I have just returned from a fabulous conference at Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. Organized jointly by the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Manitoba (with representatives from U Winnipeg and Brandon, as well), it was a highly successful venture.
Kudos in particular to the two main speakers, Dr. Whitney Lackenbauer and Dr. Simonne Horwitz. Whitney spoke on his northern research, particularly the northern Rangers. The Rangers are Inuit and other First Nations people (I noted mostly men, Whitney…) who are loosely allied with the military to provide a mobile, visible, and highly effective local presence attuned to the needs of local people and landscape. Whitney’s reminders and tales of how NOT to do oral history were points particularly well-taken. Many thanks for a fascinating talk.
Not to be outdone, Dr. Simonne Horwitz of the University of Saskatchewan presented a lively talk on “How to change the world…with a history degree.” Simonne urged the audience to think about the greater power of historical research beyond academic publishing. In particular, Simonne suggested that there is a fit with policy analysis and creation, and with activism. Of course, her work on Africa and the myriad of social and political problems within that continent promote this obvious connection.
Perhaps my own work on local, community, and provincial history leaves less room for political activism, but Simonne was reassuring. She has witnessed what happens to people who are forcibly ripped from their homes and homeland. The shock and agonizing separation, and loss of personal and community history and identity, sears human life. The anchor provided by local history, the deep roots, are indeed strong.
Thanks to both for thought-provoking and entertaining sessions.