Category Archives: History

Don’t Tell the Archaeologist

My friend was flanked by two Inuit elders as she repeatedly picked up and asked about bones found on the ground. “A walrus rib,” the elder would reply, and then my friend would be off after another object. She knew … Continue reading

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Racist Rob and Corrupt Politicians

I’d only been teaching a few years when I had a student who was so racist that I was forced to confront several of his statements in class. As anyone knows who has dealt with such behaviour, this demands a … Continue reading

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Hatred of Muslims and the Latest Red Scare

I had the pleasure of growing up in North America when the reigning hatred was of communists, although most people didn’t know what a communist was and—because of weak historical understanding—only vaguely associated them with the Soviet Union. Because I … Continue reading

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A Response to the Signs

When a sign about the exploitation of children went up in my neighbourhood, I thought little about it, partly because it didn’t look professional enough to have come from the desk of an official service. Instead, it had more in … Continue reading

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The Saltpeter Mines of Northern Atacama, Chile

Saltpeter, or nitrate, was a major export of Chile until artificial production began in Germany in the thirties. Then, like much of the world staggering as a result of the global depression, Chile suffered from the loss of nearly fifty … Continue reading

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The Passing of the Years

My nephew was just visiting me and one of his passions of investigating old ruins of houses. We spent the last ten days doing just that, and he has flown out today armed with a few hundred year old coins … Continue reading

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The Winter Solstice and Trying to Explain the Movement of the Sun

Many years ago I found myself trying to explain the movement of the sun during the winter to a class in Victoria, British Columbia, and ever since I have been struck by how cultural knowledge can be allowed or disallowed … Continue reading

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A Use of Old Cannonballs

Galileo was alone on the top of the tower. He’d asked his friends to stay away from his experiment. He’d experienced enough failure in the past to worry that his latest venture might prove to be embarrassing and he was … Continue reading

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Keller and Rosa Parks: Case Studies in Historical Oversight

The story of both Parks and Helen Keller have been so heavily overwritten by the public imagination that they are almost invisible in a narrative ostensibly about them. This line drawing of their lives looms much larger than the more … Continue reading

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Ancient Science at the Planetarium

Whenever we think about our ancestors we are inclined to imagine them as moronic, backward troglodytes, dragging their knuckles through lives as brutal and stunted as themselves. In our rather short-sighted and ungrateful vision, they do not hope to compare … Continue reading

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