Canadian Historical Association Prizes come to UVic

Message from Dr. John Lutz, Chair - Department of History

It is with pleasure that I am able to announce some prizes just announced by the Canadian Historical Association that have come to department members and an alumnus! 

Congratulations to Kristin Semmens who has won the top teaching prize the CHA offers: The Award for Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources.   The citation for the award is below. 

Congratulations to Wendy Wickwire whose book At the Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging won the award for the best book in British Columbia history and made the shortlist of five for the best book in Canadian history in 2019.  Wow. 

Also congratulations to our alumnus Crystal Fraser.  Crystal did her MA in our department and has recently started a faculty position at the University of Alberta.  Her Ph.D dissertation has won the CHA John Bullen Prize for the best dissertation in any field at a Canadian university. 

The citations for these three awards are:

Kristin Semmens

Prof. Semmens is an assistant teaching professor in the departments of history and Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria. Her nomination package impressed with the wide range of different types of primary sources she routinely uses in her teaching, from graffiti to musicals, 1930s travel brochures to rocket parts, oral testimonies to government documents, whether in large survey courses or smaller upper-level seminars. Interested in the area of Holocaust education, Prof. Semmens integrates concerns about public history into her courses by both leading excursions through Victoria or the Royal BC Museum and guiding her students to create their own exhibits, documentaries, walking tours and such based upon students’ own engagement with primary sources.  Her upper-level seminars on the history of the Holocaust showcase intense debate about the archive and the use of primary sources in creating historical argument.

Wickwire, Wendy. At the Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging. University of British Columbia Press, 2019.

Most historians of British Columbia know something of James Teit and perhaps a little of the debt owed him by scholars, Indigenous rights advocates, and whole communities. So much of Teit’s life and contribution, however, has remained obscured. Partly this is due to Teit himself, a man who never sought the spotlight and was hugely content with his humble place in the Nlaka’pamux world. This superbly researched and elegantly presented study eases Teit out of the shadows. It is a history and a biography and it is also a study of the academy and how it is possible to do great intellectual things beyond its boundaries. Wickwire touches on many themes, including anthropology, trans-national identities, the southern Interior, Indigenous relations with the Canadian state, the processes of colonialism, and locale running up against several kinds of imperial. At the Bridge is a landmark work that, like Teit himself, serves numerous communities and contributes to our understanding of British Columbia in many ways.  

Fraser, Crystal. T’aih k’ìighe’ tth’aih zhit dìidìch’ùh (By Strength, We Are Still Here): Indigenous Northerners Confronting Hierarchies of Power at Day and Residential Schools in Nanhkak Thak (the Inuvik Region, Northwest Territories), 1959 – 1982. PhD Dissertation, University of Alberta, 2019.

Gwichyà Gwich’in scholar Chrystal Fraser’s PhD dissertation draws on the Dinjii Zhuh philosophical concepts of t’aih, vit’aih, and guut’àii (individual and collective fortitude) to illuminate how Indigenous Northern families and communities negotiated, with intense and profuse strength, the carceral educational systems of the colonial Canadian state. All future historians of Canada will have to grapple with how this methodologically germinal microhistory utilizes oral, documentary, visual, material, and other sources alongside Indigenous and Western theory to tell the immersive story of the Grollier and Stringer Hall Residential Schools. 

Congratulations and thanks to these three prize winners!  The shine of your honours reflects on and lights up our department.