July #yeghistory round up!


Finally went to the RAM for a tour. Really impressed with their programming and plans for the future and the exhibits were pretty darn cool, too!


Loved all the fibre art decorating front steps and trees because of the Western Threads exhibit.

Display table at the Telephone Museum inside the Prince of Wales Armouries. This was during the Historic Festival & Doors Open kick-off event on July 6.


My grandmother was a “Hello Girl” back in Montreal in the 1930s, so it was neat learning about some of the history here.


The EDHS team was behind this great event – thanks for all their hard work!


The theme this year was “Many Voices, Many Stories, One City” so there were great displays from different cultural groups around Edmonton.


Had a great chat with these folks and hope to attend the Harmony Brunch next March. My favourite table might have been the Mandarin-English bilingual school one, though. They had this neat stick fortune set-up. Mine said to keep doing community and charity work and all my wishes will come true. Done!


There were dances and performances all afternoon, including an official “drum-in” by Nii Koney for speakers and dignitaries. Hope to see some of these performances at Heritage Festival this weekend too!


There were lots of wares and food for sale. Really tempting!


Some of the Fort Edmonton Park interpretive team did a little skit and were on hand to teach visitors about Edmonton’s past eras. It was great seeing some familiar faces from the discussions in June, too!

Amazing Aviatrix Vi Milstead Passes Away at 95

vi milstead 250
Vi Milstead (Warren) in 1946 prior to flying Miss Canada
to Washington.

Photo Courtesy – CASM

CAHS Member # 2490

October 17, 1919 – June 27, 2014

Vi passed gently on June 27 surrounded by caregivers and her good friend Marilyn Dickson. In the background Vera Lynn was singing White Cliffs of Dover while goldfinches looked in from their feeder just outside her window.

Born in Toronto October 17, 1919 to Edith and Harold Milstead, Vi had one brother Fred. All have predeceased her.

As a young teenager Vi wanted to be a surgeon, but when her mother opened a wool shop, Vi was taken out of school, thus ending that dream. In the meantime Vi set her sights on aviation. Vi helped out in her mother’s shop, saving all of her earnings to pay for flying lessons. When she began flying lessons, her instructor had a film made, Let’s Learn To Fly, starring Vi. No doubt he chose Vi to demonstrate that “even girls can learn to fly”. Soon after she completed her Private Pilot License, her mother sold the wool shop and Vi lost her income source. So she started her own business to earn money to pay for her commercial lessons.

Within the next 10 years, besides owning and operating a business in north Toronto, Vi taught others to fly at Barker Field. When civilian flying ceased during WW II, Vi joined the Air Transport Auxiliary in England, delivering airplanes from factories to the military bases. With the ATA Vi logged over 600 hours on 47 different types of aircraft, 74 if we count different marks. As a First Officer, she was qualified on all but the four engine planes. After the war, Vi instructed again at Barker Field. One of the highlights of this time was flying 1946 Miss Canada to Washington to invite the President of the United States to Toronto for Canada’s first international air show. While at Barker Field Vi met Arnold, the man she later married. They moved to Sudbury, instructing and flying as bush pilots. They also worked stints at the Windsor Flying Club, and then on the Sagamo on Muskoka Lakes before moving to Indonesia where Arnold taught flying. Though officials gave Vi a piece of paper allowing her to fly in Indonesia, they would not hire a woman as an instructor.

Once Arnold completed the terms of his contract, they returned to Canada where they found more lucrative employment, Arnold at a community college and Vi as a librarian at Orenda and then the Ontario Water Commission. They continued to fly recreationally after retirement, between the Magdalen Islands and Colborne.

Vi was active in several Colborne organizations such as Inner Wheel (Rotary), Second Helpings, Meals on Wheels and volunteering in the elementary school. Some of the Rotary exchange students continued to keep in touch with Vi. Vi was a gracious hostess, warmly welcoming guests and wanting them to be comfortable. Vi deeply missed Arnold after his death in June, 2000, but she welcomed new friends in her life, particularly Marian Carter. They enjoyed wonderful times together until Marian’s passing.

Vi has received many awards for her flying career and her community work, including an Amelia Earhart Medal, a Paul Harris Medal, the Rusty Blakey Memorial award, an Order of Canada, a Diamond Jubilee Medal, and induction into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Vi knew how she wanted to live her life and could be feisty if she sensed other people’s plans interfered with hers.

Her wish to stay at home with her dog, in her beautiful log house was possible because of the loving care of a wonderful team of caregivers, as well as the St. Elizabeth personal support workers, nurses and others who attended to Vi’s personal needs. Neighbours, relatives and friends visited, often bringing some of Vi’s favourite food, a book, article or photos. Visits usually included stimulating conversation over a glass of sherry.

Vi will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by several nieces and nephews and their families, Arnold’s three daughters and their families, as well as neighbours and friends. This tiny woman will leave a huge hole in our lives!

There was be a celebration of Vi’s life on Saturday, July 5 at 1:30 p.m. with visitation starting at 12:30 at MacCoubrey’s Funeral Home, Colborne. Following the service all were invited to a reception at the Colborne United Church. Memorial donations are welcome for the Vi Milstead and Arnold Warren Flight Training Scholarship Fund, the David Suzuki Foundation or a charity of your choice.


*this was taken from the Canadian Aviation Historical Society newsletter. To become a member or receive its free newsletter, please visit www.cahs.ca

RIP Bern Will Brown

I just received this news in my Dundurn Authors newsletter. I came across Bern Will Brown and his work during my time in the North and my research for Polar Winds the past few years. A fascinating man and life, and I imagine a really interesting book.


We are saddened by the loss of Bern Will Brown, author of many titles including his most recent work, End-of-Earth People. We celebrate the wonderful, long, hardworking life that he lived. Born in New York in 1920, he began his journey towards a life devoted to the service of others. Bern faithfully served the diocese in the Canadian North as a Roman Catholic priest for over thirty years, establishing missions and building log churches, residences, and auxiliary buildings.

In 1971, Bern applied to leave the priesthood when he fell in love with Margaret Steen, an Inuit woman from Inuvik, but they remained in the North to work closely with the people and communities established there. After their marriage, the couple settled permanently in Colville Lake, Northwest Territories, where they established several long-lasting business ventures and community development opportunities.

Bern’s life in the North was an active one. He was a man of many talents and vocations. He served northern communities not only as a priest and builder, but also as a carpenter, pilot, trapper, artist, author, and photographer.

End-of-Earth People is a testament to Bern’s work in the North and his devotion to the Sahtu Dene and Métis peoples. In this record he shares insights, investigations, and reflections that span the history of these northern communities. He explores and highlights their religious experiences and customs, their language, their traditions of living off the land, their crafts and recreation, and the challenges they face from day to day. Started in 1948 and completed in 2013, this book is the work of Bern’s lifetime. It shares historical data, reminiscences, and wisdom gained from over sixty years spent living this wonderful traditional way of life.

We remember this devoted community leader who passed away on July 4, 2014 at the age of 94.

YEG’s Victoria Cross Winners article in Edmonton Journal

The Edmonton Journal and Post Media have put out a First World War website dedicated to commemorating that conflict. I was very happy to contribute an article on Edmonton’s VC winners that was printed in this Saturday’s paper and is now online here.

Thanks to the staff at the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum and Canadian War Museum for their assistance getting photos of these fascinating men.


Canadians have long struggled to justify the enormous bloodshed of the Great War.

But during the conflict itself, the men who received the Victoria Cross — the highest award conferred on British and Commonwealth forces for bravery, valour, or self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy — were considered paragons of military virtue.

The VC recipients who returned to Edmonton were greeted by huge crowds and presented with purses of gold — in the case of John Chipman Kerr, about $10,000 worth.

Even so, Kerr said with characteristic humility: “We don’t go in for heroics at the front. If a man is chosen for the job, he does it and that is all there is to it.”

A century later, however, it is hard not to marvel at their almost superhuman acts in unimaginable circumstances.


John Chipman Kerr


Cecil John Kinross


Fort Edmonton Park Talks Decolonization

I was invited to give two short sessions on the politics of voice and decolonization last week to the folks at Fort Edmonton Park. Considering they ran from 8:30-9:30am (which is really early to talk about such heavy topics), the participants were incredibly enthusiastic and engaged. I really enjoyed our discussions and I know we only scratched the surface. At their request, here is a starter reading list on the topic. Warning: some of them are pretty academic (life hack: you can get a lot just by reading the intros)! Please feel free to suggest more great books for Canada and beyond in the comments section!



  • Daniel Francis, The Imaginary Indian and National Dreams
  • Dwayne Donald, Edmonton Pentimento: Re-Reading History in the Case of the Papaschase Cree
  • Claudio Saunt, Black, white, and Indian: Race and the Unmaking of an American Family
  • Victoria Freeman, Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America
  • Alexandra Harmon, Indians in the Making: Ethnic Relations and Indian Identities around Puget Sound
  • Paige Raibmon, Authentic Indians: Episodes of Encounter from the Late-nineteenth-century Northwest Coast
  • Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples
  • Philip Deloria, Indians in Unexpected Places
  • Kathleen Jamieson: Indian women and the law in Canada: Citizens Minus
  • Bonita Lawrence, “Real” Indians and Others: Mixed-Blood Urban Native Peoples and Indigenous Nationhood
  • Taiaiake Alfred, Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto
  • Eva Garroutte, Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe


I also think fiction can be as useful and powerful as nonfiction; here are a few writers (and titles) on my to-read list in both genres:

  • Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian
  • Lee Maracle
  • Joseph Boyden


And don’t forget the awesome radio interviews out there!


*thanks to Paige Raibmon and Joy Dixon for introducing me to many of these works during my time in UBC’s History Department

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