"Authorized Heritage" analyses the history of commemoration at heritage sites across western Canada. Using extensive research from predominantly government records, it argues that heritage narratives are almost always based on national messages that commonly reflect colonial perceptions of the past. Yet many of the places that commemorate Indigenous, fur trade, and settler histories are contested spaces, places such as Batoche, Seven Oaks, and Upper Fort Garry being the most obvious. At these heritage sites, Indigenous views of history confront the conventions of settler colonial pasts and represent the fluid cultural perspectives that should define the shifting ground of heritage space.
Robert Coutts brings his many years of experience as a public historian to this detailed examination of heritage sites across the prairies. He shows how the process of commemoration often reflects social and cultural perspectives that privilege a conventional and conservative national narrative. He also examines how class, gender, and sexuality often remain apart from the heritage discourse. Most notably, Authorized Heritage examines how governments became the mediators of what is heritage and, just as significantly, what is not.
About the author
Robert Coutts worked as a historian with Parks Canada for over thirty years, researching historic sites throughout western and northern Canada. He is the author of The Road to the Rapids: Nineteenth Century Church and Society at St. Andrew’s Parish, Red River and is the editor of the journal Prairie History.
“Authorized Heritage is a vital addition to Canadian public history. It will be required reading for anyone concerned with the development of the Canadian state’s role in the commemorative history of Canada and in particular that of the eastern prairies. Equally important, Authorized Heritage offers a retrospective, balanced, and thoughtful account of the work of Parks Canada from someone who has spent decades in the trenches.”
“Coutts’s work is an invaluable source for both learning and teaching about the ways in which Canadian settler colonial mythology is written into our landscape and built heritage, as well as ways in which this mythology can also be challenged so that a more inclusive and realistic portrayal of Canadian history can emerge.”
Canadian Journal of History
"In Authorized Heritage, Coutts uses his three decades of experience working with Parks Canada to examine the colonial history of commemoration at Canada’s heritage sites. Further, he explores how governments have controlled what is and is not considered heritage across history."