Alison Norman © Alison Norman. All rights reserved.
Current and Future Research
1. “ 'To Better the Conditions of the Community': Christian Six Nations women at Grand River, 1900-1939” My book, Something must be done: Christian Six Nations women at Grand River, 1900-1939 is under contract with the University of Manitoba Press, as part of the Native History Series, edited by Dr. Jarvis Brownlie, and will be published later in 2015. The book considers how middle class and elite Christian Six Nations women transformed and maintained power in the Grand River community in the early twentieth century. I argue that while no longer matrilineal or matrilocal, and while women no longer had effective political power as clan mothers, Christian women did have authority in the community, and worked to improve their community in multiple ways. During this period, women effected change through various methods that were both new and traditional for Six Nations women.
In particular, my work shows that education and the Christian churches were key to women’s authority at Grand River. With the onset of the Great War in 1914, Six Nations men and women responded with gendered patriotism. I argue that women’s patriotic work at home led to increased activity in the post-war period on the reserve. Six Nations women made use of social reform organizations and voluntary associations to make improvements in their community. The book also considers how race, gender and religion were entangled to create new Haudenosaunee identities, especially among the Christian middle class and elite. I take a transnational approach and find similarities among Aboriginal communities in other white settler societies, including the American West, Australia and New Zealand.
Some initial results of my research on women’s involvement in the Great War appear in a 2012 UBC Press edited collection entitled A Sisterhood of Suffering and Service: Canadian and Newfoundland Girls and Women in the First World War, and an article on Six Nations women teachers will appear in a special issue of Ontario History on gender and education in Spring, 2015. Additionally, images and stories from my book were featured in an exhibit featuring young scholars titled “Werk: New Gender Histories” at Robarts Library, March 31-June 5, 2014.
2. “A History of Indigenous Teachers in Southern Ontario, 1800-1900.” I am currently completing research on my SSHRC funded postdoctoral project titled “A History of Aboriginal Teachers in Southern Ontario, 1800-1970.” I am presently focusing on the nineteenth century, and both male and female teachers working in day schools and residential schools in the province. The results of this research were recently presented at two conferences; on an international panel that I organized titled Indigenous Women and Education in Comparative Colonial Context for the Berks Conference of Women’s Historians, held at the University of Toronto in May, 2014. I was also been invited to attend a workshop in Muenster, Germany, The Changing Face of Missionary Education, in July 2014. Both of these opportunities have allowed me to further situate the Canadian situation in a comparative colonial context.
Furthermore, I plan to publish this research in a book tentatively titled Contesting Education: Colonial Education in the Indigenous Northeast and Lower Great Lakes with Thomas Peace, Huron College, Western University. Dr. Peace’s focus is on Dartmouth College and schooling in the Indigenous Northeast and the St. Lawrence Valley, and my focus is on Indigenous teachers and schools in southern Ontario in the nineteenth century. The book will also include a third section containing community responses, several chapters of commentary written by historians, educators and elders from the communities discussed in the book.
3. “'On behalf of our sisters the Iroquois:' British feminists and the political rights of Six Nations women of Grand River, Ontario.” Another future project is to complete an article titled “'On behalf of our sisters the Iroquois:' British feminists and the political rights of Six Nations women of Grand River, Ontario.” I uncovered the efforts of several English and Scottish women while conducting research for my dissertation. Much of the recent work done by scholars of gender and empire is interested in white women (including feminists) were complicit in colonial endeavours, working for missionary societies, schools and women’s organizations. Less work has been done on those who tried to work as allies of First Nations peoples, often against dominion governments and the British Crown. This article is in this vein, as I examine the concerted efforts of several British women to support the Six Nations, and to argue for their rights with the British and Canadian governments. It is an important topic because the complexities of colonization are evident in these sorts of transnational, intercultural relationships.
This article looks especially at two women, Sarah Robertson Matheson and Mary Pamela Milne-Home. Matheson was adopted by the Haudenosaunee in the 1920s, and Milne-Home was a descendant of Sir William Johnson (the first British Indian Agent in the Americas, and the husband of Molly Brant), so she was in fact working in support of her Haudenosaunee cousins. I have met descendants of both women, have traveled to Scotland to visit their homes, and I’ve conducted research in British archives. I’ve also presented some of this research, and now plan to complete the article for The Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History.
Alison Norman, B.Ed., Ph.D.