Métis carioles and tuppies

On the left, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] is in his traditional First Nation regalia on a horse. In the centre, Iggi and a girl engage in a “kunik,” a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide, holds a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

This blog is part of our Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada series.

Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada is free of charge and can be downloaded from Apple Books (iBooks format) or from LAC’s website (EPUB format). An online version can be viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile web browser without requiring a plug-in.

by William Benoit

Originally, a “cariole” referred to a horse-drawn sleigh, especially the lightweight open sleigh used in French Canada. During the era of the fur trade, dogs pulled carioles, which were important vehicles in winter that enabled the transporting of high-profile persons as well as mail, supplies and furs. These toboggan-style sleds had sides of animal hide (or canvas), and birch boards for planking.

Coloured lithograph of two men walking and one man seated in a cariole pulled by three dogs.

Hudson’s Bay Company governor travelling by dog cariole with a First Nations guide and a Métis musher, Red River, 1825. (c001940k)

Initially, the sides of a cariole were made from wet animal hide that was left to freeze over a lightweight wood frame. The cariole would keep its shape for that first winter. With the spring thaw, the owner would remove the leather and use it for something else. This practice was then repeated the following winter. In later years, the sides of carioles were decorated with painted designs.

Colour reproduction of a dog cariole arriving at a home met by a group of men, women and children.

People travelling by dog cariole to meet others for Christmas, Manitoba, unknown date. (e002291374)

The custom of decorating sled dogs with ornamented harnesses and embroidered blankets or “tuppies” (Michif tapii, from French tapis, “rug”) originated with the Red River Métis during the first half of the 19th century. Their tuppies and the “standing irons” upright part of their dog harnesses were trimmed with large jingle bells, fringe, tassels, pompoms and feathers. One can only imagine the sense of celebration when seeing and hearing the arrival of Métis sled dogs.


William Benoit is the Advisor for Internal Indigenous Engagement in the Office of the Deputy Librarian and Archivist of Canada at Library and Archives Canada.

Have you heard of Léo Major, the liberator of Zwolle?

By Gilles Bertrand

French-Canadian soldier Léo Major was a hero of World War II and the Korean War. He is a multi‑decorated soldier who is recognized in the Netherlands for single-handedly liberating the city of Zwolle from the Germans on April 14, 1945. He is the only Canadian to have received the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) twice for his actions in two different wars.

Photograph of a man wearing a military jacket

Sgt Léo Major, DCM and bar, in Korea, 1952 (e011408966)

Born on January 23, 1921, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Léo Major grew up in Montréal. His family moved to Canada a year after his birth.

In the late 1930s, after working in various construction fields, he was employed as an apprentice plumber. He became unemployed in 1940 and decided to enlist in the Canadian Army. From 1940 to 1944, he underwent an intensive period of military training, the first year in New Brunswick and then the next three years in Europe.

His first battle took place on June 6, 1944, when he arrived in Normandy on Juno Beach with Le Régiment de la Chaudière. That same day, Léo captured a German Hanomag half-tracked armoured personnel vehicle.

Two days later, during a reconnaissance mission, Léo and four other soldiers came across a patrol of five elite German soldiers. They engaged and won the battle, but Léo lost the use of his left eye when a mortally wounded enemy soldier threw a phosphorus grenade at him. This earned Léo the nickname “one-eyed ghost.” Despite his injury, he refused to return to England and continued to act as a scout and sniper using only his right eye.

During the Battle of the Scheldt in the fall of 1944, Léo set out to search for a group of soldiers who had been delayed in returning from a patrol in the southern Netherlands. On his way, he took 93 German prisoners alone.

He suffered serious back injuries in February 1945 when the truck taking him back to camp exploded on a mine, killing all the other passengers on board. He again refused to be evacuated and, after a month’s rest, he returned to the battlefield.

On April 13, 1945, Léo and his friend Corporal Willie Arseneault volunteered for a reconnaissance mission. In the middle of the night, they made their way to the outskirts of Zwolle, a Dutch city of 50,000 inhabitants that was occupied by German troops. Corporal Arseneault was killed by enemy fire.

Determined to avenge his friend, Léo continued on, alone, with grenades and machine guns to attack the Nazi-occupied city. He spotted a bar with German officers inside and entered. He disarmed a French‑speaking, high-ranking officer and convinced him to leave the city with his men, claiming that Zwolle was surrounded by Canadian troops.

He raced through the city, firing everywhere to make it look like a Canadian offensive, and even set fire to the Gestapo headquarters. The Germans withdrew.

On the morning of April 14, 1945, thanks to Léo Major, the city of Zwolle was liberated from German troops and saved from the destructive artillery division attack that was to take place later that day. For this feat and for his bravery, Léo Major was awarded the DCM and received recognition from the people of Zwolle.

A typed page with the words War Diary or Intelligence Summary at the top and a table containing secret information.

Extract from a page of the April 1945 war diary of Le Régiment de la Chaudière. RG24 C 3, Volume number: 15181, File number: 743 (e011388179, article 6, image 7)

Returning to civilian life after the war, Léo worked as a plumber. Against all odds, despite his injuries and loss of vision in one eye, Léo volunteered for the Korean War in August 1950 and enlisted with the 2e Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment.

In November 1951, Canadian troops from the Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal 22e Régiment were sent to a new area occupied by the Americans at that time, on the front line along Hills 355 and 227. Hill 355 was an important strategic position because of its ideal vantage point over the area. Nicknamed “Little Gibraltar,” it was highly coveted by both sides in the battle and changed hands several times.

The Canadian troops faced a strong attack by the Chinese forces, who had retaken the hill. Léo Major was ordered to attack Hill 355 to relieve the pressure on the Canadian troops, who were almost surrounded by the Chinese 64th Army. With a group of 18 scouts, Léo set out in the middle of the night and managed to surprise the Chinese behind their own lines. He regained control of Hill 355 and its neighbour, Hill 227. He himself directed the mortar batteries by radio to the Chinese attackers who tried to retake the hill the next day. Despite being outnumbered, the Canadian soldiers withstood the onslaught of the Chinese troops and held their position for three days before being replaced by American troops. For taking and defending this strategic position, Léo Major was awarded the DCM a second time.

Photocopy of a book extract describing Léo Major’s actions and citations for his two DCMs.

Excerpt from George Brown’s book, For Distinguished Conduct in the Field: The Register of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1939–1992 (OCLC 32387704)

Léo Major was a man of action and great courage who did not shrink from obstacles. He had a strong head and sometimes challenged orders (for example, refusing to return to England after suffering serious injuries or to abandon his position on Hill 355) because he cared about the freedom of the people. He was only doing his duty, he would say, but in an exemplary way, we might add. This hero, who died on October 12, 2008, in Montréal, will never be forgotten.

Additional resources:


Gilles Bertrand is an archivist in the Reference Services Division of Library and Archives Canada.

Fergie Jenkins’s Long and Grinding Road to Cooperstown

By Kelly Anne Griffin

The 700-kilometre journey from Chatham, Ontario, to Cooperstown, New York, under favourable conditions, can be a simple eight-hour drive. But for one young Canadian, his trip became a battle, facing Major League Baseball (MLB)’s best hitters and society’s racial barriers. Fergie Jenkins eventually arrived at baseball’s unique Hall-of-Fame destination after a long and grinding road and a lifetime of accomplishments.

Ferguson Jenkins was born in Chatham, Ontario, in 1942, the only child of Ferguson Jenkins Sr. and Delores Jackson. Fergie Sr. had immigrated to Canada from Barbados. Delores descended from enslaved people in the United States and had come to Southwestern Ontario via the famed Underground Railroad.

Jenkins’s love of sports came naturally, as both his parents grew up competing in athletics. His father became his sporting role model. Fergie Sr. played for the Chatham Coloured All-Stars, a top-tier amateur baseball team, during the 1930s, and was also an amateur boxer. The young Fergie Jr. excelled in track and field, hockey and basketball. The scope of his athletic skills is clear: between 1967 and 1969, in the baseball off-season, Jenkins was part of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

It was not until his teens that Fergie started playing baseball, the sport for which he would be known. He began his career playing first base, but others saw promise in his strong right arm. Fergie worked on his pitching skills by throwing pieces of coal from a local coal yard. To practice his aim, he chose targets such as an open ice chute or between the gaps of passing freight-train cars. At the age of 15, Jenkins was discovered by Philadelphia Phillies scout Gene Dziadura. Together, they continued to focus on fine-tuning Jenkins’s arm while he completed high school.

A city with houses and buildings on either side of a river, with a bridge connecting the two sides.

Aerial view of Chatham, a multicultural community in Southwestern Ontario, 1919 (a030462)

From Chatham, Ontario, to the Big Leagues

Like many young Canadians, Jenkins originally dreamed of becoming a professional hockey player. Canadians were rare in MLB in the ’60s. However, by the time Jenkins finished high school and his work with Dziadura, it was clear he was destined for pro baseball and maybe even the major leagues. Fergie was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1962 and made his big-league debut in 1965 as a relief pitcher. He became a starter shortly before being traded to the Chicago Cubs in April 1966.

On April 15, 1947, when Fergie was only 4 years old, Jackie Robinson broke major league baseball’s unwritten colour barrier and paved the way for future greats such as Jenkins. By the 1960s, baseball had come a long way for Black players, but there was still a long way to go. Fergie was sent to train in the minor leagues, playing in the Deep South of the United States, where washrooms and even stadium seating were segregated. It was definitely culture shock for Jenkins coming from Canada, a country that Jackie Robinson’s wife, Rachel, had called “heaven” after her year in Montreal in 1946.

For most of his 19-year baseball career, Jenkins pitched for the Chicago Cubs. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Jenkins emerged as one of baseball’s premier starters. He won 20 games per season—the gold standard for pitchers of that era—six years straight (1967–72) and seven times in total. The right-hander had remarkable control of all his pitches and, most important for a starter, he was consistent. Opponents feared his pinpoint fastball, and his arm, like many from that era, seemed more resilient than those of modern-day pitchers. He recorded more than 300 innings per season on five different occasions.

A Black man in a white baseball uniform pitching a baseball, with a scoreboard behind him

Baseball. Ferguson Jenkins pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, in action against the Montreal Expos
Date : 19 Sept. 1970. Credit : Montreal Star / Library and Archives of Canada (Mikan 3195251)

In 1982, Jenkins returned to Chicago as a free agent after excelling for the Texas Rangers. That same year he also recorded his 3,000th strikeout. At the time, he was the only pitcher in baseball history to strike out more than 3,000 batters while issuing less than 1,000 walks. In the 40 years since, this feat has only been matched by Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.

Fergie remains the Cubs’ all-time strikeout king (2,038) and starts leader (347).

Awards and Honours

Jenkins’s remarkable career is marked by many outstanding MLB records. In 1971, Jenkins was the first Canadian pitcher to win the coveted Cy Young award, named after a Hall-of-Fame legend of the early 1900s. It is awarded annually to the best pitcher in each of the American and National Leagues, based on voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association. Jenkins led the league in wins twice (1971, 1974), and also led five times for the fewest walks per nine innings and nine times for the most complete games. He led the league in strikeouts in 1969 with an impressive 273. For six straight seasons between 1967 and 1972, he posted 20 or more wins. He is considered the anchor of the Black Aces, a group of African-American pitchers with at least 20 wins in a season. Jenkins’s total of 284 wins is still the most by a Black pitcher in major league history.

A Legacy to Remember

In 2009, the Chicago Cubs announced that Fergie’s number would be retired at Wrigley Field. In a ceremony on May 3, his number 31 was raised in left field, forever enshrining him as one of the greatest Chicago Cubs players in its storied 138-year history. In May 2022, the organization unveiled a statue of Jenkins outside his beloved Wrigley Field. At the ceremony, long-time radio voice Pat Hughes introduced him as “the greatest pitcher in the long and legendary history of the Chicago Cubs.”

On December 17, 1979, Jenkins was awarded the Order of Canada. In 1987, Jenkins was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario. Finally, in 1991, he earned the sport’s ultimate honour and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Jenkins was the first Canadian to grace the halls of Cooperstown, only joined by Larry Walker in 2020.

In December 2010, Canada Post announced Jenkins would be featured on his own postage stamp to commemorate Black History Month the following February. In 2011, Fergie travelled to 46 cities across Canada promoting the stamp and speaking to Canadians about Black History initiatives.

A stamp with a baseball player throwing a ball on the left and a man looking towards the camera on the right.

Commemorative stamp of Fergie Jenkins issued by Canada Post to honour Black History Month. (e011047401-v8)

Jenkins retired from the MLB in 1983, but he continues to be an active and visible presence in Canadian baseball. In 1999, he established the Fergie Jenkins Foundation in St. Catharines, Ontario. In 2011, the Foundation unveiled the Fergie Jenkins Baseball and Black History Museum. The Foundation continues to operate, raising millions of dollars for charities across North America. Fergie is a constant presence during the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s induction weekend. He warmly interacts with fans and young Canadian players that he helped inspire with his career accomplishments. Jenkins remains a stalwart figure in the promotion of baseball in Canada.

Other Resources


Kelly Anne Griffin is an Archival Assistant with Specialized Media and Description in the Government Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Hidden histories

On the left, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] is in his traditional First Nation regalia on a horse. In the centre, Iggi and a girl engage in a “kunik,” a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide, holds a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

This blog is part of our Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada series.

Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada is free of charge and can be downloaded from Apple Books (iBooks format) or from LAC’s website (EPUB format). An online version can be viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile web browser without requiring a plug-in.

By Ryan Courchene

The archival and published collections held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are amazing, and so extensive that you will never be able to see them all. You can find hidden gems every single day just by looking, either online on LAC’s website, or in one of the several buildings with archival holdings across Canada.

I work in the Winnipeg office, which alone holds over 30,000 linear feet (nearly 9,150 metres) of archival records. On a business trip to Ottawa in 2016, I had the opportunity to shadow the reference service employees at 395 Wellington Street. While there, I noticed three catalogue drawers near the desk and inquired about what they contained.

Colour photograph from a hallway, through a glass wall with two doors, of a reference room.

The reference room at LAC in Ottawa, seen from the hallway. The catalogue drawers containing research cards with copies of photographs can be seen on the left of the room. Photo Credit: Tom Thompson

Colour photograph of four metal shelving units with eight pull-out drawers containing cards with copies of photographs and associated reference information.

Reference room catalogue drawers, organized by subject headings and geographical locations, containing research cards with copies of photographs held in the collections at LAC in Ottawa. Photo Credit: Tom Thompson

I was told that they held small cards with images in the collection that were copied from microfilm and microfiche. Intrigued, I decided to look at some of the cards on my lunch break. I soon discovered the “Birth of the West” collection, which contains hundreds of incredible photographs of Western Canada, with many focusing on Indigenous images by Ernest Brown. I learned that the images contained in the drawers were only card copies of the originals; the images themselves are small and of poor quality. From a researcher’s perspective, this can be both frustrating and helpful when conducting on-site research. As with this image of the moose, many photographs indexed in the card catalogues have never been digitized. In these situations, the cards provide immediate access to images without having to order the original material in off-site storage.

The photographs in this noteworthy collection are not only visually stunning but also remarkable for the wealth of historical information on Canada and the First Nations peoples of the West. Even though there are hundreds of images in the collection, one image really caught my eye. It tells a fascinating story that evolves every time I examine it.

Colour photograph of a cream-coloured catalogue card. The left half contains typed information in black organized into different categories. A copy of a black-and-white photograph turned sideways on the right side depicts a moose with a harness hitched to a travois. The moose stands in front of a teepee.

Catalogue card of a copy of a photograph of a young moose with a harness hitched to a travois and standing in front of a teepee, unknown location, ca. 1870–1910. Photo Credit: Tom Thompson

This photograph depicts a small home, which could belong to a Métis or First Nation family, blankets hung to dry, some cleared tree brush, a pot of food by the fire pit, a beautiful teepee, and of course a domesticated young moose with a harness hitched to a travois. The one item that I did not notice immediately, which is probably the most important part of the image, is the hand holding the rope attached to the moose. My grandfather used to tell me about how he cleared his own land so he could farm and raise cattle. Is this what was happening here? Or was something else going on? Each time I look at the image, a new story emerges that raises more questions.

Detail from a black-and-white photograph showing a person’s hand holding onto a rope.

Detail of the photograph of a young moose with a harness hitched to a travois and standing in front of a teepee, unknown location, ca. 1870–1910. Photo Credit: Tom Thompson

After seeing this image of the young moose, I wanted a copy for myself. Since I was working backwards, I had to find the image in the collection to see if it was already digitized, and if not, verify any restrictions on getting a copy. To my disappointment, I found that it was not digitized, and I decided not to push the request any further.

It was not until 2019 that I learned the Ernest Brown collection was being digitized by the We Are Here: Sharing Stories (WAHSS) initiative. The moose photograph is one of 126 images in an album entitled “Birth of the West.” Dating from ca. 1870–1910, the album consists of photographs taken in the Northwest Territories (now Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Nunavut) and British Columbia. In addition to fully digitizing and describing this album, the WAHSS team has digitized over 450,000 images, including photographic records, textual documents and maps, with the goal of providing free online access to primary sources, no travel required!

In October 2019, I was finally able to order a copy. It fills me with great joy to know that I have the first print from the digitized copy of this amazing image, which hangs in my office today.

Photograph of a black-and-white photograph with a thick white border mounted on a dark grey page in an album. The image depicts a moose with a harness hitched to a travois standing in front of a teepee.

Young moose with a harness hitched to a travois, unknown location, ca. 1870–1910. This photograph is on page 28 of the “Birth of the West” album. (e011303100-028)


Ryan Courchene is an archivist in the Indigenous Initiatives division at Library and Archives Canada.

Exploring Indigenous peoples’ histories in a multilingual e-book—Part 2

On the left, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] is in his traditional First Nation regalia on a horse. In the centre, Iggi and a girl engage in a “kunik,” a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide, holds a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

By Beth Greenhorn in collaboration with Tom Thompson

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) launched Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada to coincide with the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30, 2021. The essays in this first edition of the interactive multilingual e-book featured a wide selection of archival and published material ranging from journals, maps, newspapers, artwork, photographs, sound and film recordings, and publications. Also included are biographies for each of the authors. Many recorded a personalized audio greeting for their biography page, some of which are spoken in their ancestral language. The essays are diverse and, in some cases, quite personal. Their stories challenge the dominant narrative. In addition to authors’ biographies, we included biographical statements by the translators in recognition of their expertise and contributions.

The Nations to Nations e-book was created as part of two Indigenous initiatives at LAC: We Are Here: Sharing Stories (WAHSS) and Listen, Hear Our Voices (LHOV). The essays were written by Heather Campbell (Inuk), Anna Heffernan (Nishnaabe), Karyne Holmes (Anishinaabekwe), Elizabeth Kawenaa Montour (Kanien’kehá:ka), William Benoit (Métis Nation) and Jennelle Doyle (Inuk) in LAC’s National Capital Region office. They were joined by Ryan Courchene (Métis-Anichinabe), from LAC’s regional office in Winnipeg, and Delia Chartrand (Métis Nation), Angela Code (Dene) and Samara mîkiwin Harp (nêhiyawak), archivists from the LHOV initiative.

This edition features the following First Nations languages and/or dialects: Anishinaabemowin, Anishinabemowin, Denesųłiné, Kanien’kéha, Mi’kmaq, nêhiyawêwin and Nishnaabemowin. Essays related to Inuit heritage are presented in Inuttut and Inuktitut. Additionally, the Inuit heritage content is presented in Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait (Roman orthography) and Inuktut Qaniujaaqpait (Inuktitut syllabics). The e-book presents audio recordings in Heritage Michif of select images in essays pertaining to the Métis Nation.

The development of this type of publication was complex. It presented technical and linguistic challenges that required creativity and flexibility. But the benefits of the Indigenous-led content outshine any of the complications. Given the space and time, the authors reclaimed records of relevance to their histories, offering fresh insights through their interpretations. The translators brought new meanings to the records, describing most, if not all, of them for the first time in First Nations languages, Inuktut and Michif.

Describing her experience while researching and writing her essay regarding manoominikewin (the wild rice harvest) of the Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg (Mississauga Ojibwe), archivist Anna Heffernan wrote: “I hope that people from Hiawatha, Curve Lake, and the other Michi Saagiig communities will be happy and proud to see their ancestors in these photos, and to see them represented as Michi Saagiig and not just ‘Indians’.”

A page from the e-book with three black-and-white images of people demonstrating different stages of wild rice harvesting.

Page from “Manoominikewin: The Wild Rice Harvest, a Nishnaabe Tradition” by Anna Heffernan, translated into Nishnaabemowin by Maanii Taylor. Left image: Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg man tramping manoomin, Pimadashkodeyong (Rice Lake), Ontario, 1921 (e011303090); upper-right image: Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg woman winnowing manoomin, Pimadashkodeyong (Rice Lake), Ontario, 1921 (e011303089); lower-right image: silent film clips featuring Ojibway men and women from an unidentified community harvesting manoomin, Manitoba, 1920–1929 (MIKAN 192664)

Reflecting on her experience, archivist Heather Campbell described the positive impact of the process:

“So often when we see something written about our communities, it is not written from the perspective of someone who is from that community. To be asked to write about Inuit culture for the e-book was an honour. I was able to choose the theme of my article and was trusted to do the appropriate research. As someone from Nunatsiavut, to be given the opportunity to write about my own region, knowing other Nunatsiavummiut would see themselves reflected back, was so important to me.”

A page from the e-book that shows pages from a picture book, text written in Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait and English.

Page from “Inuktut Publications” by Heather Campbell, translated into Inuktut Qaliujaaqpait by Eileen Kilabuk-Weber, showing selected pages from Angutiup ânguanga / Anguti’s Amulet, 2010, written by the Central Coast of Labrador Archaeology Partnership, illustrated by Cynthia Colosimo and translated by Sophie Tuglavina (OCLC 651119106)

William Benoit, Internal Indigenous Advisor at LAC, wrote a number of shorter essays about Métis Nation language and heritage. While each text can be read on its own, collectively they provide insights into various aspects of Métis culture. In his words: “Although the Métis Nation represents the largest single Indigenous group in Canada, we are misunderstood or misrepresented in the broader national narrative. I appreciate the opportunity to share a few stories about my heritage.”

A page from the e-book with text in English on the left side and a lithograph of a snowy landscape with a man seated in a cariole (sled) pulled by three dogs in colourful coats. A man wearing a blanket and snowshoes is on the left in front of the dogs. A man holding a whip and wearing clothing associated with Métis culture (a long blue jacket, red leggings and an embellished hat) walks on the right-hand side of the sled.

Page from “Métis Carioles and Tuppies” by William Benoit, with a Michif audio recording by Métis Elder Verna De Montigny. Image depicting Hudson’s Bay Company governor travelling by dog cariole with a First Nations guide and a Métis Nation musher, Red River, 1825 (c001940k)

The creation of the Nations to Nations e-book has been a meaningful undertaking and positive learning experience. Two and a half years in development, the e-book has truly been a group effort involving the expertise and collaboration of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation authors, Indigenous language translators, and Indigenous advisors.

I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many amazing and dedicated individuals. A special “thank you” goes to the members of the Indigenous Advisory Circle, who offered their knowledge and guidance throughout the development of this publication.

As part of ongoing work to support Indigenous initiatives at LAC, we will feature the essays from Nations to Nations as blog posts. We are excited to introduce Ryan Courchene’s essay “Hidden Histories” as the first feature in this series.

Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada is free of charge and can be downloaded from Apple Books (iBooks format) or from LAC’s website (EPUB format). An online version can be viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile web browser without requiring a plug-in.


Beth Greenhorn is a senior project manager in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Tom Thompson is a multimedia production specialist in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Exploring Indigenous peoples’ histories in a multilingual e-book—Part 1

On the left, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] is in his traditional First Nation regalia on a horse. In the centre, Iggi and a girl engage in a “kunik,” a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide, holds a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

By Beth Greenhorn in collaboration with Tom Thompson

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) recently published an interactive multilingual e-book called Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada. This e-book grew out of two Indigenous documentary heritage initiatives, We Are Here: Sharing Stories and Listen, Hear Our Voices, and it features essays written by First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation colleagues at LAC. The process for creating this publication was unlike any work LAC had previously carried out.

The project team began with just two people: me and Tom Thompson, a multimedia production specialist. I was tasked with coordinating an e-book that would focus on Indigenous records held at LAC. We determined that an e-book was an excellent fit to showcase newly digitized content. An e-book offered the best platform to incorporate interactive material, such as audiovisual records. It also provided the capability to feature Indigenous languages and dialects.

Work began after the United Nations declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. With this in mind, we consulted with our Indigenous colleagues. The discussions were heartening.

Initially, we intended to feature archival content and other historical materials held at LAC that were created by Indigenous peoples in their ancestral languages. After several months of unsuccessful research, we realized that with the exception of a small number of documents, there was little content written in First Nations languages or Inuktut, the Inuit language. As for Michif, the language of the Métis Nation, there is no known documentation in the collection at LAC.

Faced with this reality, the e-book team needed a new strategy on how to create a publication that supports Indigenous languages when the bulk of published and archival records was created by settler society. Following several brainstorming discussions, the answer became clear and was surprisingly simple. Instead of focusing on historical records written in Indigenous languages, the authors would choose collection items in any media that they found meaningful and then discuss them in their essays. The essays would be translated into the Indigenous language represented by the people portrayed in each section. Content that was translated into an Indigenous language would be presented as the primary text, with English and French versions being secondary.

The title, Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada, was chosen by the authors and emphasizes the distinction of the different nations and the diversity of voices. By positioning the authors’ voices at the front and centre, the stories provide a richer understanding of the world through awareness of the Indigenous knowledge and perspectives.

Recognizing that many Indigenous communities have limited Internet connectivity, dynamic content has been embedded in the e-book wherever possible. This includes high-resolution images, podcast episodes, audio clips and film footage. An Internet connection is still required to download the e-book and to access some content, such as database records, blog articles and external links.

A map of North America with symbols placed across Canada.

Pre-contact map of North America without any geopolitical borders, with icons linking to author biographies and essays. Image: Eric Mineault, LAC

Following a recommendation from the Indigenous Advisory Circle at LAC, we hired Indigenous language experts and knowledge keepers to translate the essays and related texts in the e-book. Of all of the tasks involved in the creation of this e-book, finding qualified translators was one of the most rewarding, yet challenging, activities. Many of the languages are at risk and, in some cases, are critically endangered. While language revitalization work has begun in many communities to create standardized lexicons and dictionaries, there were many words in English with no equivalent in the Indigenous language. Quite often, the translators needed to consult with Elders in their communities to confirm terminology and to find a word or phrase that would convey the same meaning.

One of LAC’s biggest paradigm shifts was in presenting the Indigenous language as the principal content, and in offering English and French as supporting texts. In an effort to emphasize this shift, the authors chose words to describe places, proper names and descriptions in their ancestral languages. These words are accompanied by translations in English or French in parentheses, the first time they are introduced to the reader, and only the Indigenous words are used for all further references.

Nations to Nations: Indigenous Voices at Library and Archives Canada is free of charge and can be downloaded from Apple Books (iBooks format) or from LAC’s website (EPUB format). An online version can be viewed on a desktop, tablet or mobile web browser without requiring a plug-in.


Beth Greenhorn is a senior project manager in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Tom Thompson is a multimedia production specialist in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Improving your online experience: What to expect at LAC’s new online home

Image of fingers on a keyboard

By Andrea Eidinger

Here at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), we take user feedback very seriously. Over the years, one point has come through loud and clear: our existing website is not meeting the needs of the public. This is why we are proud to announce that we will be launching a completely new website later this summer—library-archives.canada.ca. In this blog post, I will go over what LAC’s new web presence will involve and how these changes will impact your experience.

New website

So, what does this mean in practical terms? We spent a lot of time gathering feedback from members of the public, expert researchers and members of our staff to make our website user-centric. This involved creating several working groups as well as user-testing different possibilities for the new website. We also incorporated the latest research on how people actually use websites.

A major part of this work has been to ensure that all our users can easily find and understand the information on our website. Two very important components of the new website are consistent web navigation and plain language. All our new web content is organized in the same way so that users always know where to go, and the language has been simplified to make it clearer and easy to understand, no matter your skill level.

Finally, our website is dynamic. Our goal was to create a website that lives and breathes. Gone are the days of web pages being posted and then never touched again. Part of renewing our web presence is a commitment to continually update the website with new material and make improvements based on user feedback. We are also taking what is called an “iterative approach.” Essentially, we will start with a scaled-back version of the new website. This will be a launching pad for us. Our work will build on this initial version to develop the new website.

Screenshot of the Rare Book Collection webpage on the LAC website.

An example of the new template for subject guides for the new LAC website.

New structure

One of the biggest changes users will notice is the look and feel of the website. To make the information on the website more easily accessible to the public, we have developed a new structure for the website based on tasks, topics and themes that align with our users’ needs. In other words, we looked closely at how members of the public were using our existing website and what they were looking for (tasks). We then grouped those tasks into broad categories (topics). Finally, we grouped these topics into themes.

These themes are the basis for the website’s new structure and align with the Government of Canada’s design system. This system provides a more practical, consistent and reliable online experience for people who access Government of Canada digital services.

The first theme, Corporate, contains all of the institutional information relating to LAC. This includes information about our mandates, policies, initiatives and partners. This is where you will also find information about transparency at LAC and be able to read reports and plans about our activities.

The second theme, Services, is self-explanatory. It is where users can access our services or complete a task related to one of our programs. Under this theme, users will find information on how to visit us, how to order material, how to apply for ISBN numbers, how to make an ATIP request, and more. Also under this theme is information about the various services that we offer for gallery, library, archives and museum (GLAM) professionals, publishers, public servants, and Indigenous communities and individuals. This section will also contain information about our different funding programs.

Finally, there is the Collection theme. Our goal in rethinking how we present the Collection theme was to build user autonomy and discovery. This section will be home to all kinds of materials that will help Canadians access the documentary heritage under LAC’s care. In this section, you will find our databases, guides on researching various topics, publications, and podcast episodes, as well as a basic introduction to research. This section also includes many of LAC’s more interactive features, such as Co-Lab, our transcription program.

New navigation

One of the biggest challenge that users faced on our website was finding the information they were looking for. This was a problem particularly for material included under the Collection theme. Often, users would travel down rabbit holes and never be able to find their way back again. We have corrected this problem with a completely new navigational system based on tables. The new navigational table will include all pages listed by topic, sub-topic and type. For example, a web page on the First World War personnel files we have available would be appear as follows:

First World War Personnel Files – Military History – First World War (1914-1919) – subject guide

Even more important: this table will be filterable and searchable. This means users can easily see all of the resources that we have on a particular topic and find their way back without difficulty.

New content

The last exciting change to tell you about is the new content on our website. The existing site is enormous: it consists of 7,000 pages. Much of the information it contains is no longer up to current web and historical standards. We also know that many of the pages are hard to read, especially for beginners, and sometimes confusing. In preparation for our new website, we have systematically reviewed every single one of those 7,000 pages. Anything outdated or no longer up to current standards was archived (and will be available to the public), and the rest of the pages were reworked. All of the information on LAC’s new website is presented in plain language and is therefore clear and easy to understand. We hope this approach will attract an entire new wave of users interested in learning about Canada’s documentary heritage.

Since there is so much content, we focused on preparing material for the three most popular and most consulted topics for the launch: genealogy and family history, Indigenous history, and military history. Please note that, in the weeks and months ahead, we will add more material to these and other topics. We will be updating our material regularly in response to user feedback and to reflect the latest available information.

We’re so excited to show you all of the new material we’ve been working on! So, while this does mean that your URLs will change, we’re hoping that these changes will make your online experience at LAC a more positive one. Since this work is only beginning, the best is yet to come!

We look forward to your feedback. Please send us your comments and thoughts when we go live.


Andrea Eidinger is a team lead in the Online Experience Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Terry Fox– A Legacy of Hope

By Kelly Anne Griffin

Terrance Stanley Fox was born on July 28, 1958, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The family would eventually settle in Port Coquitlam, B.C., in 1968. As he was growing up, his family and friends described him as competitive and driven, someone who displayed a passion for sports and who excelled at both long-distance running and basketball. Little did they know he would go on to become a Canadian hero who would leave the world a better place than he found it.

In 1977, at the age of 18, Terry Fox was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in his right leg. Tragically, this would result in amputation just above the knee. He went on to endure sixteen months of chemotherapy. During those grueling months, he was deeply affected by all the suffering and hardship he experienced and also witnessed in the others around him in the hospital receiving treatment for his horrible disease. At the time, cancer research was still in its infancy, and he knew there was much to be done for those affected by cancer. This led him to come up with the idea to run from coast to coast in what he coined the Marathon of Hope. His goal was to help inform Canadians of the battle cancer patients faced and to raise money for a cure.

A drawn image of a man with a prosthetic leg, running. The words Marathon of Hope, Terry Fox, Marathon de l’espoir and the number 30 are written.

The stamp issued by Canada Post in 1982 to commemorate Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. (s003769k) Copyright: Canada Post Corporation

On April 12, 1980, Terry Fox dipped his prosthetic leg in the Atlantic Ocean and officially began the Marathon of Hope. The idea came to him after reading about Dick Traum, an amputee who had run the New York City Marathon. This gave Fox, a dedicated athlete, the idea to run across Canada to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

What happened over the course of the next 143 days was truly inspirational. At the onset, there was little media attention, but that had changed by the time he reached Ontario. By then, the Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division, had caught wind, as had the media and some prominent journalists. Events were held across the province, and saw Fox meeting with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and a host of celebrities. With fierce determination, and averaging 42 kilometres a day, he united and captivated Canadians in a way that had not been seen before and has not been seen since. On September 1, 1980, with the cancer having spread to his lungs, he was forced to end his cross-country journey after completing a remarkable 5,373 kilometres, from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Despite not being able to keep running, on February 1, 1981, Terry Fox realized his goal of raising $1 for every Canadian. On June 28, 1981, after a long and courageous battle, Terry Fox passed away. His legacy is enshrined in the hearts and minds of Canadians. The Marathon of Hope so touched Canadians that many wrote to the federal government speaking of how connected they felt to Fox and asking that the government find ways to keep his memory alive.

His legacy lives on with Canadians today. Since 1980, the annual Terry Fox Run, organized by the Terry Fox Foundation, has raised more than $850 million dollars. It has made an incalculable difference in cancer research in Canada and has given hope to millions affected by the disease. Over the years, Terry Fox’s impact has reached well beyond Canada. It has grown to include millions of participants in more than 60 countries. It is the world’s largest one-day fundraising event for cancer research.

A rectangle frame in which can be seen a photograph of a man placing a ribboned medal on another man, whose head is tilted downwards. In the upper right-hand corner, there is a postal stamp featuring a drawing of a man running and a postmark that reads “Day of issue, Jour d’émission, Ottawa Canada, 82-04-13.”

A postal cover of Terry Fox receiving the Companion of the Order of Canada medal, issued by Canada Post in April 1982. (e001218739) Copyright: Canada Post Corporation

A promotional poster with a black background featuring a red-and-white piggy bank out of which a daffodil grows. The following wording appears on the poster: “April is Cancer Month”; “give generously”; and “Canadian Cancer Society.”

A poster issued by the Canadian Cancer Society to promote Cancer Month (April). Terry Fox’s impact on cancer research and the annual Terry Fox run have deeply touched the lives of Canadians affected by cancer. (e010779335-v8) Copyright: Canadian Cancer Society

Fox is remembered as a Canadian hero for his efforts. For his dedication to the cause and his bringing together of Canadians, he was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1980, the youngest person ever to receive this honour. Also in 1980, he received the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete. In both 1980 and 1981, the Canadian Press named him Canadian Newsmaker of the Year. His legacy is honoured all across Canada by way of monuments, statues and sculptures, as well as buildings, roads and parks named in his honour.

Additional resources:


Kelly Anne Griffin is an Archival Assistant with Specialized Media and Description in the Government Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

My great-grandfather’s Vimy Memorial visit: fact or fiction?

By Rebecca Murray

As a reference archivist, I absolutely love receiving questions from researchers that tap into their family histories. One such story—very close to home—arrived in my inbox on the morning of April 9, 2020, when my father sent his annual reminder to our extended family of his grandfather’s attendance at the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial in 1936. My father and I had visited this memorial near Arras, France, on a foggy day in November 2010.

A white stone structure with carved human figures against a foggy sky.

A view of the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France, 2010. Photo: Rebecca Murray

As family members chimed in with expressions of interest, I was intrigued—why, out of all of the senior military officials in Canada, did my great-grandfather attend the unveiling? Might I find more information about his visit to the Vimy Memorial in archival records held at Library and Archives Canada?

Before I discuss my search, I should provide some context. My great-grandfather, Thomas Caleb Phillips, was a Captain Engineer in the Royal Canadian Navy during the interwar period. A family anecdote told me that he was at the unveiling of the memorial alongside the “band from Skeena,” one of the ships that he had helped to design.

A screenshot of Collection Search on the Library and Archives Canada website, using the search term “vimy memorial.”

The author’s keyword search in Collection Search

I began with some keyword searches in Collection Search, relying on various combinations including, but not limited to, Vimy unveiling, Vimy memorial, Vimy monument, Vimy Skeena, Vimy Phillips. I did not expect to find any records that included Phillips in the title, but for the sake of a diligent search, I decided to include his name. I was focused on archival records, so I filtered my results by the Archives tab and then by date (1930s) and type of document (textual). When presented with long lists of results, I further filtered by year (1936), since this was the year of the unveiling and the period that I thought most likely to include records relevant to my research.

I then compiled a list of potentially relevant files, most of them from the Department of External Affairs fonds (RG25), with a smattering from other government records and private fonds. Here are three examples:

  • RG25 volume 400 file Ex7/65 part 8 “Vimy Memorial Unveiling Ceremony,” 1936
  • RG25 volume 1778 file 1936-184 parts 1–3 “UNVEILING OF VIMY MEMORIAL,” 1934–38
  • RG24 volume 11907 file AE 30-2-2 [Superintendent, Esquimalt] – HMCS SKEENA – Movements 1932–37

These three files listed above were among 19 textual files that I identified for consultation. My research strategy is usually to identify somewhere between 5 and 10 files for preliminary review, but due to limited time for on-site work with records this past winter, I decided to “go big” before “going home.”

I reviewed all of the files, keeping my eyes open for the name Thomas Caleb Phillips (or T.C. Phillips) and any references to a “band from Skeena.”

And I found nothing!

No reference to Phillips’s attendance.

And no indication that the HMCS SKEENA or an associated musical ensemble was even at the event.

This was, of course, very disappointing. And yet, something similar probably happens every day as researchers wade through pages of textual documents, sift through contact sheets of images, and scour lists, reports and other records to confirm family anecdotes like the one that my father had shared with me.

I am not saying this to be discouraging, nor am I saying that these anecdotes are untrue. But what can be done when information, or lack thereof, contradicts family lore?

I have been working in Reference Services for eight years now; I believe that in that time, I have fine-tuned my research skills, learned how to think outside the box, and can read between the lines when doing archival research. Yet I too have come up against this obstacle.

Archival research, especially with government records, requires a patient, diligent approach. It also takes willingness on the part of researchers to continually learn from their findings and incorporate those learnings back into their research. For example, I chose to focus on textual records because I was not sure whether I would be able to identify T.C. Phillips in a photograph, especially in negative format. I also chose to start with a set of facts that I myself had not double-checked, nor had I conducted secondary research before starting my primary research.

I made presumptions about the period and the type of record to focus on, and my great-grandfather’s relative importance, which led me to a narrow scope for my research. Would I need to backtrack? Expand the scope of my research? Query different fonds? Might I be better served by an item in the published holdings? Or what about a document unrelated to the unveiling of the memorial but relevant to Phillips’s transatlantic crossing? There are a lot of different avenues of research that I could choose to follow, so the next step is to decide on my approach: forward or backward? Published or archival? It is
not easy, it is not simple, and frankly if it were, would it be as much fun?

An expanse of green grass showing a white stone memorial in the distance, a grey stone sign with the engraved word VIMY and maple leaf symbols. The Canadian and French flags are on the right, against a foggy sky.

A view of the Vimy Memorial near Arras, France, 2010. Photo: Rebecca Murray

For me, this search was never about proving my great-grandfather’s attendance—I do not doubt the general accuracy of the family anecdote—but it would have been nice to find a document that told just a bit more. A document that helped make a small but valuable connection across close to 100 years of Canadian history. Something concrete to share when my father tells the story again next year. So I will keep searching!

For more information about the Canadian National Vimy Memorial:


Rebecca Murray is a Senior Reference Archivist in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.