Historian to study treaty court cases

Professor is one of 16 scholars across Canada to earn prestigious fellowship

UBC history Prof. Arthur Ray will provide an important global perspective for Canada's complex and contentious aboriginal and treaty rights.

One of 16 outstanding Canadian researchers who have been awarded Killam Research Fellowships for 2000, he will conduct the first comprehensive and comparative study of aboriginal and treaty rights court cases in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

"By asserting their aboriginal and treaty rights, indigenous people have recently revolutionized their cultural, economic and political standing in many former European colonies," says Ray who has served as an expert witness in many of Canada's landmark treaty rights and comprehensive claims court cases.

"A massive interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and transnational historical research effort has been an essential component of this ongoing global rights struggle," he adds.

The two-year investigation involves the fields of anthropology, historical geography, native history and legal history.

Ray says it is essential to reflect on the interactive historical research relationships that have developed between the aboriginal, legal and scholarly communities within and among the four countries which have intertwined colonial, intellectual and legal histories. He will also study how aboriginal people have influenced research agendas and historical scholarship and the impact of this growing body of research on claims-related cases.

Archival records of native research offices, claims commissions and courts will be examined extensively, along with published scholarship and unpublished documents. Ray plans to consult aboriginal and non-aboriginal players in substantial claims cases.

Ray joined UBC's faculty from York University in 1981 as a historical geographer and expert in Hudson's Bay Company archives. As Canada's First Nations turned to litigation to assert their rights, he has become increasingly interested and immersed in court cases.

"Like four days of torture," is how he describes the intense cross-examination of his testimony in the historic Delgamuukw trial on aboriginal title in B.C. This and other experiences with the adversarial nature of courts helped motivate him to undertake the study.

Killam Research Fellowships support outstanding research projects in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences, engineering and interdisciplinary studies within these fields.

Chemical Engineering Prof. John Grace's Killam Research Fellowship was one of eight across Canada which was renewed for a second year.