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Wendy Wickwire awarded the CSN-RÉC Book Prize

Congratulations to Wendy Wickwire whose book At the Bridge: James Teit and An Anthropology of Belonging is the 2020 winner of the Canadian Studies Network Best Book in Canadian Studies Prize!

This prize is awarded to an outstanding scholarly book on a Canadian subject and that best advances our knowledge and understanding of Canada and Canadian Studies. This award is intended to recognize work written by members of the Canadian Studies Network-Réseau d’études canadiennes. The CSN-RÉC will nominate Dr. Wickwire’s book for the Pierre Savard Award offered by the International Council for Canadian Studies.

The CSN jury remarks:

At the Bridge is a major reassessment of James Teit, whose anthropological field work among Indigenous communities in British Columbia has been largely written out of the record, partly because of the claims of Franz Boas and Marius Barbeau. Wickwire makes a case for Teit being a fieldworker ahead of his time, for he was deeply attached to the recording of individual experience rather than the large group survey and generalizations. Wickwire shows a Teit clearly at home with and trusted by Indigenous groups, making for a vivid contrast with Boas, who felt ill at ease and not particularly committed to forging relationships with the people whom he studied, preferring to extract from field work notes evidence of the theories about culture he was invested in. Wickwire also carefully details Teit’s advocacy work with Indigenous communities in BC as they sought, in the days of D.C. Scott and Wilfrid Laurier, recognition of their claims to their land.

This book is also striking for the way in which Wickwire seeks some explanation of Teit’s connection to Indigenous culture, especially languages which he spoke fluently and translated during negotiations, in Teit’s own origin story, as a young man committed to the cultural vibrancy of his native Shetland, and his allegiance to the island’s earlier Scandinavian rule in response to the colonial impositions of the more recent Scottish rule.

Wickwire provides a model of how non-Indigenous study of Indigenous life and issues can proceed sensitively and ethically, in telling the story of Teit, and the way in which his own origin story inflected his life with BC Indigenous communities, especially the Nlaka’pamux.

This feels like a work of a lifetime: a capstone, summative work of magisterial detailed biographical and historical research, and a model of cross-cultural historical work.

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