An photographer captures rural Canada; Louis Riel; jobs for scholars

A weekly newsletter from one of our fellow Canadian organizations in the Bay Area.

Canadian Studies Announcements
In this issue:
  • Upcoming event: Hildebrand Graduate Research Showcase
  • New exhibition reveals lost artistic vision of rural Canada in the 1930s
  • Manitoba celebrates Métis leader on Louis Riel Day
  • Two Canadian universities seek Canadianist faculty
Hildebrand Graduate Research Showcase
Tuesday, March 15 | 12:30 pm PT | 223 Moses Hall | RSVP here
Learn about the research Canadian Studies funds through our Edward Hildebrand Graduate Research Fellowships, as recipients present short overviews of their projects. This panel will have a special focus on the environment, development, and Indigenous resource sovereignty. This event will be held in-person as well as broadcast via Zoom.
Mindy Price, Ph.D. candidate, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
“New Agricultural Frontiers: Land, Labor and Sovereignty in the Northwest Territories, Canada”
Now more than 1º Celsius warmer than a century ago and warming at three times the global average, the Arctic and Subarctic are being reimagined as a new frontier for food production. Despite a growing body of evidence that climate change will enable new possibilities for agriculture in the North, much research remains agnostic about how northern agricultural development will affect communities and landscapes and the relations between them. Mindy uses archival research and ethnography in three extended case studies to examine the implications of agriculture development on the social relations of production and consumption in the Northwest Territories, Canada.
Aaron Gregory, Ph.D. student, City and Regional Planning
“Kinship Infrastructures: Indigenous Energy Autonomy and Regulatory Sea Change in Beecher Bay”
Aaron’s research explores the social, technical, and regulatory impacts of a renewable energy system developed by the Scia’new First Nation in Beecher Bay, British Columbia. He examines this project as an emergent approach to Indigenous environmental governance, an infrastructural solution responding to the problem of Indigenous energy sovereignty, and a regulatory provocation designed to challenge a provincial monopoly on energy production and distribution.
New Exhibition Reveals Lost Artistic Vision of Rural Canada in the 1930s
An exhibition of stunning black and white photographs at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg, Canada uncovers a fresh vision of western Canada in the Great Depression, seen through the lens of a young Jewish Canadian artist. The Lost Expressionist: Nick Yudell, A Photographer Discovered, reveals the images of Nick Yudell (1916-1943), a previously unknown amateur photographer who lived in the town of Morden and in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This “lost world” was brought to light thanks to the persistence of one woman – Celia Rabinovitch, Ph.D., M.F.A. – with a little help and encouragement from the Canadian Studies Program.
For Celia Rabinovitch, artist, author and scholar, and longtime Canadian Studies affiliate, this exhibition is also personal. A painter and art historian, she was in art school when her father showed her the wooden box that Nick crafted for his life’s work before leaving for World War II in 1940. “When I first saw the negatives, I knew they were important, but I didn’t know how to work with them. The technology wasn’t there yet,” she says. When she began scanning and restoring the negatives in 2007, they fell into themes offering a visual story of Nick Yudell’s life and the communities he touched. It took nearly fifteen years for this labor of love to come to fruition.
Nick Yudell was born in Winnipeg in 1916, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants to Canada. Following his mother’s death, his father, who was supporting two other school-age children, brought him to live with his maternal aunt and his uncle David Rabinovitch in Morden. The youngest of nine children, Nick was particularly close to his cousin Milton Rabinovitch – Celia’s father. He received his first camera at the age of twelve. An avid photographer, he captured individuals in daily life in Morden and Winnipeg, where he lived with his father during high school in Winnipeg’s North End, returning to work in Morden in 1933. In 1940, he enlisted in the military to fight fascism in Europe – training for the RAF as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Nick Yudell became an RAF pilot stationed in North Africa and perished when his Vickers Wellington II on a mission to strike Nazi supply lines was shot down over Tunisia in 1943. He became a Canadian War hero; Yudell Lake in northern Manitoba is named for him.
Canadian Studies supported this project from the beginning, when Rabinovitch presented her work to the program in Berkeley. It sparked the imagination of former Canadian Studies director Nelson Graburn, who understood it as a complete visual archive of a relatively unknown time and place in Canada. “If it were not for Nelson’s encouragement, this exhibition (with accompanying book) probably wouldn’t have happened,” Rabinovitch says. She received a John A. Sproul Research Fellowship in 2012 to support her work. Now, ten years later, the photographs form an impressive exhibition that reveals Yudell’s original vision.
Yudell identified each image with the individual name, date, place, and lighting conditions, writing on brown envelopes that he inserted in his archive. He left his magazines and other photographic materials with Milton in Morden. Celia Rabinovitch visited there and conducted oral histories with those who remembered him to build a picture of the artist through these collected sources. “We can tie his use of chiaroscuro (dramatic, heavy contrast) to the film noir movies that he must have seen in the cinema. Several people that I interviewed remembered him, or recalled individuals depicted in his photographs. These observations rounded out his life.”
“This offers a prism of one man’s life, showing how rich and complex one person is,” says Rabinovitch. “Although he was a Canadian war hero, the show expresses the value of life through Nick’s portraits and images of daily life. Film was expensive; every shot counted. Nick expressed the personalities of the individuals around him. His themes cover dramatic lighting, photographic experimentation, and predict the course of his life.”
Rabinovitch hopes the exhibition also challenges notions about people from small towns and the west. She points to the diversity of Morden, which had a population largely consisting of immigrants. “They weren’t isolated from the world as some would assume. People there were curious and intellectually sophisticated. Growth and development – originating in agriculture- and the support of community were central to the daily life of the town. They were attentive to the patterns of life, and to support others – especially during the Dirty Thirties.”
The Lost Expressionist: Nick Yudell, a Photographer Discovered is on view at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg through August 1, 2022, and travels to the Pembina Hills Art Center, Morden, 2023. The exhibition is seeking seeking donations to cover material costs and prepare for a North American tour. For more information, see the exhibition website or contact
The photographs included in this article were taken from the exhibition and provided courtesy of Celia Rabinovitch.
Manitoba Celebrates Métis Leader With Louis Riel Day
Today, people across North America are enjoying a day off – Presidents’ Day in the United States, and what’s usually called “Family Day” in Canada. But in Manitoba, the third Monday in February officially celebrates the Métis leader and provincial founder Louis Riel. A complex figure with a contested legacy, he has been called “the most written-about figure in Canadian history”. Riel led two uprisings against Canada’s federal government in defense of the rights of Francophones and Indigenous people in the early years of Confederation.
Riel was born in the Red River Colony in modern Manitoba, in a settlement composed largely of French-speaking Métis people. In the 1860s the colony was purchased by the Canadian government, and many English-speaking, Protestant settlers began moving to the territory. Riel was concerned that these settlers would soon come to dominate the area, especially when it seemed the government planned to redistribute lands in the colony already held by the Métis. Riel thus launched an uprising in 1867 that seized control of the territory, and organized an unrecognized provisional government. Subsequent negotiations led to the creation of the Province of Manitoba in the territory, and negotiated its entry into Canada under terms favorable for the Métis.
Riel was shortly thereafter elected to parliament as one of Manitoba’s first MP’s. However, he was unable to secure amnesty for his leadership in the rebellion, particularly the illegal execution of a pro-Canadian agent, and he fled to the United States without ever taking his seat. He lived in exile for the next ten years, eventually settling in Montana. During this time he experienced a prolonged mental deterioration, and allegedly came to believe himself to be a divinely-ordained leader and prophet.
Riel was eventually convinced to return to Canada to lead the 1885 North-West Rebellion in Saskatchewan. He was, however, captured by government troops, and controversially sentenced to death for treason. The sentence was hotly contested at the time, especially given Riel’s apparent mental state. While the government portrayed Riel as a dangerous, unstable rebel, many Métis and Francophone citizens viewed Riel as a martyr for their cause. His execution contributed to a widening divide between French and English-speakers in Canada; the defeat of Riel’s resistance movement led to domination of the prairies by English-speaking settlers, as he had feared. Many believed this was the driving force behind his execution.
While traditional histories depicted Riel as an anti-Canadian rebel, his legacy has been re-evaluated numerous times. Calls for a posthumous pardon have been raised on many occasions, as well as for recognition as one of the Fathers of Confederation. He is widely recognized as a folk hero in many parts of Canada, and admired as an avatar of popular resistance against an oppressive government. Ironically, while Riel viewed Canadian rule with skepticism, he has today become a “Canadian” national hero, thanks to his dedication to the contemporary Canadian values of social justice, diversity, and minority rights.
Two Canadian Universities Seeking Canadianist Faculty
Two Canadian universities are currently searching for scholars specializing in Canadian Studies to fill open faculty positions:
The Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies invites applications for the 2022-2023 Robarts Visiting Professorship at York University (Toronto, Ontario). The Professorship is open to full-time (tenured or tenure-track) faculty members who work on issues concerning Canada and who are based outside the country, are planning to go on sabbatical or other leave during 2022-2023 and have demonstrated scholarly expertise on Canada and a commitment to Canadian studies.
The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada at McGill University is seeking applications for a two-year Faculty-Lecturer Position with the possibility of reappointment for an additional two years. The position is designed to emphasize public affairs as a key feature of the Institute’s undergraduate programs. The successful candidate will be housed at the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, which promotes interdisciplinary inquiry, and will have the opportunity to engage with scholars from multiple disciplines. The successful candidate will teach six lecture/seminar courses in Canadian Studies a year, including the introductory course, CANS 200: Understanding Canada, and the capstone seminar, CANS 420: Shaping Public Affairs in Canada.
Image: McGill University Arts Building. Paul Lowry, Wikimedia Commons
Canadian Studies Program
213 Moses Hall #2308
Canadian Studies Program | Univ. of California, Berkeley, 213 Moses Hall #2308, Berkeley, CA 94720

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