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[book cover] An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land

Jennifer S. H. Brown

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August 2017

9781771991711 (Paperback)
9781771991728 (PDF)
9781771991735 (ePub)


History: Indigenous / Indigenous Studies



About the Book

In 1670, the ancient homeland of the Cree and Ojibwe people of Hudson Bay became known to the English entrepreneurs of the Hudson’s Bay Company as Rupert’s Land, after the founder and absentee landlord, Prince Rupert. For four decades, Jennifer S. H. Brown has examined the complex relationships that developed among the newcomers and the Algonquian communities—who hosted and tolerated the fur traders—and later, the missionaries, anthropologists, and others who found their way into Indigenous lives and territories. The eighteen essays gathered in this book explore Brown’s investigations into the surprising range of interactions among Indigenous people and newcomers as they met or observed one another from a distance, and as they competed, compromised, and rejected or adapted to change.

While diverse in their subject matter, the essays have thematic unity in their focus on the old HBC territory and its peoples from the 1600s to the present. More than an anthology, the chapters of An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land provide examples of Brown’s exceptional skill in the close study of texts, including oral documents, images, artifacts, and other cultural expressions. The volume as a whole represents the scholarly evolution of one of the leading ethnohistorians in Canada and the United States.


About the Author

Jennifer S. H. Brown taught history at the University of Winnipeg for twenty-eight years and held a Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal history from 2004 to 2011. She served as director of the Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies, which focuses on Aboriginal peoples and the fur trade of the Hudson Bay watershed, from 1996 to 2010. She is the editor of the Rupert’s Land Record Society documentary series (McGill-Queen’s University Press), which publishes original materials on Aboriginal and fur trade history. She now resides in Denver, Colorado, where she continues her scholarly work.



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Copyright: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). It may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided that the original author is credited.


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Select a Chapter

DownloadFront Matter

DownloadTable of Contents


DownloadMap of Rupert's Land


PART I ? Finding Words and Remembering

DownloadIntroduction to Part I

Download1. Rupert’s Land, Nituskeenan, Our Land: Cree and European Naming and Claiming Around the Dirty Sea

Download2. Linguistic Solitudes and Changing Social Categories

Download3. The Blind Men and the Elephant: Touching the Fur Trade

PART II ? “We Married the Fur Trade”: Close Encounters and Their Consequences

DownloadIntroduction to Part II

Download4. A Demographic Transition in the Fur Trade: Family Sizes of Company Officers and Country Wives, ca. 1750–1850

Download5. Challenging the Custom of the Country: James Hargrave, His Colleagues, and “the Sex”

Download6. Partial Truths: A Closer Look at Fur Trade Marriage

PART III ? Families and Kinship, the Old and the Young

DownloadIntroduction to Part III

Download7. Older Persons in Cree and Ojibwe Stories: Gender, Power, and Survival

Download8. Kinship Shock for Fur Traders and Missionaries: The Cross-Cousin Challenge

Download9. Fur Trade Children in Montréal: The St. Gabriel Street Church Baptisms, 1796–1825

PART IV ? Recollecting: Women’s Stories of the Fur Trade and Beyond

DownloadIntroduction to Part IV

Download10. “Mrs. Thompson Was a Model Housewife”: Finding Charlotte Small

Download11. “All These Stories About Women”: “Many Tender Ties” and a New Fur Trade History

Download12. Aaniskotaapaan: Generations and Successions

PART V ? Cree and Ojibwe Prophets and Preachers: Braided Streams

DownloadIntroduction to Part V

Download13. The Wasitay Religion: Prophecy, Oral Literacy, and Belief on Hudson Bay

Download14. “I Wish to Be as I See You”: An Ojibwe-Methodist Encounter in Fur Trade Country, 1854–55

Download15. James Settee and His Cree Tradition: “An Indian Camp at the Mouth of Nelson River Hudsons Bay 1823”

PART VI ? Chiefs, Medicine Men, and Newcomers on the Berens River: Unfinished Conversations

DownloadIntroduction to Part VI

Download16. “As for Me and My House”: Zhaawanaash and Methodism at Berens River, 1874–83

Download17. Fair Wind: Medicine and Consolation on the Berens River

Download18. Fields of Dreams: A. Irving Hallowell and the Berens River Ojibwe

DownloadPublication Credits



An Ethnohistorian in Rupert's Land provides compelling vignettes in an attempt to colour in the blank space on the map. Brown traces the origins of the pejorative 'squaw,' a term rarely used in the 18th century but popularized in subsequent years. She profiles Thomas James, the English explorer immortalized in the naming of James Bay, who spent an entire winter on the bay and 'never met or saw an Aboriginal person,' Brown notes. [...] An Ethnohistorian in Rupert's Land is discovery of a vanished land.”

Blacklock's Reporter


“A welcome and compelling selection of articles (some previously published, some unpublished) that focus on the stories of Cree, Ojibwe and Métis peoples, Hudson’s Bay and Northwest Company fur traders, Methodist and Anglican missionaries,and twentieth-century anthropologists. [...] The varied thematic foci of An Ethnohistorian in Rupert’s Land allow readers to delve into topics and issues related to language, family, marriage, women, and Indigenous stories and memories. Each chapter is of interest in its own right, but gathered here each becomes part of a larger narrative of a lifetime of scholarship and contributions by one of the most important practitioners in her field.”

Ethnohistory Vol. 65