Fort Chipewyan and the Shaping of Canadian History, 1788-1920s: 'We like to Be Free in This Country'

Article excerpt

Patricia A. McCormack, Fort Chipewyan and the Shaping of Canadian History, 1788-1920s: 'We Like to be Free in this Country' (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010), 408 pp. Cased. $90. ISBN 978-0-7748-1668-7. Paper. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-7748-1669-4.

This is the story of Fort Chipewyan in Northern Alberta, and how the town and its economy shaped Canadian history by becoming integrated into a highly successful emerging European- managed fur trade; and although the fur trade has functioned for over half a century, Fort Chipewyan is still famous for, influenced by and known as a fur-trade community. Fort Chipewyan is a complex plural society, resembling other Northern Alberta towns and communities, not isolated but based on the interactions of diverse groups whose economy has increasingly been integrated into a capitalist market. It is important to appreciate this when understanding the community history, its place within Canadian history and the effects of settlers, colonialism and the dictates of federal decisions on the town's history.

Through the discerning use of interviews and archival documents, Patricia McCormack describes the community life, and the history of this town and its environs. She argues that Aboriginal people can and do become modern without relinquishing their beliefs and traditional practices; that Aboriginal narratives strengthen their resolve in dealing with the impositions of increasingly restrictive legislative rulings and treaties. McCormack cleverly balances the Aboriginal position with the expected colonial understanding of Canadian nation-building, using Aboriginal narratives and oral histories to further explain history from a 'Cree' or 'Chipewyan' position, and in the process developing the readers' growing awareness of considering Canadian history, or the history of a 'place', from an Aboriginal perspective. …


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