After spending two decades working in Canadian media, and seven years hosting adventure-seeking travelers on expedition cruises into the Canadian Arctic for Adventure Canada, David Newland is engaging in a different kind of exploration of Canada closer to home: completing both an M.A. in English (Public Texts) and his Ph.D. in Canadian Studies at Trent.
“I feel really lucky, as though I wandered into this really special moment, in a bunch of ways,” said David. “Returning to school at 53 after a long career in arts, media, and travel across Canada and around the world gives me a unique and valuable perspective on my research and the topics I am studying. I feel that my career to date led me to my M.A. and now Ph.D., both of which are deeply concerned with Canadian-Indigenous relations. My launch into Canadian and Indigenous Studies coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Canadian Studies at Trent puts a little bow on it.”
The recipient of a John Henry Wadland Canadian Studies Ontario Graduate Scholarship, David is supervised by Professor David Newhouse, director of the Chanie Wenjack School for Indigenous Studies. David’s research will delve into the important topic of settler place-making in Indigenous territory.
“My proposal is to look at the history of the settler street and feature names of Coburg, where I live, and the issues arising from that,” said David. “It's essentially an English Canadian settler town of pretty recent vintage and I'm interested in tracing the history of the names, how those names came to be there, who they're named for, what those people did, or what they were like.”
David’s research will explore how the power of naming land accrues to the people who colonize a particular area, the ideas that inform mapping and naming practices, and how those ideas affect relationships with the Michi Saagig Nishnaabeg, whose land and territory Cobourg sits on.
Given the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations on memorials, and the context of Trent’s 50th anniversary for Canadian Studies, David says this is an important moment to be looking at how historical structures, events, people continue to matter and hold meaning in modern society.