In schools, the emphasis still is to teach ‘grand’ history if it is taught at all. For example, globalization is the focus in my province in grade 10. Any historical studies are never separate, but in a larger narrative of the rise of globalization. Even removing this relegation of history, the way it has been traditionally taught is boring. Dates. Big names. Rise and fall of civilizations far away from the students physically. Many of my friends still tell me they hated history class in school, as very little was about the world around them. They are right: the answer is to make it local history because…

Local history is about your families and community

Local history is about the lives of ordinary people in ordinary places. In university, we called it Micro-history, because it was looking at the tiny details. Ask yourself: how did television affect local artist? How did the automobile transform society? What did people think of these new technologies? It’s great to know about the changes to the law for homosexuality in Canada, but how it actually affected gay men and women in your province or city, is so important to know. It indicates so many things: was it ignored by local police, did it mean greater equality? Knowing local history can answer these ‘big’ questions.

Local history is about civic engagement

One of the most popular books in the library I work in is the origin of names of towns and cities. Why? Because the origins or histories behind our community, and makes people feel much more connected to their homes. You learn more about your region’s past it can change the way you think about the present and the future. Calgary was originally called Moh-kíns-tsis, the Blackfoot word for “elbow.” What does this tell me? It reminds me that this land was and is Treaty 7 peoples’ traditional area, and that as a settler/Metis, I must continue to acknowledge this as I decolonize my thinking. I really wish someone had told this to me in Grade 10.

Local history is right here with you

Your community contains many sites with a rich history, and fascinating details. In my town, the oldest building is actually a Metis cabin, and that my grandmother knew the last owner Mr. Hunt very well. If he hadn’t tried to save that house, we’d never have had enjoyed it now. Learning about local history helped me understand in the big realm of historical change, individuals like myself contributed to the ongoing story of my community.

Mr. Hunt in 1968 in front of the cabin before it’s restoration in 2018. Glenbow Archives.

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