An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land
360 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:27 Aug 2017

An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land

Unfinished Conversations

Athabasca University Press

In 1670, the ancient homeland of the Cree and Ojibwe people of Hudson Bay became known to the English entrepreneurs of the Hudson’s Bay Company as Rupert’s Land, after the founder and absentee landlord, Prince Rupert. For four decades, Jennifer S. H. Brown has examined the complex relationships that developed among the newcomers and the Algonquian communities—who hosted and tolerated the fur traders—and later, the missionaries, anthropologists, and others who found their way into Indigenous lives and territories. The eighteen essays gathered in this book explore Brown’s investigations into the surprising range of interactions among Indigenous people and newcomers as they met or observed one another from a distance, and as they competed, compromised, and rejected or adapted to change.

While diverse in their subject matter, the essays have thematic unity in their focus on the old HBC territory and its peoples from the 1600s to the present. More than an anthology, the chapters of An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land provide examples of Brown’s exceptional skill in the close study of texts, including oral documents, images, artifacts, and other cultural expressions. The volume as a whole represents the scholarly evolution of one of the leading ethnohistorians in Canada and the United States.

Jennifer S. H. Brown taught history at the University of Winnipeg for twenty-eight years and held a Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal history from 2004 to 2011. She served as director of the Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies, which focuses on Aboriginal peoples and the fur trade of the Hudson Bay watershed, from 1996 to 2010. She is the editor of the Rupert’s Land Record Society documentary series (McGill-Queen’s University Press), which publishes original materials on Aboriginal and fur trade history. She now resides in Denver, Colorado, where she continues her scholarly work.


Part I: Finding Words and Remembering

1 Rupert’s Land, Nituskeenan, Our Land: Cree and European Naming and Claiming Around the Dirty Sea

2 Linguistic Solitudes and Changing Social Categories

3 The Blind Men and the Elephant: Touching the Fur Trade

Part II: “We Married the Fur Trade”: Close Encounters and Their Consequences

4 A Demographic Transition in the Fur Trade: Family Sizes of Company Officers and Country Wives, ca. 1750-1850

5 Challenging the Custom of the Country: James Hargrave, His Colleagues, and “the Sex”

6 Partial Truths: A Closer Look at Fur Trade Marriage

Part III: Families and Kinship, the Old and the Young

7 Older Persons in Cree and Ojibwe Stories: Gender, Power, and Survival

8 Kinship Shock for Fur Traders and Missionaries: The Cross-Cousin Challenge

9 Fur Trade Children in Montréal: The St. Gabriel Street Church Baptisms, 1796–1825

Part IV: Recollecting: Women’s Stories of the Fur Trade and Beyond

10 “Mrs. Thompson Was a Model Housewife”: Finding Charlotte Small

11 “All These Stories About Women”: “Many Tender Ties” and a New Fur Trade History

12 Aaniskotaapaan: Generations and Successions

Part V: Cree and Ojibwe Prophets and Preachers: Braided Streams

13 The Wasitay Religion: Prophecy, Oral Literacy, and Belief on Hudson Bay

14 “I Wish to Be as I See You”: An Ojibwe-Methodist Encounter in Fur Trade Country, 1854–55

15 James Settee and His Cree Tradition: “An Indian Camp at the Mouth of Nelson River Hudsons Bay 1823”

16 “As for Me and My House”: Zhaawanaash and Methodism at Berens River, 1874–83

17 Fair Wind: Medicine and Consolation on the Berens River

18 Fields of Dreams: A. Irving Hallowell and the Berens River Ojibwe

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