09 May 2012

A river runs through it #nlpoli

Jerry Bannister’s paper “A river runs through it:  Churchill Falls and the end of Newfoundland history” is now available in the latest issue of Acadiensis.

This paper was the basis for his talks last winter on myths in local politics and history and oil and “have” status.  They were well attended and prompted some pretty lively discussion, but the paper goes beyond them, weaving a provocative tapestry out of some threads of continuity in local history since the middle of the last century.

The debate over Muskrat Falls offers an important opportunity to assess the province’s political culture and the role of history in it. With so much change in such a relatively short period of time – from the end of “have-not” status to the demolition of the iconic “overpass” that demarcated St. John’s – there is a pressing need to situate the campaign to develop the Lower Churchill within the context of the ebb and flow of Newfoundland nationalism since 1949. In the wake of the disastrous
Churchill Falls deal in 1969, the nationalist narrative of Newfoundland became focused on loss; by the turn of the 21st century, it had become a public memory of bereavement. This memory commemorated battles against nature by remembering events such as the Newfoundland disaster of 1914 and the sinking of the Ocean Ranger in 1982. It mourned national tragedies by remembering Beaumont Hamel in 1916, the loss of democracy in the 1930s, and the referenda of 1948. And it grieved the loss of traditional culture by remembering the re-settlement schemes of the 1960s and the cod moratorium of the 1990s. Like all public memory, this view of Newfoundland’s past was contested, negotiated, and reconstituted in many different ways. Regardless of how many different ways the story was told, its heart remained essentially the same: a history of struggle. When the struggle for “have” status was won, that history of Newfoundland ended. 

Get a copy and read it.  That’s just a taste of the trip you can take without drugs. 

Neat, eh?

- srbp -