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Travel Report: Lindsey Bannister
Lindsey Bannister, a PhD candidate in English, received a Graduate International Research Travel Award (GIRTA) to further her research in Ontario and Alberta.
The Graduate International Travel Award has enriched my research process considerably. Because of the award, I was able to spend an extensive amount of time combing through archival collections across Canada, specifically McMaster University’s Archives (Hamilton, ON) and Research Collections, the University of Calgary Archives, and the Glenbow Museum Archives (Calgary, AB).
My dissertation concerns the lives and writings of two early Twentieth Century Canadian authors who were regarded as racial imposters: Buffalo Child Long Lance and Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton). Long Lance was a mixed race Indigenous man (Cherokee and Lumbee) from the Eastern United States. In the early 1920s, he moved to Calgary where he claimed to be the Chief of the Kainai (Blood) Nation. Onoto Watanna was a Chinese/British-Canadian writer who assumed a Japanese persona. Like Long Lance, Onoto Watanna wrote novels and produced other textual works while living in Calgary during the 1920s. While many critics have written about Long Lance and Onoto Watanna in isolation, my project seeks to link these writers and to flesh out their shared connection with Southern Alberta.
I started my investigation into the Winnifred Eaton Reeve papers (University of Calgary) and the Long Lance papers (Donald B. Smith Collection, Glenbow), with the hopes that I would find some evidence that Long Lance and Onoto Watanna convened in the same social spaces or had shared connections. I found no evidence to support this, however, by actually working on-site in Calgary, I gained a greater understanding of the role that the Western Canadian frontier played in their lives and their textual work. For both writers, the Western frontier served as a space where they could challenge colonial myths and racist ideologies via their fictional writings and—to an extent—via their personas. By combing through their scrapbooks, personal papers, and manuscripts, I was able to gain a clearer sense of their motivations, the reasons why they adopted ethnic identities not their own. Furthermore, by actually staying in Calgary for nearly a month, I was able to gain more of a sense of the history and culture of the city—crucial contexts for this research project.
In addition to my work at the University of Calgary and Glenbow Museum Archives, I spent over a week at McMaster Library, looking at the papers of Pauline Johnson (Mohawk) and Grey Owl. Both Johnson and Grey Owl are also important figures in my research project. For a literary critic working with Canadian writers, the McMaster Archives is an absolute treasure trove brimming with publisher’s archives, and personal papers and ephemera from many of Canada’s most studied writers. While my research process is not yet over, the GIRTA has helped me to take a crucial first step towards gaining a deeper understanding of the writers at the heart of this project.