Wilson Center Experts

Arthur J Ray

Fellow
Canada Institute

Expertise:
North America
;
Canada
Affiliation:
Professor, History Department, University of British Columbia, Canada; Co-editor, Canadian Historical Review, 2003-present
Wilson Center Project(s):
"History Wars" and Human Rights: Aboriginal Rights Claims in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand"
Term:
Sep 01, 2005
-
May 01, 2006

I devoted the first 20 years of my career to interdisciplinary and multi-source-based ethnohistorical research about Canadian native economic history and cultural ecology. I became an expert in interpreting the massive archival record of the Hudson's Bay Company (1670-present). My first major publication based on this work was Indians in the Fur Trade (1998 [1974]). In a series of articles and a co-authored book (I was senior author), Give Us Good Measure: An Economic Analysis of Relations between the Indians and the Hudson's Bay Company before 1763 (1978), I pioneered the use of Hudson's Bay Company accounting records for economic history and ethnohistorical research concerning Canada's First Nations. In 1990, I completed my fur trade research with The Canadian Fur Trade in the Industrial Age, which is the first scholarly study of the fur trade in the late 19th and 20th centuries. By the mid-1980s, my expertise in native economic and Hudson's Bay Company history led to my involvement in a long series of major aboriginal claims as an expert witness. Several of these cases resulted in landmark decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada, including Horseman (1990), Delgamuukw (1997), and most recently, Powley (2003). My involvement in claims cases across the country made me aware of the need to write a comparative history of Canada's Aboriginal People after European contact that emphasized changing economic life and was accessible to the general reader. With this objective I published, I Have Lived Here since the World Began: An Illustrated History of Canada's Native People (2005 [1996]), which has received scholarly (it is now widely used as a textbook) and popular acclaim. My intense experience in court-adjudicated claims also made me aware of the crucial role of historical interpretation in claims adjudication; in 2000 I shifted the direction of my scholarly research to undertake a unique, basic study of the process itself. Supported by a two-year Canada Council Killam Research Fellowship (2001-02), and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada research grant (2000-03), I launched the first long-term comparative historical study of claims processes in United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Traditional historiographies of anthropology, ethnohistory, history and related disciplines have paid little regard to this important dimension of intellectual history. Exploring the relationship between claims research and intellectual history also raised questions about the ways history is used in different adjudication forums. My research on these dimensions of the history of claims research has been very well received in the scholarly, legal and public realms. I have been invited to give numerous conference papers and keynote addresses in the past five years and I have had scholarly papers accepted and published about various aspects of my project in Australia (2003), Canada (2004 and 2005), New Zealand (2003) and the United States (2006). A Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Bora Laskin National Fellowship in Human Rights Research and the Wilson Fellowship will enable me to complete work on the North American dimension of my project and prepare a monograph.
 

Education

B.S. (1963) Geography, University of Wisconsin Madison; M.S. (1965) Geography, University of Wisconsin Madison; Ph.D. (1971) Geography, University of Wisconsin Madison
 

Experience

  • Associate Professor, Geography Department, York University, Downsview, Ontario, Canada, 1976-80
  • Assistant Professor, Geography Department, York University, Downsview, Ontario, Canada, 1970-75
  • Assistant Professor, Geography Department, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, 1965-66

Expertise

First Nations and Indian economic history; historical geography of Canadian First Nations; history of aboriginal and treaty rights research; historiography of ethnohistory

Project Summary

Aboriginal rights claims remain central unresolved human rights issues in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Judgments about "history" are essential for rights determinations and compensation for past abuses. The United States led the way in seeking alternative approaches to the courts. Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which have intertwined, but divergent, legal and intellectual traditions, followed suit much later and they have tried different solutions. This comparative history project explores how different institutional settings have affected outcomes and will suggest future directions for claims adjudication practices.

Major Publications

  • I Have Lived Here Since the World Began: An Illustrated History of Canada's Native People, Revised Edition (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2005)
  • "Facts, Theories, and Cultural-Historical Expertise in Aboriginal Title Claims Litigation in Australia and North America, 1946–2002," Proof and Truth: the Humanist As Expert. Occasional Papers (Canberra: Australian Academy of the Humanities, October, 2003)
  • Bounty and Benevolence: A History of Saskatchewan Treaties, with Jim Miller, and Frank G. Tough, Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000, 293 pp.
  • Indians in the Fur Trade, 2nd edition, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998 [1974])

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