Studying Indigenous history


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This article was published 22/01/2020 (1046 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Students and researchers have a new tool they can use when studying Indigenous history.

The Manitoba Indigenous Tuberculosis Photo Project (MITPP) has partnered with the Archives of Manitoba to host “Indigenous Afternoons in the Archives.” Residents can stop by the archives every second Wednesday and get help from local historians on how to access and interpret lost pieces of Indigenous history.

The MITPP is a University of Winnipeg project which takes archival photos of Indigenous patients and staff, from the ’40s to the ’70s, out to Indigenous communities to help them connect with their history.
Mary Jane McCallum, Canadian research chair for Indigenous Peoples History and Archives, said there’s a lot of useful information to be found here.

Photo by Justin Luschinski David Parent, faculty member in the department of native tudies and history at the University of Manitoba, holding up a tax book from 1950.

“Often, people assume there’s not much useful information in the archives about Indigenous history. There’s assumptions that Indigenous people didn’t read or write … Or if records to exist, they were written solely from a non-Indigenous perspective and therefore are colonial,” McCallum said. “My experience is that Indigenous people have a long history of leaving records, you just have to look in places you don’t expect.”

McCallum gave an example of how the archives can be useful. A student had stopped by to research how the Métis people lost their land. Since that information wasn’t really kept by the government, McCallum said they looked for other sources to provide some clues. They looked at tax documents, deducing what properties started paying taxes, which is how they established a timeline of events.
She added that they’ve had a pretty good response so far, and hopes more people will stop by to use their services.

Erin Millions, a post-doctorate history fellow at the University of Winnipeg, said they can help provide context for students looking into old archives.

“Just because you pulled a document out of the archives, it doesn’t mean you’re going to know how to interpret it and understand the context. We’re here to help people along in that process,” Millions said. “We know how to look through these records and say ‘OK, here’s what documents might be produced, here’s what we might look for.’ Sometimes it’s a lot of guesswork, but we can help you figure out where to look. And what else you can look at besides documents.”

Indigenous Afternoons in the Archives runs from January till April, 2020, biweekly, from 12 till 4 p.m. The next date is Jan. 29. For more information, email

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