Historian Keith Carlson appointed Canada Research Chair at UFV

Carlson is an ethno-historian with a strong connection to the Sto:lo people in Chilliwack

An ethno-historian with a strong connection to the Sto:lo people is the newest Canada research chair at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV).

Keith Carlson was welcomed to UFV by Garry Fehr, associate vice-president of research, engagement, and graduate studies. Fehr acknowledged the spinoffs his appointment will have.

“We are very pleased to have Dr. Keith Carlson join UFV as a Canada research chair,” Fehr said. “He brings an extensive history and well-established relationships with local Indigenous communities that will strengthen our efforts to decolonize research and Indigenize the university.

“We look forward to interdisciplinary collaboration with Dr. Carlson as UFV faculty and students get opportunities to work with him.”

Carlson joined UFV as a tier 1 research chair in Indigenous and community-engaged history this fall.

The federally funded Canada research chair program is designed to recruit and retain the world’s most innovative scholars to Canadian universities and fund groundbreaking research which has positive, tangible impacts on Canadian lives.

UFV hosted a meet-and-greet welcome for Carlson on Sept. 24 in the Gathering Place at the UFV Chilliwack campus at Canada Education Park.

Carlson was most recently a history professor at the University of Saskatchewan for the past 18 years, but before that he spent nine years as a staff historian and research coordinator for the Sto:lo Nation in Chilliwack, so this latest appointment is a homecoming of sorts. He was formally made an honorary member of the Sto:lo Nation in 2001.

“I spent almost 10 years listening to, learning from, and being mentored by Sto:lo knowledge keepers,” he notes. He received the title Siya:ya from them, and has been adopted into several Sto:lo families.

“I was told by one elder that it means ‘friend,’ but so close a friend that you must be related, you just don’t know how.”

His relationship with the Sto:lo people has continued during his almost two decades in Saskatchewan. He organized field schools for many summers that brought graduate students to conduct ethno-historical research in Sto:lo territory.

“It’s going to be nice to be able to just drive down the road to consult with my Sto:lo community partners now instead of booking a flight,” he said.

Carlson has published his research extensively in academic journals and books, including the book The Power of Place, The Problem of Time: Aboriginal Identity and Historical Consciousness in the Cauldron of Colonialism, which is based on his doctoral thesis.

But he has also worked cooperatively with Sto:lo partners on a number of well-known community history books, contributing to works such as The Sto:lo – Coast Salish Historical Atlas; You Are Asked to Witness: Sto:lo in Canada’s Pacific Coast History; I am Sto:lo, Katherine Explores Her Heritage; and Call Me Hank: A Sto:lo Man’s Reflections on Life, Logging, and Growing Old.

His research also contributed to two documentary videos: Kidnapped Sto:lo Boys and The Lynching of Louis Sam.

He has received external funding for many research projects. Currently, he and David Schaepe and Sonny McHalsie of the Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Centre are working on a project called Envisioning Reconciliation Among the People of the River, funded by a $49,500 social sciences and humanities research council federal grant.

“We are looking at voices from the past through archival research to hear how they defined a healthy relationship with the Canadian government and society with regards to fishing and other resources, and then conducting contemporary interviews with Sto:lo people to find out what an acceptable form of reconciliation in the next decade would look like to them,” Carlson said.

Now that he is back in the Fraser Valley, he is looking forward to working even more closely with the Sto:lo community, particularly on the topic of the history of how reserves were created and, in some cases, later drastically reduced in size.

“I am looking forward to being grounded in the community where my research is conducted, so that I can be even more responsive to them and partner with them,” he said. “My field of ethno-history is particularly well suited to community partnerships.”

RELATED: Matsqui First Nation files claim against federal government for sale of reserve lands in Abbotsford 150 years ago

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