Friday, March 18, 2011

In Memoriam: Olive Dickason (1920-2011)

This blog isn't going to become a chronicle of the passing of people who have played roles in my career as a historian, (political blogging will likely resume when the writ is dropped, if not sooner) but it nevertheless came as a bit of a shock for me to learn that path-breaking Métis historian Olive Dickason had passed away last weekend. History blogger Christopher Moore has a nice tribute to her at his site, and there are many other aboriginal and governmental groups who have posted similarly glowing assessments of her life and career.

My own contact with Professor Dickason was rather fleeting, but still important to me. She was an emeritus professor at the University of Ottawa when I was a graduate student in the late-90s, and although she wasn't offering any courses at the time, a friend of mine was starting her PhD work with her. I met her and we had a few brief conversations at various departmental socials. My research does not usually head too far into aboriginal history, but Professor Dickason nevertheless played an important role in my career. Twice in my early teaching career - once at Concordia, and once at Mount Allison - I was asked to teach courses on Canadian First Nations History. Olive Dickason's textbook Canada's First Nations, which is still widely used and now in its fourth printing, was a lifesaver to a young post-doc who was wildly out of his depth. She had a huge impact in the field of Canadian history, especially on aboriginal and Métis history, and will be greatly missed.

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