Saturday, May 05, 2007

Public Lecture: Same-Sex Intersections of Saskatchewan’s Settlement Era: the Roots of Prejudice.

Recent research into the history of male homosexuality during Saskatchewan’s settlement period (1880- 1930) will be the subject of a public presentation by historian Lyle Dick at the Avenue Community Centre, 7pm on May 29th held in conjunction with Congress 2007. The Congress, the annual series of meeting convened by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, will bring over 5,000 academics (yikes!) to the University of Saskatchewan during the week May 26 – June 2. This year’s theme Bridging Communities: Making Public Knowledge and Knowledge Public is intended to inspire academics to reach out to the communities they serve, to share and receive knowledge beyond the academy.

Lyle Dick has been a public historian in Canada for 30 years. Since 1977 he has authored more than 65 publications in Canadian, American, and Arctic history and historiography. Among his published research are several studies relating to the Motherwell farm operation at Abernathy (Saskatchewan) and his most recent book Muskox Land: Ellesmere Island in the Age of Contact which was awarded the 2003 Harold Adams Innis Prize for Canada’s best English language book in the social sciences. Mr. Dick is a member of the Council of the Canadian Historical Association and serves on the advisory boards of several historical publications and programs. He was active in the gay liberation movement in the 1970s and 1980s, where he worked in the successful campaign to amend Manitoba’s Human Rights Act in 1987.

Dick’s Saskatoon presentation is entitled "Same-Sex Intersections of Saskatchewan’s Settlement Era: the Roots of Prejudice". Inspired by the work of pioneering American historians Jonathan Katz and Vern Bullough, Dick began his research in 1978 by examining court records at the Saskatchewan Archives Board hoping that patterns in assault cases might serve as an index to social trends in early Saskatchewan. One of the case files he uncovered was for the sensational arrest and trial of group of men in Regina in 1895 only a few weeks after the much publicized London trials of playwright Oscar Wilde. Dick presented some of this early research at the Sex and the State history conference at the University of Toronto in 1985 but the pressure of many other projects intervened and he put this work on the back burner.

Encouraged by historian colleagues Dick resumed his work on early same-sex dynamics and relationships a few years ago and has traveled to both Saskatchewan and Manitoba to examine early court, gaol, police and church records, as well as coverage of trials and other events in early Prairie newspapers. Based on his intensive study of whatever “slim pickings” he can locate in archives, he is confident in asserting that same-sex dynamics were always present in post confederation Saskatchewan. However same-sex relationships were often causalities of public backlash, encouraged by judicial prosecutions, social purity activism and a generally negative medical discourse concerning homosexuality that emerged in the 20th century. Click here to see the poster for the talk.