UNBC pro­fes­sor to in­ves­ti­gate life of con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure

The Prince George Citizen - - Local -

Imag­ine be­ing in a room full of pow­er­ful peo­ple who all share the same opin­ion on a mat­ter of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance. Now imag­ine be­ing the only one who dis­agrees.

That’s the fo­cus for UNBC’s Kevin Hutch­ings, who will re­ceive $67,000 over four years from the So­cial Sciences and Hu­man­i­ties Re­search Coun­cil of Canada’s In­sight Grants pro­gram to in­ves­ti­gate the life and lit­er­ary works of Sir Fran­cis Bond Head.

Bond Head was a best-sell­ing Bri­tish jour­nal­ist and travel writer who gov­erned the Bri­tish colony of Up­per Canada from 1836 to 1838, and held a con­trar­ian po­si­tion to his peers and col­leagues re­gard­ing the ide­ol­ogy of as­sim­i­la­tion that came to in­form Canada’s res­i­den­tial school sys­tem.

“Sir Fran­cis lived an ex­cit­ing and ad­ven­tur­ous life, and played a fas­ci­nat­ing and con­tro­ver­sial role in our na­tion’s colonial his­tory, to which past schol­ar­ship has failed to do jus­tice,” said Hutch­ings, an English pro­fes­sor and for­mer Canada Re­search Chair in Lit­er­a­ture, Cul­ture and En­vi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies.

“Although he pub­lished nu­mer­ous in­flu­en­tial books and ar­ti­cles dur­ing the course of a lengthy lit­er­ary ca­reer, those writ­ings are now largely for­got­ten. My in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween his lit­er­ary and po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties will demon­strate the im­por­tant role that lit­er­a­ture played in English Canada’s early colonial his­tory.”

Hutch­ings will pro­duce the first de­tailed lit­er­ary study of Bond Head’s life and times, with a goal of demon­strat­ing how he ex­ploited his lit­er­ary celebrity to sup­port his of­ten-con­tro­ver­sial po­lit­i­cal work, in­clud­ing his busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties in colonial Ar­gentina, his treaty-mak­ing among First Na­tions in Up­per Canada, and his con­tro­ver­sial role in both in­cit­ing and crush­ing the 1837 Up­per Canada Re­bel­lion.

The SSHRC fund­ing al­lows Hutch­ings to present his find­ings at var­i­ous con­fer­ences and sym­po­siums as far afield as New Zealand. It also en­ables him to em­ploy a num­ber of stu­dent re­search assistants dur­ing the course of the study, pro­vid­ing them with train­ing that will help them to be­come ef­fec­tive re­searchers, writ­ers and ed­i­tors.

In ad­di­tion, he’s re­ceived sup­port for the pre­sen­ta­tion of his re­search through the EU’s Eras­mus+ Train­ing Mobility grant pro­gram and from the U.K.-based Transat­lantic Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion.

The 19th cen­tury gov­er­nor and writer’s life and times have been a fo­cus for Hutch­ings for more than 15 years; he has even made con­tact with one of the gov­er­nor’s liv­ing de­scen­dants. Per­haps of most in­ter­est, how­ever, is what ap­pears to be Bond Head’s stance re­gard­ing the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem.

“The Truth and Reconcilia­tion Com­mis­sion is con­cerned with find­ing and pub­lish­ing the truth about res­i­den­tial schools, the sole pur­pose of which was to as­sim­i­late Indige­nous peo­ple into ‘main­stream’ Eu­ro­pean Cana­dian so­ci­ety by sev­er­ing them from their fam­i­lies, from their cul­tural tra­di­tions and from their lan­guage,” added Hutch­ings.

“Dur­ing the 19th cen­tury, most mem­bers of Canada’s set­tler so­ci­ety em­braced the idea that Indige­nous peo­ple should be con­verted to Chris­tian­ity and be as­sim­i­lated to Eu­ro­pean ways of life. Sir Fran­cis doesn’t quite fit in with that po­si­tion be­cause he came on the scene with the op­po­site idea. He’s fas­ci­nat­ing to me for that rea­son.”


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