OHS Audio Presentations
In Hindsight: Half a Century of Research Discoveries in Canadian History
Presented by Dr. Donald B. Smith
Produced by The Ontario Historical Society
Presented by Dave Mowat, Former Chief of Alderville First Nation
“In Hindsight” is a Weekly Series (Following the Model of Old-Fashioned Radio) on Different Personalities in 19th and 20th Century Canadian History.
The tone will be relaxed, with an abundance of anecdotes.
Canadians of the past were prisoners of their cultural values just as their latter-day judges are of today’s beliefs. In each episode I try to understand, and to help the listener understand, the individual in the context of their own times.
Two introductory chapters review my transformation from a student of international affairs into an historian of Canada with a particular interest in the Indigenous Peoples. Eighteen episodes from across Canada follow, from the late 18th century to today. My subject? A selection of my personal research discoveries through reading, interviews, and visits to the localities under review, both before and after my arrival in Alberta from Ontario in 1974.
Written summaries of each episode will be provided, exclusively on the OHS website, including a short bibliography and/or the “back story” as to how the “discovery” was made.
Most of my research was conducted well before the availability of electronic tools, like the Internet. I want to re-create the excitement of visiting the locales of my 19th and 20th century subjects, and meeting descendants in person. I want to convey the thrill of reading in archives the unpublished record, the letters, notebooks, and diaries—actual handwriting.
To prepare I am reviewing five decades of personal and professional correspondence, and my publications in Canadian history from the 1970s to 2022. It is a fun project.
I have lived with these characters for many years—some now at the edge of memory. To cite Grey Owl in his Tales of an Empty Cabin (Toronto: Macmillan, 1936, page 162):
“I smell again the smoke of long-dead fires and see the images of faces and figures that have forever vanished, seem to catch once more the sound of voices I’ll never hear again.”
All the very best,
Donald B. Smith
Grey Owl (Archibald Belaney), 1937 (Photo: Paul Horsdal / Library and Archives Canada / PA-122479)
Arrival in Calgary, 1974. My teaching post in Canadian history at the University of Calgary allowed me to build on research and writing already begun in Ontario, and, to my joy, expand it across Canada. On George Self, founder of what is now the History Department of the University of Calgary, and one of the most original individuals I have ever encountered in academic life.
“Things are Seldom What they Seem:” The Self-Invention of Two Remarkable Individuals
Four Sketches of the Anishinaabeg on the North Shore of Lake Ontario Two Centuries Ago
The 19th Century Canadian Political World
“History Close at Hand”—Four Alberta Stories—Non-Indigenous and Indigenous
Shahwahnegezhik’s sons and their dedicated Ontario teacher, Elizabeth Barrett, who made a difference.
The 20th Century Canadian Political World
The Temagami Land Claim Conference, Bear Island, Lake Temagami, July 1982. As one participant (Mary Black Rogers) later recalled, it was “like an Agatha Christie—all the guests arriving from distant points, meeting in an isolated spot.”
An extraordinary scholar’s contribution to our knowledge of Canadian history. Introducing how historical writing has been altered in the digital age.
Dr. Donald B. Smith
Dr. Donald B. Smith (Photo: T. Dawson)
A long-time OHS member, Dr. Donald B. Smith is a Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Calgary who has focused his career on the history of Indigenous Canada, Quebec, and the history of Calgary and Southern Alberta.
Dr. Smith was born in Toronto and raised in Oakville, Ontario. He obtained his Honours B.A. in Modern History from the University of Toronto in 1968; his M.A. from Université Laval in Quebec City in 1969; and his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1975. He taught Canadian History at the University of Calgary from 1974 to 2009, where he is a member of the Order of the University of Calgary.
In 1971, as a Ph.D. student, Don Smith made a presentation at the OHS Annual General Meeting in Peterborough on the writer and lecturer Grey Owl. Later that year, “Grey Owl” was published in the OHS’s Ontario History journal, Smith’s first article to appear in a Canadian historical journal.
Dr. Smith’s publications include Long Lance: The True Story of an Impostor (1982), Sacred Feathers: The Reverend Peter Jones (Kahkewaquonaby) and the Mississauga Indians (1987), From the Land of Shadows: The Making of Grey Owl (1990), Mississauga Portraits: Ojibwe Voices from Nineteenth Century Canada (2013), Calgary’s Grand Story: The Making of a Prairie Metropolis from the Viewpoint of Two Heritage Buildings (2005), and Seen But Not Seen: Influential Canadians and the First Nations from the 1840s to Today (2020).
In 2014, Mississauga Portraits won the OHS’s Floyd S. Chalmers Award for the best book on Ontario history published in the preceding calendar year.
In 2022, Dr. Smith was the recipient of an Eagle Award as a Friend of Mississauga of the Credit First Nation (MCFN). The award is given to honour a person who is not a member of MCFN but whose career in any field has had a major impact or influence on advancing knowledge of MCFN’s history, language, culture, beliefs and traditions.
In January 2023, Dr. Smith’s Seen But Not Seen was honoured with the 2022 John Wesley Dafoe Book Prize.
Many have helped me over half a century to see Indigenous Canada in new ways, in particular those who have now passed on: Fred Wheatley (Anishinaabe, Parry Island), Jim Turner (Anishinaabe, Temagami), Pat Turner (Tuscarora, Six Nations), Agnes Belaney (Anishinaabe, Temagami), the Espaniel Family—Jane, Jim and Susan (Anishinaabe, Biscotasing), Lloyd King (Anishinaabe, Mississaugas of the Credit), Enos Montour (Delaware, Six Nations), Basil Johnston (Anishinaabe, Cape Croker), Gary Potts (Anishinaabe, Temagami), Mike Eagle Speaker (Kainai), Chief John Snow (Stoney Nakoda), John Tootoosis (Plains Cree), Stan Cuthand (Plains Cree), Jean Cuthand (Plains Cree), Jim Skye (Onondaga, Six Nations), Cecil King (Anishinaabe, Odawa, Manitoulin Island), Doug Williams (Anishinaabe, Mississaugas of Curve Lake).
In the non-Indigenous world, I am grateful for the assistance of: Ed and Mary Rogers, Lovat Dickson, Hugh Dempsey, John Leslie, William Fenton, Ernie Nix, John Webster Grant, Olive Dickason, A.F.C. Wallace, Franz Koennecke (now deceased).
I also thank many others for information on the background to varied “discoveries”: Ian Getty, Jim Morrison, Bennett McCardell, Jim Miller, Bill Waiser, Alice Kehoe, Phil Chester, David Hall, Tony Hall, Malcolm Davidson, Jennifer Brown, Toby Morantz, Cathy Littlejohn King, Dennis Fisher, Ed Dahl, Hope MacLean, Trish Ray, Kerry Abel, Jan Noel, Hamar Foster, Wendy Wickwire, Norman Zlotkin, Lloyd Walton, Anne Lindsay, Darren Préfontaine, Jim Frideres, Ian Smith, David Jefferies, Fraser Pakes, Dana Dawson, Janet Forjan, Rob Leverty, Wendy Robbins, Jennifer Cook Bobrovitz, Doug Rae; and to Indigenous friends Dean Jacobs (Anishinabe, Walpole Island), Armand Ruffo (Anishinaabe, Biscotasing), Wallace Many Fingers Jr. (Kainai), Barb Barnes (Mohawk, Six Nations), Maurice Switzer (Anishinaabe, Mississaugas of Alderville), Doug Cuthand (Plains Cree), Mae Whetung Derrick (Anishinaabe, Mississaugas of Curve Lake), Niigaan Sinclair (Anishinaabe), Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo (Mohawk of Kahnawake).
To any of those who did generously assist, and who are omitted in the above lists, I offer my deepest apologies.
A special thanks to Sarah McCabe, my “co-pilot,” for all her incredible work to make “In Hindsight” reach its full potential.