I teach primarily Indigenous history at UBC, although I also work in environmental, place-based, urban, and imperial histories. I teach courses ranging from Global Indigenous History to Histories of Place, from the year-long North American Indigenous Survey to First Contacts in the Pacific.
My first book was Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place (2007), which linked urban and Indigenous histories through the experiences of the local Duwamish people, Indigenous migrants to the city, and the uses of “Indian” imagery in urban landscapes and historical narratives. It argued that instead of being mutually exclusive, urban and Indigenous histories are in fact mutually constitutive. Native Seattle won the 2007 Washington State Book Award, and an article based on one of the chapters, “City of the Changers,” was named best article of 2006 by the Urban History Association.
I am currently writing Indigenous London: Native Travellers at the Heart of Empire, which reframes the metropolis and its history through the experiences of Indigenous people who travelled there, willingly or otherwise, from territories that became the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, beginning in 1502. To support this work, during 2013-2014 sabbatical year, I was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Historical Research at the University of London and an Eccles Fellow in North American Studies at the British Library. Indigenous London is under contract with Yale University Press and will be available in late 2016.
In between Native Seattle and Indigenous London, I have published on topics ranging from food and encounter to earthquakes and colonial science. I also co-edited the volume Phantom Pasts, Indigenous Presence: Native Ghosts in North American Culture & History (2011).
I am particularly interested in working with graduate students who are curious about the intersections between Indigenous history and other fields such as urban, environmental, imperial, science, or Atlantic histories; the early modern and colonial periods; ideas about place and belonging; and the Northwest Coast of North America. I welcome inquiries.
Funded by a Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council Standard Research Grant; a Hampton Grant and Arts Undergraduate Research Award from UBC; a short-term fellowship from the Huntington Library; and a visiting fellowship at the Institute for Historical Research, School of Advanced Studies, University of London.
Winner of the 2007 Washington State Book Award in History/Biography.
In North America, the significance of Indigenous history is hard to miss. Unresolved Aboriginal title throughout much of British Columbia keeps topics like treaties and pipelines in the news, while the abuses of the residential schools have focused Canada’s attention on its colonial legacy. South of the 49th parallel, Native American issues are an important part of the US scene, from casinos and fishing rights to national rituals like Thanksgiving and Columbus Day (or International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People, on some calendars). And similar issues exist around the world. In this course, we will explore the broad sweep of encounters between Indigenous and colonial societies over the past five centuries, with an emphasis on connecting contemporary issues to their historical origins and global contexts. Topics will include traditional practices, land claims, educational assimilation, cultural appropriation, urban displacement, environmental justice, religious and linguistic revival, human rights and citizenship, and political activism. A significant portion of the course will focus on the Northwest Coast of North America and on the US and Canada more generally. But because Indigenous peoples around the world face similar colonial policies and practices, and take part in similar struggles for cultural recognition and political rights, we will draw on examples from places as far-flung as Australia, Japan, India, Mexico, South Africa, China, Norway, and Brazil. We will learn about the struggles of Indigenous peoples around the world and about what it means to be Indigenous (and settler) people in the 21st century, whether in Vancouver or further afield.
This course is a broad overview of the histories of Indigenous peoples in what became Canada and the United States, from before first contacts with non-Aboriginal peoples to the near future. We will pay special attention of the diversity of communities and individuals that have come to be categorized as “Indian”; to the diversity of non-Native communities and individuals; to the historical agency of colonized peoples; and to the ways in which our present circumstances have been shaped by the past. As context for the historical circumstances in which we currently find ourselves in British Columbia, we will also regularly visit the notion of “treaties” – political, legal, economic, and even religious agreements between peoples and nations – as they changed over time. Themes and topics will include ecological encounters between continents and peoples, economic and religious exchanges, policy and law, the social construction of race and other identities, the place of Indigenous peoples in the culture and politics of colonialism, and Aboriginal strategies of resistance, accommodation, and survival. This course will also be an introduction to the methods of “ethnohistory,” which uses diverse sources in addition to written documents to craft historical narratives. By the end of the course, students will have an understanding of “Native issues” such as residential schools, treaties and land claims, and environmental justice, and how these issues affect all of us who call this continent home.
What role does the idea of place play in historical understanding, and how can we as researchers and writers use concepts of place to enrich our historical practice? In this course, we will explore these questions by looking at how scholars in several disciplines have defined and employed place as an analytical and narrative tool, and we will explore a number of related topics: the relationship between place and identity; sites of memory and forgetting; landscapes as “texts” and “archives”; postcolonial approaches to place and placelessness; the nature of space versus place; and sacred and sentient places. We will also explore embodied approaches to place by spending time on the land (in other words: field trips, either alone or as a group). While some of the course materials will draw on my expertise in Indigenous and environmental histories of the Northwest Coast, readings and discussion topics will also be drawn from many other places and times, and students will be asked to use the theoretical and methodological tools developed in class to approach their own areas and periods of interest.