Author Archives: Paul C. Thistle

About Paul C. Thistle

Paul C. Thistle is the former Curator & CAO of The Sam Waller Museum (1983-1995) and most recently Curator at the Langley Centennial Museum & National Exhibition Centre (2006-2009). He has 26+ years of mission and management work in museums. He writes the Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers & the Critical Museology Miscellanea blogs. In the field of ethnohistory, he is the author of the national, provincial, and academic award winning book Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840. Manitoba Native Studies II and related journal articles such as "The Twatt Family, 1780-1840: Amerindian, Ethnic Category, or Ethnic Group Identity?" in The Western Metis: Profile of a People. He has teaching experience at the university, college, high school, museum programming, and professional development levels. He has many conference presentations to his credit, including at the 2014 Canadian Museums Association Annual Conference, Toronto, ON & the 2012 American Association of Museums annual conference in Minneapolis, MN. His educational background includes an Interdisciplinary M.A. in history and anthropology and a B.Ed. in cross-cultural and museum education from the University of Manitoba, a B.A. in anthropology and history from the University of Waterloo, and a Museology Certificate from the University of Winnipeg.

Paul C. Thistle

July 15, 2017

Beringia Source-Yukon-Geological-Survey

Source: Yukon Geological Survey

Canada 150+ makes Indigenous history into serious public discussion (finally!).

From an Indigenous perspective, much of the controversy surrounding commemorating Canada’s 150th birthday could be summarised by David Lowenthal’s (1996: 161) statement “the commemorative urge is profoundly anti-historical.”

Impetus from:

  • recent national & local celebrations & related Indigenous critiques regarding marking Canada’s Confederation 150 years ago this 1 July 2017
  • black paint defacing a 4-story large Canadian flag on the facade of Themuseum in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada along with a banner left by protestors that reads: “150+ years of resistance #unsettling 150.” The hashtags #unsettling and #unsettling150 refer to social media concerning Indigenous-led critiques of Canada’s 2017 sesquicentennial celebrations as continuing colonialism [interestingly also matched during Canada’s 1967 centennial year at the Expo 67 World Fair in the last section of the Canadian Native Pavilion (Hayday 2017)] ignoring many thousands of  years of preexisting Indigenous occupations of & sovereignties over present-day Canadian territory.  It should be noted here that the protester’s banner is now included as part of Themuseum’s main exhibition: “A Cause for Celebration? First Things First” which examines injustices by Canada’s prime ministers imposed on Indigenous people and incorporates the work of indigenous artists  (The Canadian Press 2017).
  • controversial comment by Canada’s Governor General David Johnston referring to Indigenous people as “immigrants as well” (followed by his prompt apology) & strong reactions thereto (Ling 2017)
  • recent & previous Canadian Prime Ministerial comments: in the case of our current PM clumsily downplaying & in the case of the previous PM denying Canada’s involvement in colonialism (Fontaine 2016)

has caused substantive discussions in Canada about the neglect of Indigenous peoples in the marking of 150 years of Canadian Confederation in treaty language-like tropes ‘cede, release, surrender, & yield up all rights, titles, & interests whatsoever’ as if many thousands of years of Indigenous history are irrelevant to Canada in 2017. Also see Garneau (2015) for critical analysis of the ongoing need to de-colonise contemporary museum exhibitions.

A cogent post on matters surrounding Indigenous critiques of Canada’s 150th anniversary of our Confederation as continuing colonialism on ACTIVEHISTORY.CA by Western University history professor Alan MacEachern (2017) is very much worth a read in the above context.

Inter alia, MacEachern argues:

But above all, in teaching the Bering land bridge theory we need to crush the idea that Indigenous arrival hundreds of generations ago bears some sort of equivalency with immigration of the last few hundred years.

MacEachern (2017) closes with a ‘cute’ footnote visually demonstrating the logic in his quote above.

In closing, another excellent related ACTIVEHISTORY.CA post by Matthew Hayday (2017), University of Guelph professor of Canadian history whose main research interests are  Canadian identity, nationalism, & the history of Canada Day, is also highly recommended by your blogger to round out a deeper understanding of indigenous engagement with Canadian anniversaries.

Obviously, much work is required to integrate Indigenous perspectives into Canadian history.  After all, Jean Piaget, the renowned Swiss clinical psychologist, maintained that  historical awareness may demand more maturity than many adults ever attain (Lowenthal 1996: 124).

But let’s not give up trying to mature the awareness & understanding among all Canadians about the true significance of Indigenous history to Canadians.

References Cited:

Fontaine, Tim. 2016.”What did Justin Trudeau say about Canada’s history of colonialism? PM’s comments about colonialism spark ire online – but what did he actually say?” CBC News 22 April (accessed 15 July 2017).

Garneau, David. 2015 “Non-Colonial Indigenous Art Gallery and Museum Displays.” Muse XXXIV (5): 28-32.

Hayday, Matthew. 2017. “Contesting Canada Day : A Tradition of Engagement, Challenges and Change.” ACTIVEHISTORY.CA 30 June (accessed 15 July 2017).

Ling, Justin. 2017. “The colonial history behind the Governor General’s ‘quote-Indigenous-people-unquote’ comments.”  Vice News Canada 20 June accessed 15 July 2017).

Lowenthal, David. 1996. Possessed by the Past: The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History. New York: The Free Press.

MacEachern, Alan. 2017. “A Theory in Practice: Back to the Bering Land Bridge.” ACTIVEHISTORY.CA  13 July (accessed 15 July 2015).

The Canadian Press. 2017. “Kitchener Museum’s giant Canadian Flag vandalized on Canada Day.” (accessed 14 July 2017).


Other Indigenous Studies Publications by Paul C. Thistle

The following links provide on-line access to other indigenous studies publications by author of Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840, Paul C. Thistle.

Featured image above is “Canadian Indians Spearing Beaver,1830-1834” attributed to Peter Rindisbacher, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, from Carolyn Gilman, Where Two Worlds Meet: The Great Lakes Fur Trade, 1982, pp. 22 & 71.

Other Fur Trade Relations Publications:

2010    Exhibit Review: Profit & Ambition: The Canadian Fur Trade, 1779-1821.  The Rupert’s Land Newsletter Nos.28-29:12-14. at PDF p. 12.

1995    Book Reviews: Given, Brian J. A Most Pernicious Thing: Gun Trading and Native Warfare in the Early Contact Period. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 15(1):172-3 at PDF p. 10 (172-3).

1991    Book Reviews: Russell, Dale R.: Eighteenth-Century Western Woods Cree and Their Neighbours. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 11(1):181-3. at PDF p. 27 (181-3).

1988   Book Review: Emporium of the North: Fort Chipewyan and the Fur Trade to 1835 by James Parker. Prairie Forum 13(2):264-6 .

Other Indigenous Studies Publication Subjects:

2012    Book Reviews: Playing Ourselves: Interpreting Native Histories at Historic Reconstructions by Laura PeersMaterial Culture: The Journal of the Pioneer America Society 44(2):78-81 [excerpt available at .

1996    Book Reviews: Cole, Douglas. Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast Artifacts. Reprint Edition. . . The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 16(2):371-2. at PDF p. 9 (371-2).

1994    Book Reviews: Reeves, Brian O.K. & Kennedy, Margaret A. (Editors). Kunaitupii: Coming Together on Native Sacred Sites… The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 14(2):425-7. at PDF p. 31 (425-7).

1993     Book Reviews: Berlo, Janet. The Early Years of Native American Art History: The Politics of Scholarship and Collecting. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 13(2):333-5. at PDF p. 7 (333-5).

1992    Book Reviews: Burnham, Dorothy K.: To Please the Caribou: Painted Caribou-Skin Coats Worn by the Naskapi, Montagnais, and Cree Hunters of the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 12(1):153-5. PDF at p. 7 (153-5).

1984   Exhibit Review: Metis, Glenbow Museum. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 4(2):367-72. or .

Dependence and Control: Indian-European Trade Relations in the Post-Kelsey Era

This chapter from the 1993 book Three Hundred Prairie Years: Henry Kelsey’s “Inland Country of Good Report” came about as a result of the Henry Kelsey Tri-Centennial Conference held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on 22 – 23 November 1991 to mark the 300th anniversary of the beginning of recorded history in the region with the 1690 arrival of Henry Kelsey under the guidance of Asssinae Poets (Assiniboine).

This chapter summarises the findings of the author Paul C. Thistle’s 1986 book Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840. Manitoba Studies in Native History II.  This overview refutes the common interpretation that First Nations in the Western Subarctic rapidly became “dependent” on a European-dominated fur trade economy soon after first contact.

The full text of this “Dependence & Control: Indian-European Trade Relations in the Post-Kelsey Era” chapter along with introductory material is available by clicking thistle-dependence-control-in-epp-1993-comments .

NOTES: Paul C. Thistle’s original slide presentation at the conference resulting in the publication of this book Three Hundred Prairie Years: Henry Kelsey’s “Inland Country of Good Report” titled “Images of the Native-Kelsey Relationship” (that was essentially a critique of the visual history of the Henry Kelsey First Nations guided tour of the region) was not deemed appropriate for a chapter in this book. Instead, the book’s editor commissioned the author to write this chapter.

A version of Paul C. Thistle’s conference slide presentation was however published later as a 1994 illustrated article titled “Images of Native People Associated with the Kelsey Event” in Native Studies Review 9 (1):33-50. It also is available on this web site by clicking the link.

The feature image above is the logo of the 1990 Kelsey Tricentennial Conference in The Pas (known in one version of the Cree as “Opasquiak“), Manitoba, Canada created by First Nation artist Dean B. Head.  The intent of this design was to provide an alternate visual history portraying the crucial role of Kelsey’s First Nation guides that typically have been ignored in the traditional and contemporary artistic portrayals of the story.  See the analysis of these images in Paul C. Thistle’s “Images of Native People Associated with the Kelsey Event” .

The full printed version of the national, provincial, & academic award-winning publication book Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840 is freely available under a Creative Commons License on this web site.

The book Three Hundred Prairie Years includes the main sections of the text, commentary, & Endnotes on the journal of Henry Kelsey’s travels in Part VII “Henry Kelsey’s Journals and Correspondence” pp. 196-235.

For additional background on the Henry Kelsey journal, the Manitoba Historical Society also has posted on-line a paper read before the Manitoba Historical Society “The Journal of Henry Kelsey, 1691-1692 : The First White Man to Reach the Saskatchewan River . . .” by Charles Napier Bell, 1928, Manitoba Historical Society Transactions Series 2, No. 4.

Rare HBC Gift Item to First Nations Leaders

A rare gold plated pendant given to First Nations trade leaders is featured on the Canadian Museum of History web site article Symbol of Change.

The piece is significant because “most trade jewelry given to Aboriginal people was made of silver, not gold plate. Second, it is a rare example of gold work from well-known Montréal silversmith Charles Arnoldi (1779–1817).”

Beyond this, it represents the need for the HBC to solidify close ties with  First Nations trade leaders to combat competition:

The pendant would have been perceived by many as a sign of equality between traders and Aboriginal people in the Western regions. “Aboriginal people tended not to trade unless they had some kind of bond with the traders,” says Timothy P. Foran, Curator of British North America at the Museum. “For the most part, they engaged in trade on their own terms and European newcomers had to respect Aboriginal customs. . . “

Although apparently incorrectly described by the CMH as “engraved” rather than embossed, the pendant presents additional material evidence supporting the interpretation of Paul C. Thistle’s Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840.

An inquiry about this artifact obtained full curatorial descriptive information.  Courtesy of the Canadian Museum of History, see the PDF of this detailed record at CMH Pendant Data FM Paul Thistle.

HBC gold plated pendant gifted to First Nation trade leader. Canadian Museum of History mch2_09_2015.png

Oval gold-plated lead pendant, 10 cm x 7.5 cm, struck 1800–1815, & gifted to First Nation trade leaders. Canadian Museum of History mch2_09_2015.png

Thistle (1986) Indian-European Trade Relations On-Line Release

Paul C. Thistle, former Curator of The Sam Waller Museum in The Pas; former docent, cataloguer, and term Assistant Curator of Ethnology at the Former Manitoba Museum of Man & Nature now has made his history of early Cree relations with fur trading companies in The Pas, Manitoba and Cumberland House, Saskatchewan region freely available online under a Creative Commons license.

This national, provincial, and academic award-winning book Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840 has been out of print.


See this news release as presented in the Association of Manitoba Museums Spring 2015 Newsletter by clicking on the following link

Thistle 1986 Release in AAM Spring 2015 .


The Twatt Family, 1780-1840: Amerindian, Ethnic Category, or Ethnic Group Identity? (Thistle 2007)

This article “The Twatt Family, 1780-1840: Amerindian, Ethnic Category, or Ethnic Group Identity?” in The Western Métis: Profile of a People. edited by Patrick C. Douad (Regina: University of Regina & Canadian Plains Research Center, 2007) is a reprint of a 1997 Prairie Forum 22(2):193-212 article, appearing with contributions from several eminent scholars in the field of Métis history


My purpose is to examine a group of mixed descent people in the Nipawin, Saskatchewan area centred on Mansack and Willock Twatt to determine whether it developed from an other-identified ethnic category into a self-identified functional ethnic group during the during the latter eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  This will serve as a preliminary step in a proposed full-scale history of mixed descent groups in the Lower Saskatchewan River region in an attempt to provide some additional balance to the previously identified preponderance of studies on Red River and more generally Plains area Métis history which remains largely unaddressed.

The entire article can be read by clicking The Twatt Family, 1780-1840: Amerindian, Ethnic Category, or Ethnic Group Identity? .  See PDF pages 80-96 & Endnotes 289-294.  Note that this file takes ca. 5 minutes to download because it contains the entire book Douad (2007).

Saskatchewan River Rendezvous Centers (Meyer & Thistle 1995)


In both historic and precontact times the aboriginal peoples of the Saskatchewan River valley formed several regional bands. As witnessed by European traders and missionaries, the members of each band usually assembled once a year in the spring and sometimes also in the autumn. Known to the Europeans as the “rendezvous,” the gatherings involved days or weeks of intense social interaction, focused mainly on a series of religious ceremonies. On the basis of archaeological and historical evidence, six such aggregating centers have been identified in the Saskatchewan River valley. The fur traders recognized the centers’ importance; as a result, the majority of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century trading posts were built at these centers or, on occasion, between them, at the borders of regional bands. In the late i8oos reserves were established at several of the centers, and they continue to be prominent habitation sites even today.

Read the entire article by clicking Meyer_Thistle Saskatchewan River Rendezvous Centers 1995