Having won last year’s Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award, Jean Barman has now won the third annual Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for best academic book about B.C. with French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest (UBC Press, 2014).
Jean Barman received her Stuart-Stubbs Prize (aka The Bazzy) from UBC Librarian Ingrid Parent on June 9 at UBC Library.
The judges were last year’s recipient David Stouck, who won for Arthur Erickson: An Architect’s Life; former BC Studies editor Allan Smith and UBC Librarian Brenda Peterson.
This ground-breaking work rewrites the early history of the Pacific Northwest from the perspective of French Canadians who were the largest group of newcomers west of the Rockies for half a century.
Simultaneously, Barman emphasizes the role that indigenous women played in encouraging them to stay. She also identifies some descendants.
A founding director of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society, Barman has written or edited 22 books, including The West Beyond the West: A History of B.C., generally regarded as the foremost history of B.C.
Her books about First Nations, Portuguese, Chinese, French, English, Hawaiians and women have continued to widen the spectrum of B.C. history.
It was mainly francophones who facilitated the early overland crossings into the Pacific Northwest, but you wouldn’t know that from school texts.
Alexander Mackenzie, for instance, has long been identified as the first non-Aboriginal to traverse the North American continent, from east to west, in 1793.
Mackenzie was knighted almost immediately. He had his portrait painted by a leading artist and became rich. At age 50, he married his 14-year-old cousin.
Few Canadians are taught the extent to which Mackenzie and his second-in-command Alexander MacKay relied on indigenous interpreters and six French Canadian paddlers: Jacques Beauchamp, Francois Beaulieu, Baptiste Bisson, Francois Courtois, Charles Ducette and Joseph Landry.
Mackenzie’s account does not distinguish between the six men.
“Only twice during the course of the trip,” Barman writes, “… did Mackenzie acknowledge all or any of the men by name.”
Similarly, according to Barman, only one of the nineteen men who did the grunt work for Simon Fraser on his expedition can be identified with any certainty: Jean Baptiste Boucher. This francophone became the earliest ‘not wholly indigenous person’ known to engage in family life in the Pacific Northwest.
Over half of the 1,240 French Canadians who reached the Pacific Northwest as fur trade employees prior to 1858 opted to stay on the western side of the Rockies.
The largely unsung work of these men—often in league with Scots—ensured that, when the region was divided in 1846, the northern half would go to Britain, giving Canada its Pacific shoreline.
The better-known Jules Maurice Quesnel was a francophone officer on Fraser’s journey who stayed in the Pacific Northwest until 1811. The town of Quesnel now bears his name, but his case is an anomaly.
Barman’s unprecedented overview greatly benefited by the spadework of fur trade historian Bruce McIntyre Watson. Barman acknowledges his meticulous primary research that resulted in the publication of his three-volume Lives Lived West of the Divide: A Biographical Dictionary of Fur Traders Working West of the Rockies, 1793-1858.
As well, Barman was greatly assisted by Nicole St.-Onge who made available her Voyageurs Contracts Database, which contains 36,000 individual fur trading contracts signed before notaries, principally in Montreal, between 1714 and 1830.