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Professor Shelagh Grant's Arctic Justice wins Clio Award

For her book Arctic Justice: On Trial for Murder, Pond Inlet 1923, adjunct professor Shelagh Grant has won the Canadian Historical Association's Clio Award for Northern History, which recognizes exceptional contributions to regional history.

Describing Arctic Justice as a "masterful, compelling and insightful work," the award citation states "where the book clearly stands apart from most other works of northern history is the author's extensive efforts to collect and use Inuit oral testimony in the reconstruction and explanation of the events and the cultural circumstances surrounding the killing and the subsequent trial. This is, in sum, a superb work of ethnohistory that capitalizes on the strengths of archival and oral documentation."

CBC Radio's Ideas will January 14 at 9:05 p.m. air a special hour-long program titled Death in the Arctic, based on Prof. Grant's Arctic Justice. Following the book's publication, Prof. Grant also had the opportunity to speak to a variety of audiences, ranging from academic groups in the south to Inuit at the North Baffin Teachers' Conference in Resolute Bay.

In her view, however, the most rewarding experience was the enthusiastic reception she received in December 2002 at Pond Inlet, when she returned to present the participating Inuit elders with copies of the book. The community's response was "a humbling experience," she says, "recognizing that this was their history and they had trusted me to record it accurately for the world to know and understand."

At the outset, it was Prof. Grant's intention to use the Inuit execution of an abusive white fur trader and the subsequent murder trial in the High Arctic as a framework upon which to examine how the introduction of law and order affected the Inuit of North Baffin. The result was Arctic Justice, a social history of contact relationships, set in the context of legal, political, and cultural themes of the times.

Prof. Grant began her academic career at the University of Western Ontario and Hospital for Sick Children, where she studied to become a nurse. After marriage, three children, and a move to Peterborough, she decided to revisit a longtime interest in Canadian history by enrolling at Trent University. Initially inspired by Prof. John Wadland's Canadian Studies 200 course and Prof. Bruce Hodgins' northern history course, she went on to complete a joint major in history and Canadian Studies, followed by a master's degree in history.

Prof. Grant continued her research in London, England and Washington, leading to the publication in 1988 of her first book, Sovereignty and Security: Government Policy in the Canadian North, 1939-1950, (UBC Press, 1988).

Meanwhile, from 1982 through to 1999, Prof. Grant taught at Trent University through a series of sessional appointments, eventually becoming an adjunct faculty member in both History and Canadian Studies departments. Throughout this period, she presented many scholarly papers at conferences in Canada and abroad (including Scotland, Russia, and Iceland) and was widely published in academic journals. In 1997, she received the Northern Science Award sponsored by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

Prof. Grant is now semi-retired, but continues to guest lecture and supervise graduate students at Trent. She hopes to complete two more books from a backlog of research. Currently, Prof. Grant is working with the Nunavut Teachers' Learning Centre in North Baffin on the Inuktitut translation of a more general history of Pond Inlet she had written at the request of the Inuit elders.

Posted January 14, 2004

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