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Earth, Water, Air and Fire

Studies in Canadian Ethnohistory

David T. McNab, editor

Paper 348 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-297-9

Release Date: July 1998

Online discount: 25%

$42.99  $32.24


eBook availability

The contributors use a holistic approach comprising the four elements — earth, water, air, and fire — to address the diverse themes and variations in First Nations communities across Canada.

David T. McNab is a Métis historian who has worked for three decades on Aboriginal land and treaty rights issues in Canada. McNab teaches in the School of Arts and Letters in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies at York University in Toronto where he is Associate Professor of Indigenous Studies. He has also been a claims advisor for Nin.Da.Waab.Jig., Walpole Island Heritage Center, Bkejwanong First Nations since 1992. In addition to more than seventy articles, McNab has published Earth, Water, Air and Fire: Studies in Canadian Ethnohistory (editor) (1998) and Circles of Time: Aboriginal Land Rights and Resistance in Ontario (1999) as well as the co-edited (with Ute Lischke) Blockades and Resistance: Studies in Actions of Peace and the Temagami Blockades of 1988-89 (2003), Walking a Tightrope: Aboriginal People and their Representations (2005), and The Long Journey of a Forgotten People: Métis Identities and Family Histories, (2007) all with WLU Press.


“The fact that this book exists at all is a very encouraging thing for anyone who believes that to understand a people better, one must not only look at the parts, but the whole.”

— Cheryl Isaac, Aboriginal Voices

“The fifteen wide-ranging papers in Earth, Water, Air and Fire: Studies in Canadian Ethnohistory clearly reveal the current diversity and complexity of Aboriginal history.

Some contributors challenge conventional views or question established assumptions. Sidney Harring, for example, offers a provocative view of early Indian policy in Ontario, specifically the lax treatment of squatters on Aboriginal lands. E. Reginald Good challenges the interpretation of early European settlers as ’hard-working noble pioneers’ when they simply moved onto lands previously cleared by the Indians. Joan Fairweather compares the apartheid system in South Africa and the Canadian reserve system; Bruce Hodgins discusses the relationship between the Ontario provincial government and the Aboriginal of Northern Ontario; and Olive Dickason examines the relationship between art and Amerindian world views.

Together, these essays indicate the new depth of research now being conducted in the rapidly growing field of Aboriginal history in Canada.”

— Donald D. Smith, Department of History, University of Calgary

“From Earth, Water, Air and Fire we are left with the impression that the history of aboriginal peoples in Canada is a tattered pile of fragments that need to be reintegrated into a new, broader quilt. This is not such a bad impression, as it challenges the fundamentals of the way we continue to think about history and provides us with the baseline, detailed data that can contribute to a more adequate understanding of the place of aboriginal peoples in the Canadian story.”

— Christopher G. Trott, University of Toronto Quarterly