Madeline Knickerbocker

PhD Candidate

Master of Museum Studies, University of Toronto, 2010
BA, History and French, Simon Fraser University, 2008

Supervisor: Mary-Ellen Kelm
Personal Website:

Research Description

My research explores the connections between cultural curation and political activism in Stó:lō communities. Spanning the twentieth century, this work addresses key moments in the history of encounters between Stó:lō and anthropologists, colonial agents, and other newcomers who sought to control, reshape, or alter Stó:lō cultural heritage practices and protocols. Despite these attempts, Stó:lō retained significant forms of power over their cultural heritage, negotiating their relationships with museums and colonial institutions in surprising and productive ways.

Adopting an ethnohistorical methodology informed by new scholarship on feminist anticolonial praxis, this research relies on oral history interviews and archival evidence collected over the course of a number of years living in Stó:lō territory (BC’s Fraser Valley). This approach contributes back to the field by allowing for discussion of the politics and pragmatics of conducting community-based research, and engaging deeply with questions of the compatibility of oral testimony and archival evidence.

The dissertation is framed by the sustained discussion of one object: a shovel-nosed canoe carved by Chief William Sepass in 1915. Discussion of the ways Stó:lō and settlers treat the canoe at given moments in its history serve as successive introductory vignettes, foregrounding ideas germane to each chapter, and simultaneously anchoring the reader’s experience with a concrete demonstration how the curation of Stó:lō heritage has changed over time. Chapters themselves explore numerous themes: how relationships between missionaries and Stó:lō chiefs and elders in the early decades of the twentieth century complicated Stó:lō political organization; the sometimes fraught, sometimes productive interactions between Stó:lō communities and anthropologists such as Diamond Jenness, Casey Wells, Wilson Duff, Marian Smith, and Wayne Suttles from the ’30s to the ’60s; the collaborative work of Chilliwack Museum staff and Stó:lō people in the 1960s, highlighting Chief Richard Malloway’s contributions to the museum board, and Amy Cooper and Oliver Wells’ work to create the Salish Weavers’ Guild; Stó:lō efforts in the 1970s to take back the contested Coqualeetza site from the Armed Forces, and to establish it as a cultural heritage site in the 1980s; and a campaign by Stó:lō and non-Indigenous activists to save an archaeological and spiritual site, at the same time as Stó:lō tribal governance was going through major transformation. The narrative concludes by assessing the Sepass family’s 2011 request to “bring home” their ancestor’s canoe from the Chilliwack Museum to the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Center, the most recent example in this history of Stó:lō affirmations of the sovereignty of their cultural curation.

While the examination of the long history of Stó:lō cultural curation not only complicates prevailing assumptions in museum studies and public history that Indigenous/non-Indigenous heritage collaborations are a product of the 1990s, analysis of these cross-cultural projects also reveals the complexities of allyship between Indigenous peoples and settlers. In these ways, and by arguing for broadened understandings of both “culture” and “politics,” this work also furthers the fields of Native-newcomer and twentieth century British Columbian histories.  

Working Dissertation Title

A Sovereign Culture: The Politics of Stó:lō Heritage in the Twentieth Century


Peer-Reviewed Publications

“What We’ve Said Can be Proven in the Ground”: Stó:lō Sovereignty and Historical Narratives at Xá:ytem, 1990-2006,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association (forthcoming in volume 25, issue 1).

“Cedar, Seagrass and Soapstone: Redefining the Teacup in Colonial Canada,” in Paul Basu, ed., The Inbetweenness of Things (edited volume resulting from The Inbetweenness of Things symposium, The British Museum, 22-23 March 2013; publisher tbc). Co-authored with Lisa Truong.

Book Reviews

Review of Honne, The Spirit of the Chehalis: The Indian Interpretation of the Origin of the People and Animals. Narrated by George Sanders, collected and arranged by Katherine Van Winkle Palmer, introduced by Jay Miller (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012). Pacific Northwest Quarterly, forthcoming.

Review of Myth and Memory: Stories of Indigenous-European Contact, John Lutz, ed (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007). Native Studies Review, forthcoming.

Review of Museum Pieces: Toward the Indigenization of Canadian Museums, by Ruth B. Phillips (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011). Muse, Winter 2013: 51.

Review of These Mysterious People: Shaping History and Archaeology in a Northwest Coast Community, by Susan Roy (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010). BC Studies, 174 (Summer 2012): 125-127.

Review of The Power of Place, the Problem of Time: Aboriginal Identity and Historical Consciousness in the Cauldron of Capitalism, by Keith Thor Carlson (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010). BC Studies 172 (Winter 2011/12): 128-129.

“Florence Vale, ‘Pregnant Bird.’” The University College Collection: Great Art for a Great University. Matthew Brower and Naimh O’Laoghaire, eds. Toronto: University of Toronto Art Center, 2010. 72.

Conference Papers

“Navigating Histories in S’olh Téméxw: Sto:lo Canoes as Relational Mnemonics.” American Society for Ethnohistory Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana. September 11-14, 2013.

“Why Didn’t You Say it Was This Rock?: Xá:ytem, Historical Consciousness, and Stó:lō Sovereignty.” Canadian Historical Association Annual Meeting, Victoria BC. June 3-5, 2013.

“‘Bring Home the Canoe’: Travelling Through Stó:lō History with Chief William Sepass’ Shovel-Nosed Canoe.” People of the River Conference, organized by the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Center, Sardis, BC. Written and presented with Bill Sepass. May 31-June 2, 2013.

“‘The Modern Museum that we wish to establish’: Stó:lō Cultural Curation and Political Activism in the 1970s.” BC Studies Conference, Douglas College, New Westminster BC. May 2-4, 2013.

“Cedar, Seagrass, and Soapstone: Redefining the Teacup in Colonial Canada.” The Inbetweenness of Things: Materializing Mediation and Movement Between Worlds. Symposium co-hosted by the British Museum and University College London. Written and presented with Lisa Truong. March 22-23, 2013.

“‘It Will be Pleasure and also Education to Them’: Mary Lipsett, Civic-Mindedness, and Cross-Cultural Exhibitions in Vancouver.” International Council of Museums – Collections and Activities of Museums of Cities conference, Museum of Vancouver. October 24-27, 2012.

“Sudden Transformation: Aboriginally-Centered Archaeological Interpretation at Xá:ytem Longhouse.” Indigenous People and Museums: Unraveling the Tensions, Inter-Congress of the World Archaeological Congress, Indianapolis, Indiana. June 22-25, 2011.

“Narratives of Place at Xá:ytem and Stó:lõ Community Building.” Indigenous Studies Graduate Students Conference, University of British Columbia. March 12-13, 2011.

“Junk or Treasure? Gender and Authenticity in Mary Lipsett’s ‘Indian Museum’.” Qualicum Graduate History Conference, Parskville, BC. January 28-30, 2011.

“Xá:ytem / Sudden Transformation: Stó:lō Place-Making and Community Building.” Alberta Museums Association Conference, Edmonton. September 23-35, 2010. Written with the collaboration of Terry Horne, Alanna Jurgens and Justine Raymond.

“Creating Partnerships: An Inquiry into the 1992 Task Force on Museums and First Peoples.” Taking Stock: Museum Studies and Museum Practices in Canada, University of Toronto. April 22-24, 2010. Written and presented with Hannah Turner.

“The History of the ‘Indian Exhibit’: Aboriginal Artifacts in the Lipsett Collection.” Carleton Underhill Graduate Student Colloquium. March 5-6, 2010.

“From Controversy to Collaboration: The Spirit Sings and the Task Force Report.” University of Toronto Annual Graduate History Symposium. February 4-5, 2010.


SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship, 2011-2014
Travel and Minor Research Award, 2013
Dr. J. V. Christensen Graduate Scholarship, 2012
Dr. J. V. Christensen Graduate Scholarship, 2011
Simon Fraser University Graduate Fellowship, 2010
Pacific Century Graduate Scholarship, 2010
Douglas Cole Memorial Scholarship, 2010
Canadian Museums Association Award, 2010
Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, 2010
A.Y. Elizabeth McCullough Scholarship, 2010
Florence Partridge Scholarship, 2009
Museum Studies Entrance Fellowship, 2008

Teaching Assistantships

History 102W: Canada since Confederation (Spring 2014)

History 115: History of (Western) Sexuality (Fall 2012)

History 101: Canada to Confederation (Fall 2010)

Research Assistantships

Research Assistant for Dr. Elise Chenier, Department of History, SFU, 2012-2013

Research Assistant for Dr. Mary-Ellen Kelm, Department of History, SFU, 2011-2012

Research Assistant for Dr. Lynne Teather, Museum Studies, University of Toronto, 2009-2010