Archival holdings at CTASC related to Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Archival material related to Indigenous peoples and communities at the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections are located in several historic holdings. This post highlights a selection of fonds* which contain a significant portion of records with content related to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities.

(*A fonds is the entire body of records created and accumulated by a person, family, or organization. Archival records are traditionally grouped by records creator to preserve the context in which the records were created and/or accumulated.)

In arranging the following list of fonds, Indigenous records creators were prioritized, and non-Indigenous creators then appear in an order based on represented Indigenous communities in these fonds from east to west with Northern nations incorporated in the middle of the list. This arrangement decision, based on the Indigenous Material Classification Schema  and UBCIC Resource Centre Classification Plan (both are revisions of the Brian Deer Classification System), is an effort to centre the Indigenous communities represented in the records, rather than the individual who collected the material.

Archival holdings at CTASC related to Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Lynn Gehl fonds:  Lynn Gehl, an Indigenous human rights advocate for over three decades, is Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley, Ontario. Gehl works to eliminate the continued sex discrimination in the Indian Act, and she is also an outspoken critic of the contemporary land claims and self-government process.  Records in this fonds pertains to her work as a scholar and community activist.

William Wicken fonds: William Wicken was a contract researcher with the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1993, and from 1993 to 1995 as a researcher with the Treaty and Aboriginal Rights Research Centre in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, on the  Aboriginal Title Project that was established by the Confederacy of Mainland Miꞌkmaq and the Union of Nova Scotia Indians. The fonds consists of project files created through his work as a researcher and expert witness involving Mi’kmaq treaties and their rights.

Mariposa Folk Foundation fonds: The Mariposa Folk Festival featured a Native Peoples Area curated by Alanis Obomsawin. It ran from 1971 to 1978 and highlighted many Indigenous performers, dancers, artists, and musicians including  Buffy Sainte-Marie, Willie Dunn, Floyd Westerman, Shingoose, Duke Redbird, Samson Neacappo, Akalisie Novalinga, and Tom Jackson. These performances are documented through programs, photographs, recordings, newspaper clippings, and other records in the fonds.

Michael Posluns fonds: Michael Posluns, a journalist, has conducted research, written reports, briefs, and monographs on behalf of and about First Nations in Canada and the United States. He has served as parliamentary adviser to the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Indian Brotherhood working with George Manual, the Dene Nation, and other bodies. The fonds consists of briefs, manuscripts, newspaper clippings, reports, research notes, and related material. A run of Akwasasne notes (1969-1976), and interviews with First Nations elders, politicians, artists,  and community activists are also included in the fonds.

Avrom Isaacs fonds: Avrom Isaacs, a Toronto art dealer, founded the Inuit Gallery in 1970. His fonds consists of personal and professional correspondence, exhibition catalogues, mailings, financial records, and artist files consisting of correspondence, biographical sketches, press clippings, and other material relating to artists.

Aubrey Golden fonds: Aubrey Golden, a certified specialist in civil litigation, was retained by the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada and the Islington White Dog Band, to represent them in legal actions dealing with exploration by oil, gas, and uranium companies that affected traditional hunting practices, mercury poisoning in northwestern Ontario, and Ontario Hydro's flooding of reserve lands. Golden also represented Tagak Curley whose case tested Aboriginal title and hunting rights under the Canadian Bill of Rights. The fonds includes notes, legal documents, and research from his case files.

John Warkentin fonds: John Warkentin, a geographer and photographer, researched the settlement and regional geography of Western Canada.  This fonds contains numerous photographs of rural Manitoba, including sites related to First Nations and Métis communities.

Robert Witmer collection: Robert Witmer, an ethnomusicologist, collected field recordings across North America. Collection 52 pertains to the Kainai Nation and recordings feature Joe Gambler, Jim Long Takes the Gun, Harry Big Throat, Chief Moon Bros., Gus and Wilfred, John Across the Mountains, and John Wolfchild. The collection also consists of photographs, and recordings of interviews, social dance songs, and country jam sessions.

While accessing this material, researchers may encounter access restrictions that are put in place to protect traditional knowledge rights and third-party privacy. CTASC also acknowledges that many of these resources contain historical language which includes problematic, unclear, or harmful language that is no longer considered appropriate today. If you have feedback about the finding aids or require assistance with archival research, please email archives@yorku.ca for assistance.

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