The Public Impostor

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019, was a rough day. The whole week of the 28th was rough. As much as I would like to blame my “off-ness” on Mercury being in retrograde, I know it wasn’t it.

I have heard people talking about impostor syndrome since school has started and I get it, we all feel as though we don’t belong at some point or another. I mean I wrote a whole other blog post discussing these feelings.

However, I still feel off.

Don’t get me wrong! I am thoroughly enjoying the program, it is everything I dreamed of and more! I mean I got to participate in a discussion on dark tourism for two hours, what’s better than that? I can’t say I don’t like the research I am going now, its just different.

On that fateful Tuesday afternoon, I was just feeling down, a lack of motivation, and a lack of passion for the research I am currently doing. When asked about my research nowadays, I usually get asked about my public history research interests. Which is fine, if you know me, you know how excited I get about dark tourism, historical depictions on film and stage and museum work. But, I felt like there was something missing, a part of me just wasn’t here with me in London.

When trying to decide what topic I should explore for my final project in my digital history class, I played with the idea of doing something about Frederick Loft and Indigenous World War I veteran that I wrote about in my undergrad. I have always had a love and interest for studying and researching the world wars and even more so, the Indigenous participation in the Canadian war effort.

Then it hit me, I wasn’t researching the topics I had come to love over four years, that’s what I was missing. I was missing writing reports on the likes of Frederick Loft, the Holocaust, Porajmos, Nazi Germany, D-Day, all of it! Its not that I am unhappy in public history, I just miss that old undergrad life, just a little bit!

So in a moment of nostalgia, I decided to do a cognate! Or, well, send in a proposal for a cognate!

For those who don’t know, a cognate gives a chance to MA candidates to research and write a paper, roughly 50 pages, on a topic of their choosing. Public history MA candidates aren’t required to choose a cognate or thesis, but the option of the cognate is available to them. So, after my summer internship, I will return to Western for an extra four months to complete my paper.

Continuing off the research I did in my undergrad, I hope to do my cognate on Indigenous veterans fight for rights during the interwar years. There isn’t a lot of scholarship on Indigenous soldiers during World War One, the scholarship that is out there, is quite comprehensive too. This can make it harder for researchers to find holes to fit their work in.

For King and Kanata is an incredible book written by historian Timothy Winegard that details the varied responses and participation of Indigenous people over the course of the First World War. Rightfully so, Winegard ends his book at about 1919/1920, briefly touching on the issues veterans faced when they returned home. Since Winegard’s work is so comprehensive, little undergrad me found it difficult to find any holes, so instead I decided to expand on his work and bring the narrative into the interwar years.

Using Frederick Loft’s story I hope to expand upon this in much greater detail in my cognate and be able to draw connections to the Indigenous response to World War Two a decade or so later. While Loft passed away in 1934, the momentum his activism started in the 1920s, is evident, even far after his passing. Another thing my cognate will do that differs from Winegard is that I hope to look at one Indigenous nation much more closely.

This is one of the major criticisms I had of Winegard’s book and at the same time, its not his fault. His book takes a broad look at the Indigenous response to the war effort, not really focusing on one nation. For his specific book, it was necessary in order to tell his story. However, I am hoping I will be able to focus specifically on the Mohawk when discussing their response to the war, Loft’s activism after the war and then move to a bit of a broader look when it comes to the response to World War Two. It really will depend on the sources out there, if it will allow me to narrow in or not.

However, I am up for the challenge! I truly believe that more literature and scholarship needs to be done on this topic, agency needs to be given back to these veterans and we as historians need to overcome the forgotten warrior genre. It’s historians like Winegard who have inspired me to research and write on these topics and I just hope I can do it justice!

I put the proposal in on November 15th, so fingers crossed its accepted! I may try and bring some of my public history or digital history knowledge to create something alongside my cognate. I was potentially thinking about turning my cognate into an interactive e-book, which was a digital method I was toying with for my final digital history class anyway. I think it could serve as a nice complement to my cognate!

But I have a while to decide that, most important is getting the research and writing for the actual cognate!

Until then!

~ Kat

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