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Earth, Water, Air and Fire

Studies in Canadian Ethnohistory

Edited by David T. McNab
Subjects History, Indigenous Studies
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Paperback : 9780889202979, 348 pages, July 1998

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Earth, Water, Air and Fire: Studies in Canadian Ethnohistory, edited by David T. McNab for Nin. Da. Waab. Jig

Introduction | David T. McNab

Part I: Aboriginal Perspectives

Bkejwanong—“The Place Where the Waters Divide”: A Perspective on Earth, Water, Air and Fire | Dean M. Jacobs

Art and Amerindian Worldviews | Olive Patricia Dickason

Part II: Bkejwanong Territory

“Water Is Her Life Blood”: The Waters of Bkejwanong and the Treaty-Making Process | David T. McNab

“Under the Earth”: The Expropriation and Attempted Sale of the Oil and Gas Rights of the Walpole Island First Nation during World War | Rhonda Telford

The Reverend Simpson Brigham (1875–1926): The Worlds of Henry Ford and Simpson Brigham Collide | Jim Miller

Part III: Mi’kma’ki and the Mi’kmaq Nation

Mi’kmaq Fishing in the Maritimes: A Historical Overview | Janet E. Chute

“We Cannot Work Without Food”: Nova Scotia Indian Policy and Mi’kmaq Agriculture, 1783–1867 | Theresa Redmond

Glooscap Encounters Silas T. Rand: A Baptist Missionary on the Folkloric Fringe | Thomas S. Abler

Part IV: Ontario: History, Law and Sovereignty

Colonizing a People: Mennonite Settlement in Waterloo Township | E. Reginald Good

The Six Nations Confederacy, Aboriginal Sovereignty and Ontario Aboriginal Law: 1790–1860 | Sidney L. Harring

The Uses and Abuses of Power in Two Ontario Residential Schools: The Mohawk Institute and Mount Elgin | Elizabeth Graham

The Crown Domain and the Self-Governing Presence in Northern Ontario | Bruce W. Hodgins

Part V: The North, Gender and Aboriginal Governance

Some Comments upon the Marked Differences in the Representations of Chipewyan Women in Samuel Hearne’s Field Notes and His Published Journal | Heather Rollason

Is This Apartheid? Aboriginal Reserves and Self-Government in Canada, 1960–82 | Joan G. Fairweather

The Sechelt and Nunavut Agreements: Evolutionary and Revolutionary Approaches to Self-Government | Cameron Croxall and Laird Christie


A Meeting Ground of Earth, Water, Air and Fire | David T. McNab




Thomas S. Abler is a professor of anthropology at the University of Waterloo. He has written widely on the Haudenosaunee and on Aboriginal people in Canada generally.

Laird Christie teaches anthropology at Wilfrid Laurier University. He is continuing his research on self-government in the Canadian North.

Janet E. Chute is a research associate with the School of Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University. She is the author of a forthcoming study entitled The Legacy of Shingwakonse which is scheduled to be published in the spring of 1998.

Cameron Croxall is currently completing a Master of Arts degree at Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.

Olive Patricia Dickason, a member of the Order of Canada, is Professor Emeritus in history at the University of Alberta as well as adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa. Professor Dickason is well known for her Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times. In 1997 Professor Dickason received the Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award.

Joan G. Fairweather currently resides in South Africa and works at the Centre for History and Culture at the University of the Western Cape. An archivist at the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, she is currently on leave for two years and is continuing her research on the history of apartheid.

E. Reginald Good is a historian who currently is working as a historical research consultant for the Saugeen Ojibways in Ontario.

Elizabeth Graham, an anthropologist, resides in Waterloo, Ontario. She is completing a study on residential schools in southern Ontario.

Sidney L. Harring teaches law at the City University of New York Law School and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He has published widely on Aboriginal legal history in North America and is the author of Crow Dog’s Case (1994).

Bruce W. Hodgins is a professor of history at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. Author of numerous books and articles on Canadian history, he is an authority on the history of Northern Ontario and the Lake Temagami area in particular.

Dean M. Jacobs is the executive director for Nin. Da. Waab. Jig. , the Walpole Island Heritage Centre, Bkejwanong Territory. He has published a number of articles on the history of Bkejwanong and co-ordinated the publication of the award-winning Walpole Island: The Soul of Indian Territory (1987) for Nin. Da. Waab. Jig. In the spring of 1998 he received an honorary doctorate from Bowling Green State University.

David T. McNab is a claims advisor for Nin. Da. Wab. Jig. and an Honorary External Associate in the Frost Centre for Canadian Heritage and Development Studies at Trent University. Author of numerous articles on Aboriginal land and treaty rights as well as on Metis history, his Circles of Time: Aboriginal Land Rights and Resistance in Ontario is forthcoming from Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Jim Miller resides in Port Lambton. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario and former priest-in-charge of St. John the Baptist Anglican Church on Walpole Island. Professor Miller has recently completed, with Professor Ed Danziger, Jr. , a study of residential schools in partnership with the citizens of Bkejwanong.

Theresa Redmond is currently Litigation Project Manager for the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs in Hull, Quebec.

Heather Rollason currently resides in Toronto and is completing work on Samuel Hearne’s Journal and the Chipewyan people for her PhD in history at the University of Alberta.

Rhonda Telford is a Toronto-based historical research consultant on Aboriginal rights for First Nations in Ontario. A PhD graduate from the University of Toronto in 1996, she has written on Aboriginal and treaty mineral rights as well as on the nineteenth-century Indian Department.


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.


"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

"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