Archival Science

, Volume 6, Issue 3–4, pp 351–360 | Cite as

The concept of societal provenance and records of nineteenth-century Aboriginal–European relations in Western Canada: implications for archival theory and practice

Original Paper


Increasing interest amongst archivists in the history of records and archives leads to questions about how this historical knowledge may affect archival theory and practice. This article discusses its effect on the concept of provenance by suggesting that it indicates that records have what might be called a societal provenance. The article discusses some of the principal features of societal provenance and some implications for archival theory and practice of this concept. The article provides examples of the place of societal provenance in understanding Aboriginal-Euro-Canadian records by using the 1802–1803 birchbark journal of fur trader Jean Steinbruck, which has a provenance in fur trade society in northwestern Canada, and photographs from the late nineteeth century, which reflect a provenance in the new agrarian and urban society that ended fur trade society in the Canadian West.


Archival theory Provenance Aboriginal archives Jean Steinbruck North West Company Yellowknife journal Writing on birchbark 


  1. Angel M (2002) Preserving the sacred: historical perspectives on the Ojibwa Midewiwin. University of Manitoba Press, WinnipegGoogle Scholar
  2. Bastian JA (2002) Taking custody, giving access: a postcustodial role for a new century. Archivaria 53:76–93Google Scholar
  3. Bastian JA (2003) Owning memory: how a Caribbean community lost its archives and found its history. Conn. Libraries Unlimited, WestportGoogle Scholar
  4. Bastian JA (2003–2004) In a ‘House of Memory’: discovering the provenance of place. Archival Issues 28(1):9–19Google Scholar
  5. Bayly CA (1996) Empire and information: intelligence gathering and social communication in India, 1780–1870. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Binnema T (2001) How does a map mean? Old Swan’s map of 1801 and the blackfoot world. In: Binnema T, Ens GJ, Macleod RC (eds) From Rupert’s Land to Canada: essays in honour of John E. Foster. University of Alberta Press, EdmontonGoogle Scholar
  7. Bracken C (1997) The potlatch papers: a colonial case history. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown JSH (1980) Strangers in blood: fur trade company families in Indian country. University of British Columbia Press, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  9. Canizares-Esguerra J (2001) How to write the history of the new world: histories, epistemologies, and identities in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world. Stanford University Press, StanfordGoogle Scholar
  10. Darcy S (2004) The evolution of the department of Indian affairs’ central registry record-keeping systems, 1872–1984. Archivaria 58:161–171Google Scholar
  11. Dewdney S (1975) The sacred scrolls of the Southern Ojibway. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  12. Dickason O (2002) Canada’s first nations: a history of founding peoples from earliest times, 3rd edn. Oxford University Press, Don Mills, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  13. Duckworth H (ed) (1999) The yellowknife journal. Nuage Editions, WinnipegGoogle Scholar
  14. Friesen G (2000) Citizens and nation: an essay on history, communication, and Canada. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  15. Hall R, Dodds G, Triggs S (1993) The world of William Notman: the nineteenth century through a master lens. McClelland and Stewart, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  16. Hamilton C (1998) Terrific majesty: the powers of Shaka Zulu and the limits of historical invention. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  17. Houston S, Ball T, Houston M (2003) Eighteenth-century naturalists of Hudson Bay. McGill/Queen’s University Press, Montreal and KingstonGoogle Scholar
  18. Hubner B (2000) ‘An Administered People’: a contextual approach to the study of bureaucracy, records-keeping and records in the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs, 1755–1950. M.A. Thesis, Archival Studies, Department of History, University of ManitobaGoogle Scholar
  19. Hurley C (2005a) Parallel provenance (1): what if anything is archival description? Archives and Manuscripts 33(1):110–145Google Scholar
  20. Hurley C (2005b) Parallel provenance (2): when something is not related to everything else. Archives and Manuscripts 33(2):52–91Google Scholar
  21. Jacobs T, Falconer S (2003) Ka Mua; Ka Muri walking backwards into the future: paths towards managing maori information in archives. Comma 1:103–115Google Scholar
  22. Kern S (2004) A cultural history of causality: science, murder novels, and systems of thought. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  23. McMaster G (1992) Colonial alchemy: reading the board school experience. In: Lippard Lucy R (ed) Partial recall. The New Press, New York, pp 76–79Google Scholar
  24. Morantz A (2002) Where is here? Canada’s maps and the stories they tell. Penguin Canada, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  25. Nesmith T (Spring 1999) Still fuzzy, but more accurate: some thoughts on the ‘ghosts’ of archival theory. Archivaria 47:136–150Google Scholar
  26. Nesmith T (Fall 2005) Reopening archives: bringing new contextualities into archival theory and practice. Archivaria 60:259–274Google Scholar
  27. Podolsky Nordland L (2004) The concept of ‘secondary provenance’: re-interpreting Ac ko mok ki’s map as evolving text. Archivaria 58:147–159Google Scholar
  28. Rekrut A (Fall 2005) Material literacy: reading records as material culture. Archivaria 60:11–38Google Scholar
  29. Russell B (Summer 1984) The white man’s paper burden: aspects of records keeping in the department of Indian affairs, 1860–1914. Archivaria 19:50–72Google Scholar
  30. Toon E (2003) Finding stories of stolen lives: the work of the Victorian Koorie records taskforce. Comma 1:129–140Google Scholar
  31. Van Kirk S (1983) Many tender ties: women in fur-trade society in western Canada, 1670–1870. Watson and Dwyer Publishing Company, WinnipegGoogle Scholar
  32. Williams CJ (2003) Framing the west: race, gender, and the photographic frontier in the Pacific Northwest. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  33. Wurl J (2005) Ethnicity as provenance: in search of values and principles for documenting the immigrant experience. Archival Issues 29(1):65–76Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Master’s Program in Archival Studies HistoryUniversity of Manitoba, St.Paul’s CollegeWinnipegCanada

Personalised recommendations