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Olive Patricia Dickason Shined a Light on Aboriginal Contributions

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“Without the indigenous, there would have been no Canada.”

And without Olive Patricia Dickason, the true history of Canada may never have been known, according to the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation.

“This is the shot Dr. Olive Patricia Dickason fired across the bow of Canadian historiography,” the foundation continued in its writeup of the part-Métis author’s 1997 lifetime achievement award. “Today everything once thought about the early foundations of Canada is under question because of her and her academic work. Not only did Dr. Dickason write the history, she has forever changed it. And by doing so, she has made history.”

Dickason, a prolific author of books that highlighted aboriginals’ role in creating Canada’s early economy, died on March 12 at age 91, the Canadian Press reported.

Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples; The Myth of the Savage, and Indian Arts in Canada brought aboriginals’ contribution to the fore, the foundation said.

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Born in Manitoba in 1920 to an English father and Métis mother, who both earned their living in the province’s northern bush, Dickason attended high school via correspondence courses.

After graduating, the Canadian Press said, Dickason worked as a journalist at the Regina Leader-Post, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Montreal Gazette and the Globe and Mail. She earned a master’s degree in Canadian history in 1972 and a PhD from the University of Ottawa in 1977, the wire service said. Dickason was a professor at the University of Alberta from 1985 until 1992. In 1996 she was awarded the Order of Canada.

Her work drew attention to aboriginal contribution to the fur trade, whaling, and forestry sectors in a way that had not been done before, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation said.

“For the first time, aboriginals were fully appreciated in sound academic studies as fully dimensional human individuals and communities who have their own histories and role in the development of what we know as Canada,” the foundation said of Dickason’s work. “Thanks to Dr. Dickason, accurate portrayals of Canada’s development now line the shelves.”

A statement issued by Dickason’s granddaughter confirmed she died in Ottawa on Saturday morning, the Canadian Press said.