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Dr. Donald Smith Receives the 2014 Floyd S. Chalmers Award

Lauren Naus

The Champlain Society is pleased to announce that Dr. Donald Smith, professor emeritus of history at the University of Calgary, is the winner of the 2014 Floyd S. Chalmers Award for his book Mississauga Portraits: Ojibwe Voices From Nineteenth-Century Canada.

Published by the University of Toronto Press, Mississauga Portraits recreates the lives of eight Ojibwe who lived during this period – all of whom are historically important and interesting figures, and seven of whom have never before received full biographical treatment. Each portrait is based on research drawn from an extensive collection of writings and recorded speeches by southern Ontario Ojibwe themselves, along with secondary sources.

Established in 1983, the Floyd S. Chalmers Award is given annually to the best book written on any aspect of Ontario history in the preceding calendar year. The award selection committee was composed of Dr. Brian Osborne (Queen’s University), Dr. Sarah Carter (University of Alberta) and Dr. Jan Noel (University of Toronto). The prize includes a $1000.00 cash award as well as an Inuit carving, as dictated by Floyd S. Chalmers himself.

This is what the jury concluded about Smith’s Mississauga Portraits:

“The research is profound, for it includes written, oral and visual sources that span three centuries, also giving clear evidence of respectful relationship with First Nations representatives living and dead. The book skillfully integrates the story of diseases, addictions, treaties, settlement, missions, assimilation and schooling in its chapters. Generally Smith looks problems and betrayals (even those emanating from his subjects) in the eye, while never failing to share any positive light he can find. Even in the long chapter on the somewhat erratic George Copway, one learns a great deal about various options open to an entrepreneur (missionizing, dramatic arts, temperance lecturing, naturopathy, publication) in certain 19th century North American and European circles that romanticized aboriginal culture (and one enjoys too the more skeptical responses of Copway's wife, his Rice Lake band, and veteran missionary Peter Jones).”

The Champlain Society was entrusted by the Chalmers Foundation in 1982 to make this award annually. The Champlain Society, founded in Toronto in 1905, is dedicated to making the voices of the past survive through the written text. It publishes an edited volume of textual document each year and maintains a rich depository of digitized books. It continues to be based in Toronto, but reaches around the world with its website.