New Edition of Former Graduate Student's Book Released

31 July 2007 - Thunder Bay
The Department of History is pleased to announce a new edition of former student Jean Morrison's (MA 1974)  Superior Rendezvous-Place: Fort William in the Canadian Fur Trade has been published byNatural Heritage Books.Superior Rendezvous-Placeis a fascinating and important book, full of drama and colourful historical figures. Rare paintings, drawings, maps and archival photographs complement her impeccable research and lively text.
Peter C. Newman has described Morrison "as a natural story teller," and her book as "an essential historical document in the compelling history of Fort William, once the centre of the North American commercial universe." Carolyn Podruchny, a fur trade historian and Assistant Professor of History at York University, describes the book as " wonderful reading... [her] prose is beautiful."
Superior Rendezvous-Place encompasses the French predecessors of Fort William, Native Peoples of the time and the evolution of the fur trade, with an emphasis on the North West Company era. This most important work concludes with details of the reconstruction of the fort and the development of Fort William Historical Park, one of Ontario's "must see" attractions.
Jean Morrison, historian at the reconstructed fort in Thunder Bay for 15 years, has written widely on Fort William and the North West Company. Her credits include North West Company in Rebellion: Simon McGillivray's Fort William Notebook, 1815 (Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society, 1988, reprint 1997) and numerous articles and reviews on the fur trade and local labour history in The Canadian Encyclopedia, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, the Thunder Bay Historical Society's annual Papers and Records, The Beaver and Families (Ontario Genealogical Society). Since retirement in 1990, she has served on the Ontario Geographic Names Board and the Fort William Historical Park Advisory Committee.

In 2003, Morrison edited and contributed to Lake Superior to Rainy Lake: Three Centuries of Fur Trade History and, in 2004, she won the Chronicle-Journal Prize for her contributions to Thunder Bay's heritage. In 2005, she won the Thunder Bay Museum Society's M. Elizabeth Arthur Award for the best scholarly production on the history of Northwestern Ontario. She enjoys living in Thunder Bay where she is married to Ken Morrison. She is proud of her three daughters and four grandchildren.

For over the past forty years, many of the Department of History's former undergraduate and graduate students have written books on a wide variety of historical subjects. For more information, see

Honours Student Participating in International Academic Mobility Program

27 July 2007 - Thunder Bay
Steve Ross, an honours history student, will spend the fall semester studying in Mexico as part of the International Academic Mobility Project (IAM). IAM is a trilateral academic initiative between NAFTA members Canada, United States, and Mexico. 
Affiliated universities include Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and Universidad del la Americas, Puebla, both in Mexico; Purdue, and Louisiana State Universities in the USA; and Regina, and Lakehead in Canada. Lakehead has been an affiliate university since 2004. Steve will be undertaking his studies in Mexico.
The program enables students of the participating universities to stay at least a semester at any of the other participating universities, at no extra cost, while enrolled in courses at the host institution that will be recognized for transferred credits by their home institution. In addition, students are provided with allowances for travel and upkeep. A total of 42 students are expected to participate over the four-year duration of the project, 14 from each member country.
Project Director for Lakehead, Dr. Umed Panu, stresses the need for this initiative, stating that, "It is an opportunity for Lakehead students to experience other institutions and cultures and to learn from them at close range."  

Lakehead will benefit from this initiative by increasing the diversity of its student population and sharing the Canadian and Lakehead experience to American and Mexican exchange students. Another benefit is that Lakehead students who participate will have the opportunity to develop into internationally trained professionals, capable of confronting global problems with integrated and interdisciplinary perspectives such as language skills, knowledge of other cultures, and comprehension of the global markets.

For further details, interested students and faculty are encouraged to visit or contact Dr. Panu at (807)343-8678.

Lowly Barbed Wire Stars in Film

25 June 2007 - Thunder Bay

(Thunder Bay - June 25, 2007) Professor Ron Harpelle of the Department of History has secured a total of $50,000 from two funding agencies for the production of a documentary film on barbed wire. The film's working title is Strands: Barbed Wire and the Control of People and Spaces.
Dr. Harpelle obtained $5,000 in the form of a Northern Arts Grant from the Ontario Arts Council, and $45,000 in the form of a Production Grant from the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund (CIFVF).
"This is a fund set up by the federal government to support non-theatrical film and video projects. CIFVF is unique because it funds artists for the sake of art, not for television sales," says Dr. Harpelle. He was previously awarded CIFVF grants to produce Banana Split, an award-winning documentary film about Canada's favorite fruit, and Dorothea Mitchell: A Reel Pioneer, a documentary about the first woman in Canada to make independent films.
 "With Strands, I will once again make a film that presents an historical approach to something we take for granted. Barbed wire is so ubiquitous and is used to keep people and things both inside or outside. It can have positive or negative connotations. But none of us ever really thinks about the origin of barbed wire and how it evolved.  I hope to make a film like Banana Split that will have a good shelf life --- one that changes the way people see an everyday object." 
Graduate students will be involved in the research portion of the project.
Dr. Harpelle applied to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for a Research/Creation Grant for this project but was unsuccessful. "Faced with having to put the project aside or look for funding outside of academic funding sources, I chose to continue my quest for funding in order to realize my research objectives," says Dr. Harpelle. "In the Humanities we sometimes have to be creative if we are to get the funding we need for our research because there aren't too many places to go for support."
Filming for Strands: Barbed Wire and the Control of People and Spaces has already started and will continue in the fall or next spring, depending on locations.
Ron Harpelle teaches Latin American and Caribbean History at Lakehead University and he has a special interest in international development. His current research is on the social history of the West Indian diaspora to Central America between 1850 and 1950, and focuses on the struggles for recognition and acceptance of these people during the first half of the 20th century. Dr. Ron Harpelle and Dr. Bruce Muirhead of the University of Waterloo have recently been commissioned by the International Development Research Centre to write an intellectual history of the Centre, and they are also working with award-winning director Kelly Saxberg on a six-part documentary film series on Canada's role in international development.

Media Interviews - Media are invited to contact Ron Harpelle for an interview on June 25 or 26 at 807-345-0221 email:
If you have any questions regarding this media release, please call Eleanor Abaya, Director of Communications, 807-343-8372,
About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 7,700 students and 2,250 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit

Reprint of Classic Work Features Introduction by Prof. David Ratz

9 June 2007 - Thunder Bay
Prof. David Ratz has contributed a new introduction to the recent reprint of George F. Stanley's classic study In the Face of Danger: The History of the Lake Superior Regiment. Originally published in 1960, it remains one of the best unit histories ever written. This timely reprint was commissioned by the veterans of the the Lake Superior Regiment (Motor) who felt strongly that the achievements and sacrifices of those who had served in the regiment during the Second World War should be recorded.
Copies of the book can be purchased at local bookstore or directly from the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment.
Captain David Ratz is the Department of History's military historian. He had published widely on the subject of the military in both Canada and Northwestern Ontario.
George F. Stanley (1907-2002) was a historian, author, soldier, teacher, public servant, and involved in the design of the current Canadian flag. A prolific authour, his work includes over twelve well-respected historical monographs dealing with topics ranging from the Canadian West to New France.

Department Member Part of Vimy Ridge Event

1 April 2007 - Thunder Bay
Professor David Ratz, the Department of History's military historian, is heading to Vimy Ridge in April to take part in the full military funeral of a young First World War soldier his research helped identify. The following article about this trip appeared in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal on 30 March 2007. 
Research team going to Vimy
Paleo-DNA lab determined identity of dead soldier
By Sarah Elizabeth-Brown
Experts in military history, genealogy, DNA and bio-archeology are headed to France for a 22-year-old's funeral.
Dr. Carney Matheson and his team of researchers who helped identify the young man, dead some 90 years, are headed to Vimy Ridge to see what else they can learn about Pte. Herbert Peterson.
They will also take part in the full military funeral of the young First World War soldier they helped to identify.
He is also to be buried April 7 at La Chaudiere Military Cemetery with his name on a headstone, unlike so many soldiers buried simply as "a soldier of the Great War" or with no marker at all.
Matheson, an anthropology professor and chief of forensic research at Lakehead University's Paleo-DNA lab, and his team will also meet Peterson's living relatives.
Until his remains were identified after several years of painstaking research by historians, genealogists and scientists, Peterson's family had no idea what had happened to the young private, other than he was missing and presumed dead.
Researchers believe he died during a night raid on German trenches near Vimy Ridge on Jun 8, 1917, about two months after the famed battle at Vimy.
His remains were found accidentally in 2003 by construction workers, along with those of a second Canadian soldier.
Matheson, his research team and National Defence historians are close to identifying the second soldier. Matheson will be accompanied to France by David Ratz, a Lakehead University military historian who also serves as a captain with the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, bio-archeologist Tal Fisher of LU's archeology department, and Janet Roy, a Thunder Bay resident and co-ordinator of the extensive genealogical research that tracked down Peterson's living relatives so Matheson could make a DNA match with the young private.
The groups is rounded out by Andrew Nelson, a bio-archeology professor at the University of Western Ontario in London.
The 12-day trip will include further analysis of the artifacts and remains in Peterson's case, and a closer look at where his remains were found.
When workers found the soldiers' remains several years ago, Matheson collected DNA samples, and the bones and artifacts themselves remained in France.
The team will also be investigating three more cases of missing-in-action soldiers while they're in France, bringing to nine the total of unnamed soldiers Matheson's group is trying to identify.
Another of Matheson's projects includes creating a centre in Thunder Bay to connect DNA profiles of unidentified First World War soldiers with those of the living who know they have a soldier in the family tree who has never been located.

Masters' Student Award Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Fellowship

29 March 2007 - Thunder Bay
The Department of History is proud to announce that Masters' student Nicole Butzke has been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Master's Fellowship. Utilizing material from a wide-range from archives in Central America, her thesis, "Silent Workers: West Indian Women in Costa Rica, 1900-1950," focuses on West Indian women who immigrated to Central America in the early twentieth century and is a comprehensive history of the changing roles of women in an industrial plantation setting.

The general literature on the construction of the Panama Canal and the emergence of a complex of banana plantations stretching along the Caribbean coast of Central America focuses on men, not women. Nicole's work, in contrast, examines the roles that women assumed upon entering their new domain and how they changed as work available to men changed. Of particular interest is the changing place of West Indian women in Central American society after the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914 and during the rise and fall of the banana industry.

Men were more mobile than women and records indicate that thousands left looking for employment. Some simply moved along the coast taking jobs in the rapidly expanding banana industry, while others went north to the United States or back to the West Indies. The ravages of plant disease in the banana plantations of Central America in the 1920s and 1930s also caused mass migration. In both cases, women, children and the elderly often had no choice but to remain behind. The mass immigration of men was also accompanied by an increasingly hostile political structure.

According to Nicole's supervisor, Dr. Ronald Harpelle, who is a leading expert on the West Indian Diaspora in Central America, her work contributes to an untold chapter in the history of the West Indian Diaspora. "This work sheds new light on an aspect of Central American history that is fast becoming one of the most popular in the evolving historiography." Upon the completion of her thesis, Nicole plans to continue her studies at the Ph.D. level.

Professor David Ratz's work key to identifying Unknown Soldier

26 March 2007 - Thunder Bay
From:  The Argus 43:22
Lakehead University researchers uncover the truth
By Melissa Gaudette/ Argus
The identification of Pte. Herbert Peterson brought much attention to Lakehead University and the researchers leading the task. Thanks to the LU research team, Peterson was the first Unknown Soldier to be identified using a DNA identification process. The second soldier has not yet been identified, but Dr. Carney Matheson and the whole research team hopes for identification soon.

Along with Dr. Carney Matheson, there are many Lakehead faculty and students involved in the project. Each member of the team is very involved in the volunteered, time-consuming project. Matheson named the researchers involved who include: Captain David Ratz, who is responsible for the historical analysis; Tal Fisher, a technician in Anthropology; Dr. Vera Tiesler, Autonomous University of the Yucatan and Adjunct at LU Anthropology; Janet Roy, the Genealogical Co-ordinator; Renee Fratpietro and Steve Ftarpietro, both Paleo-DNA Technicians; Masters Biology students, Ryan Lamers, Brian Reguly and Shana Hayter; and finally Terri Jones, a Biology undergraduate.

 Much attention has been brought to the important biological aspects of the research, but Captain David Ratz, who is also a history teacher at Lakehead University explains that sometimes overlooked historical analysis helps to uncover crucial information. "By understanding the history of Vimy Ridge, it allows for accurate information. We can determine the scenario and circumstances to determine the death of the soldiers."

The historical analysis helps to prove or refute hypotheses with accurate facts. By examining the stains on the bones, researchers are able to determine what caused them. A blue stained thighbone suggests that copper or brass caused it. " A soldier would have had plenty of copper or brass on him, such as bullets, badges, belts, and canteens," Ratz explains. The knowledge of the soldier's uniform helps to eliminate potential causes of death while also helping to identify a soldier.


An important thing to keep in mind is that the remains of the soldiers do not come to Canada, but the researchers only receive the DNA and photos of the bones. Ratz explains, "Only the DNA comes to Canada. The bones stay where they are. Up until Afghanistan, it was normal Canadian practice to keep bodies where they were killed, with the exception of Germany where they were buried in Belgium, France, Holland."

The burial information is crucial and it is what helped to determine the identity of Peterson. Knowing the geographical location of the remains, the historical analysis can truly begin. By knowing where the remains were found, this places the soldier's location during the war. Ratz further explains, "Although it has been romanticized that Peterson died while trying to save another soldier's life, this probably isn't accurate. The bones were discovered about 100 feet behind German lines. Why were they there? It doesn't make sense that Peterson was trying to save the other soldier's life because the geographical area is unlikely."

Then what is the likely reason why Peterson's remains were there? Ratz explains that it is more likely that the Canadian soldiers' bodies were picked up by the Germans and buried along with German soldiers. Graves were hastily dug because the bodies needed to be removed as soon as possible. Graves were not specific to one individual soldier - a large quickly dug hole would function as a grave for many soldiers, regardless of what side they were fighting for - Canadians would have been buried along with Germans. The bodies needed to be removed from the trenches as soon as possible in order to prevent any spreading of disease that may occur in the trenches, and to keep the small space clear.

Ratz explains, "Contrary to myth, both sides would try to quickly bury the dead - regardless of what side they were on. They couldn't carry the dead, they were well, dead weight. It wasn't practical. It takes four men to carry one wounded soldier - one man for each corner of the stretcher, the soldiers couldn't have carried the dead soldiers."

A historical analysis evaluates the events that may have lead up to the soldier's death and why the remains were found where they were. Peterson and the unknown second soldier were found entirely accidentally. The construction and digging of a new pipeline uncovered the soldiers' remains. There are likely many other unknown soldiers. Once the remains are found, the researchers work together from all departments - history, anthropology, biology - to identify the soldier.

This research team is making headlines nationwide. The History Channel will be featuring a documentary on the group of researchers; the airdate will be around Remembrance Day, but interviews will begin in the first part of April.
And, as for the soldiers, once the research team identifies both of the remains, they will be reburied in a proper cemetery in France, near Vimy Ridge. The goal is to have the burial on April 9th, the anniversary of the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge. 

Department Member Wins Publication Award

7 January 2007 - Thunder Bay
Dr. Peter Raffo's book, 1934-2004 Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital From Institution to Community A Transformation of Psychiatric Hospital Services, is this year's winner of the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society's Gertrude H. Dyke Award for best popular full-length study.
Every two years, the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society gives out awards for the best recent publications that deal with aspects of Northwestern Ontario's history. These awards are intended to help publicize such works, to recognize the excellence of local writers, and to encourage new authors to write about our history. The awards are given out in four categories: for full-length scholarly and popular works and for scholarly and popular articles. The winners are chosen by independent panels of judges in each category.

Also nominated for this year's awards were articles by Dr. Helen Smith (whose work received honorable mention) and Michel S. Beaulieu (MA 2003) for the J.P. Bertrand Award for best academic article. In the popular history category, John Potestio (MA 1982) was nominated for the Gertrude H. Dyke Award for best popular full-length study, and former award winner Jean Morrison (MA 1974) was nominated for the George B. Macgillivray Award for best popular article.

New article by Master's student Beverly Soloway

3 January 2007 - Thunder Bay
Master's student Beverly Soloway's article "In the Shadow if a City: A History of Current River Neighbourhood" appears in this year's edition of the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society's well-respected journal, Papers and Records. As the title suggests, it is an examination of one of Port Arthur's original "street car suburbs," chronicling the neighbourhood's history from the first discover of silver in the region in 1865 to the present day.
Beverly Soloway is in her second year of the Master's program. She has a specific interest in Northern Ontario history and is currently engaged in researching the status of Northern Ontario women during the Depression. 
The full citation for the article is:
Beverly Soloway, "In the Shadow if a City: A History of Current River Neighbourhood," Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society Papers & Records XXXIV (2006): 51-64.
Copies of the 2006 edition of Papers & Records can be purchased from the Thunder Bay Museum located at 425 Donald Street East.