Shaina Humble

Shaina Humble


 “Forts and Furs”: Challenging Colonial Narratives Through Children’s Play

Literary Studies is a field that has been conventionally defined by library-based research, but what happens when we explore our research questions outside the confines of the university? “Forts and Furs” is a summer camp game played annually by children in grades five and six while they are attending camp with their elementary schools. Built from the Alberta Social Studies curricula, the game is framed by the summer camp as a representation of the Canadian fur trade. Dividing the children into two teams (Nation of the Earth and Nation of the Sun), “Forts and Furs” requires children to participate in a variety of activities that are intended to reflect tasks from the fur trade era, including: collecting “furs” and trading with “The Fort” and “Wandering French Fur Traders.” Drawing from Philip Deloria’s concept of “playing Indian” and Daniel Francis’ concept of the “imaginary Indian,” my paper reads the game as text to argue that “Forts and Furs” disseminates a monovocal, colonial account of the Canadian master narrative. The summer camp’s monovocal narrative is read alongside Louise Halfe’s (Cree) book of poetry Blue Marrow to examine how Halfe’s polyvocal history complicates the monovocal history disseminated by the summer camp; modeling the polyvocal style of Halfe’s text, and employing less traditional literary studies methodologies, I conducted two interviews: one with an Elder of the Stoney Nakoda Nation (Camp was formally located on the Nation’s reserve land) and another with the director of the summer camp program. Although the Elder at the Stoney Nakoda Nation had offered an opportunity for the Camp to consult with the Nation regarding future programming, the Camp has elected to cancel the game entirely. How can we proceed from here? Is erasure the ‘best’ way to generate critical programming for children?


I am currently completing my Master of Arts at Queen’s University in English
language and literature, where I am focusing in Indigenous literatures. I hold a B.A.(H) in English and Anthropology from the University of Alberta and my background in Anthropology continues to impact my approach to Literary Studies. My proposed paper is part of my undergraduate English honours thesis that was completed with the guidance of Dr. Keavy Martin. I grew-up attending the camp that I address in my paper and worked there as an adult, so these experiences have greatly impacted my analysis of “Forts and Furs.”



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