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Wilson Duff: Coming Back, A Life wins Lieutenant-Governor’s Award

24 Jun 2023 7:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Robin Fisher receives the Lieutenant Governor’s award for historical writing from former Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon (right) at the BCHF’s conference in Princeton on the traditional and unceded territory of the Upper Similkameen people. Chief Bonnie Jacobsen is at left.

The British Columbia Historical Federation has awarded the 2022 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing to Robin Fisher, author of Wilson Duff: Coming Back, A Life (Harbour Publishing). The 40th annual award was presented Saturday by the former Lieutenant Governor, Judith Guichon, at the BCHF’s conference in Princeton on the traditional and unceded territory of the Upper Similkameen people.

The book explores the life and legacy of the pioneering anthropologist and museologist, who was central to shaping a new understanding of First Nations’ cultures through his work at the Royal BC Museum and University of British Columbia. Wilson Duff’s personal story was also tragic; he suffered from depression and took his own life at age 51.

Historian and academic Robin Fisher (pictured), who lives in Nanaimo, was on hand to receive the award that includes a $2,500 prize, the largest for historical writing in BC, and a medal.

Second place, which comes with a $1,500 prize, went to Sean Carleton for Lessons in Legitimacy: Colonialism, Capitalism, and the Rise of State Schooling in British Columbia (UBC Press), an examination of how early state schooling in BC taught students the legitimacy of settler capitalism.

Third place, which comes with a $500 prize, went to David Rossiter and Patricia Burke Wood for Unstable Properties: Aboriginal Title and the Claim of British Columbia (UBC Press), a history of Crown attempts to solidify claims to Indigenous territory. Rossiter accepted in person.

The Community History Award, which comes with a $500 prize, went to John Adams for Chinese Victoria: A Long and Difficult Journey (Discover the Past), which explores the lives of the people who shaped Canada’s oldest Chinatown.

Honorable mentions were presented to Incredible Crossings: The History and Art of the Bridges, Tunnels and Inland Ferries That Connect British Columbia (Derek Hayes, Harbour Publishing); So You Girls Remember That: Memories of a Haida Elder (Gaadgas Nora Bellis with Jenny Nelson, Harbour Publishing), and A Social History of South Asians in British Columbia (Satwinder Kaur Bains and Balbir Gurm, South Asian Studies Institute).

The award recipients were chosen by a three-member panel of judges from among books published in 2022 and submitted for the competition.

The conference was the first in-person gathering of the BC Historical Federation since the pandemic began in 2019, and was hosted by the Princeton Museum & Archives. Presentations were wide-ranging: a Depression era coal miners’ strike told through story and song, the little known institution of the Chinese laundry; local settler and Indigenous history; a Trail newspaper; the exploits of Bill Miner in Princeton; how museums must adapt to changing technologies, and more.

All presentations will soon be available on the BCHF’s YouTube channel. The Federation was honoured to visit Princeton. It has been two years since an historic flood destroyed homes, roads, water and gas lines. One third of the community of 3,000 had to be evacuated. Mayor Spencer Coyne described how a 14-foot tidal wave washed through the town when dikes were breached. Recovery efforts continue, and Coyne is urging better emergency coordination between local, regional and provincial governments in the future. He added: “We are the face of climate change.”

The British Columbia Historical Federation encourages interest in the history of British Columbia through research, presentation, and support in its role as an umbrella organization for provincial historical societies. Established in 1922, the Federation currently provides a collective voice for over 100 member societies and 24,000 individuals in the provincial not-for-profit historical sector.

British Columbia Historical Federation
PO Box 448, Fort Langley, BC, Canada, V1M 2R7


The Secretariat of the BCHF is located on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish speaking Peoples. 

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