I never thought I’d be copying and pasting a press release to this blog, but there’s a bit of a buzz on the go today. Lydia Campbell was declared “a person of national historic significance” today by a federal minister. We all knew she was significant ’round these here parts for quite some time (Them Days published her Sketches of Labrador Life back in 1980, again in 1984 and a third time in a larger colour publication in a co-publication with Killick Press in 2000) but it was surprising to see her in the spotlight today.
Anyway, here’s the press release, which was apparently sent out yesterday but we didn’t hear about it ’til today.
Government of Canada celebrates the historical significance of Lydia Campbell
HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR, July 22, 2009–The Honourable Jim Prentice, Canada’s Environment Minister and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, today celebrated the national historic significance of Lydia Campbell, whom he designated a person of national historic significance, on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
“I am happy to announce today the designation of one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most well-loved historical figures as a person of national historic significance”, said Minister Prentice. “Through designations such as this one, we are able to ensure that the legacy of extraordinary individuals such as Ms. Campbell continues for many years to come.”
Known as “Aunt Lydia” to generations of Labradorians, Lydia Campbell was of the first generation of Labradorians of English and Inuit parentage. She learned to read and write English from her father and was the first Labradorian to write a memoir of her life.
“This resourceful matriarch lived her entire life in Groswater Bay, rooted in both the English and Inuit cultures by making practical use of her mother’s traditional knowledge and the ways of her father, one of the first settlers in the region,” said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence and the Minister for the Atlantic Gateway. “I am delighted to know that her contributions will forever be part of Canada’s network of recognized persons of historic significance.”
“Throughout her life, Lydia Campbell demonstrated how female indigenous skills were essential to European success in Labrador,” said Mr. Montague, leader of the Labrador Métis Nation. “Through her writing and the various oral accounts, she has given the people of Labrador knowledge of their early history, which has in turn affirmed our sense of identity.”
Her memoir, Sketches of Labrador Life by a Labrador Woman, represents the beginning of a literary tradition in Labrador that conveys history through autobiography. The historic work provides a pragmatic account of the daily lives, concerns, and beliefs of late 18th- and 19th- century Labrador, including elements of culture change among the Inuit and Innu as a result of colonial spread. It first appeared in print in 13 installments in The Evening Herald in St. John’s during the 1880s.
“Ms. Campbell is representative of many Inuit and part-Inuit women, not only in Labrador but throughout the North who, with links to both Inuit and European traditions, took on the role of cultural mediators”, said the Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. “Through her designation as a Person of National Historic Significance, we celebrate the many contributions of Canada’s Aboriginal women to our country’s rich history.”
The Historic Sites and Monuments Board is supported by Parks Canada, which works to ensure that Canada’s historic and natural heritage is presented and protected for the enjoyment, education, appreciation and inspired discovery of all Canadians, today and in the future.