Dr. James Miller
Canada Research Chair in Native-Newcomer Relations
When it was first published in 1989, Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens
“I started research in the field of Native-newcomer relations because I was perplexed by what I saw around me,” Dr. Miller says. “Like most Canadians who think about the matter today, I wondered why things were so messed up, why were relations so bad between us, why do Aboriginal communities very often have such serious socio-economic and health problems? How did it get like this?”
That was when Dr. Miller moved away from the study of French-English relations,
which had been his field since university, and into the complex world
of Native-newcomer history. In the 18 years since, he has redefined the
field. His appointment as Canada Research Chair is
“I probably would not have chosen this field if I hadn’t lived in Saskatchewan since 1972, and if I hadn’t spent a year in Japan in 1982-83.”
Oddly, it is the year in Japan that is key.
“I was trying to figure out the culture, so I read some books on Japanese sociology. More and more, I noticed the importance of schooling and socialization in shaping the younger generation. It made me wonder. I’d seen lots of references in Canadian historical literature about residential schools, but nothing in any depth. That’s where I started, with the history of residential schooling.”
It took Dr. Miller more than 10 years to research and write the book, but when it was published in 1996, Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools met with critical success. It continues to be cited by the media in articles on residential school issues, and has established Dr. Miller as a respected consultant on residential school issues.
While Shingwauk’s Vision was a work-in-progress, Dr. Miller researched and wrote Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens and the companion volume, Sweet Promises: A Reader on Indian-White Relations in Canada. Both have been adopted as required books for History and Native Studies courses at several Canadian universities.
“My research on residential schooling and, most significantly, on the Saskatchewan treaties made it clear to me how much ignorance and misunderstanding exists, at both the scholarly and general levels, on the critically important topic of treaty-making in Canada,” Dr. Miller says. “The Canada Research Chair gives me an opportunity to continue to explore that theme by researching and writing a comprehensive history of treaties between Indians and the Crown in Canada.”