 words) to
either Andy Parnaby or Lachlan MacKinnon on or before September 15, 2018. We will
then be hoping to submit a manuscript to the press early in 2019 for review.

Lachlan MacKinnon (lachlan_mackinnon@cbu.ca)
Andy Parnaby (andy_parnaby@cbu.ca)

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Encounter in the Northeast: A Reconsideration of Early Language Barriers

By Tabitha Renaud

Much of what historians know about early contact between European explorers and indigenous peoples in northeastern America comes from close readings of the surviving explorer journals of the sixteenth century. European expedition narratives generally “translate” indigenous “speakers” with great confidence. Contemporary authors often recorded native speech as if no language barrier existed and perfect transmission of information was occurring. Explorers often wrote “he said” or “they say” without alluding to the level of gesticulation, interpretation, mediation and guesswork involved. A standard example is found in the writing of Ralph Lane during the Roanoke encounters with the Carolina Algonquin:

But this confederacie against us of the Choanists and Mangoaks was altogether and wholly procured by Pemsiapan himselfe, as Menatonon confessed unto me, who sent them continual word, that our purpose was fully bent to destroy them: on the other side he told me, that they had the like meaning towards us.[1]

If miming is acknowledged in such texts the act of deciphering is treated with a similar confidence. George Best wrote during an arctic expedition in 1577 that an Inuk “gave us plainely to understand by signes that…”[2] Similarly, Ralph Lane wrote at Virginia that “hee signified unto mee…” and John Davis wrote at Greenland: “…as by signes they gave us to understand…”[3] In various expeditions the element of interpretation is vaguely alluded to but not considered problematic: “It seemed to me by his speach that…” and “we judged…” and “…the best conjecture we could make thereof was that…”[4] At Gaspe in 1534, Jacques Cartier indicated the interpretation of the “long oration” of an indigenous leader with the words: “…as if he would say that …”[5]  Nevertheless, the accurate transmission of information was typically taken for granted by contemporaries and became the building blocks that comprise the “known facts” of these case studies today.

First Contact - Francis Back

Francis Back, First Contact.

Despite its centrality to understanding early contact, the initial phase of communication between European explorers and indigenous peoples has been understudied by historians. Scholarship has focused primarily on the acquisition of spoken language and the training of spoken language interpreters. The evidence surrounding the initial nonverbal forms of communication is often considered lost, too fragmentary or beyond the training of historians. Continue reading

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Dick Hill, Re-Enslaved, Shelburne, 1787, Nova Scotia

By Harvey Amani Whitfield

This historical document about Dick Hill highlights the type of troubled freedom that the Black Loyalists encountered in the Maritimes after the American Revolution. Although Hill had obtained his freedom during the war (along with thousands of other Black Loyalists), he was still at risk or re-enslavement. In 1787, he was unlawfully placed onboard a schooner to be sent to the West Indies as a slave. Incredibly, Hill had a General Birch Certificate, which allegedly guaranteed his freedom. Unfortunately, the historical record is full of other examples of black people, who like Dick Hill, were re-enslaved and sold to the West Indies.

This source about Hill is part of the forthcoming book Black Slavery in the Maritimes: A History in Documents (Broadview Press), which will be available May 30, 2018. Continue reading

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Don Nerbas reviews Scott MacDonald and Robert D. Gregory, From Humble Beginnings: A History of the Credit Union Movement on Prince Edward Island, 1936-2016.

Scott MacDonald with Robert D. Gregory. From Humble Beginnings: A History of the Credit Union Movement on Prince Edward Island, 1936-2016 (Charlottetown: Acorn Press, 2017).

By Don Nerbas

Scholars have long recognized the unique role of cooperative enterprise in the history of the Maritimes. D. Scott MacDonald’s new book adds additional material to this subject. From Humble Beginnings surveys the development of credit unions on Prince Edward Island from their origins in the Antigonish movement during the 1930s to the Island’s credit union system of today, which commands assets of $1 billion.


D. Scott MacDonald with Robert D. Gregory. From Humble Beginnings: A History of the Credit Union Movement on Prince Edward Island, 1936-2016 (Charlottetown: Acorn Press, 2017).

The majority of the book is a 173-page chapter that lists and describes every credit union that has existed on the Island, organized chronologically from date established and consisting of 75 individual entries. It is, in effect, a reference book and institutional history. The narratives centre on the local presence of credit unions: the physical structures that housed them, their financial histories, as well as anecdotal accounts of events and initiatives associated with them. This is a work clearly geared towards a local audience, and does not appear to have been written to be read from cover-to-cover in one sitting.

Its utility as a reference work is mixed. The lack of an index, one suspects, will impair the book’s use for readers. And researchers will be disappointed that specific sources are not attributed to the many interesting stories and details that the book offers. On the other hand, the map indicating the location of credit unions and the reproduction of primary source materials in the appendices are useful features.  Continue reading

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