SASKATOON – Bill Waiser, distinguished professor emeritus of the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), has been awarded the prestigious J.B. Tyrrell Historical Medal by the Royal Society of Canada for outstanding contributions to the field of Canadian history.
Waiser, a former U of S faculty member for more than 30 years, is the author, co-author or editor of 17 books including A World We Have Lost: Saskatchewan Before 1905,which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in 2016. The jury stated the book “surprises the reader with its reconsideration of Canada,” and that Waiser “refocuses the country’s story by putting Indigenous peoples and environmental concerns in the foreground.”
“Prof. Waiser is a gifted scholar who has investigated and shared the story of our province not just with students but with the broader Canadian public through his many books, public talks and extensive engagement with television, radio and print media,” said U of S Vice-President Research Karen Chad.
“His passion for storytelling and dedication to providing a better understanding and appreciation of Canadian history—particularly the leading role played by Indigenous peoples—makes him a worthy recipient of this distinguished honour.”
The Tyrrell Medal will be presented to Waiser at a special Royal Society ceremony on Nov. 17 in Halifax, N.S.
A specialist in western and northern Canadian history, Waiser served as U of S department head of history from 1995 to 1998. He is the second U of S historian to be recognized with the Tyrrell Medal, which is awarded every two years by the Royal Society “for outstanding work in the history of Canada”, provided a suitable candidate is found.
The first U of S recipient of the Tyrrell Medal was A.S. Morton, who was honoured in 1941. Morton joined the university in 1914 as chief librarian and history professor, and went on to head the history department. He was instrumental in establishing the Saskatchewan archives and served as the province’s first archivist from 1938 until his death in 1945.
The medal connection to Morton is highly meaningful to Waiser, who served as the A.S. Morton Research Chair at the U of S for four years before leaving the university in June 2014.
“Arthur Morton won it nearly 80 years ago for his work on western Canadian history, and I’m following in his footsteps, so it’s very special to me,” Waiser said.
“Both professionally and personally, it’s very gratifying to be awarded this medal. It’s very flattering to be recognized by my peers this way. It means that my work has some significance, has resonated with people, and has made a contribution.”
Waiser’s extensive community outreach has included a weekly column “History Matters” for The Saskatoon StarPhoenix,a weekly column “Mining the Past” for CBC Radio, and serving as researcher and on-camera host for “Looking Back,” an award-winning CBC Saskatchewan television production that was later reproduced in DVD format by the provincial government for distribution to all schools in the province. He has given over 250 talks on Canadian topics to schools and libraries, conventions, conferences, clubs and organizations and at public ceremonies.
For more information, contact:
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
University of Saskatchewan
Bill Waiser will be at Saskatoon’s McNally Robinson book store on Saturday, September 15 at 1 p.m. to sign copies of his latest book, History Matters: Stories from Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan has a rich and diverse history—sometimes unusual, if not quirky. History Matters brings together some of the Saskatchewan stories that Bill originally published in a bi-weekly column in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix newspaper.
Read about Saskatchewan’s first Gopher Day in May 1917 when school kids waged battle against the pesky “enemy of production,” the Saskatoon high-jumper who has the distinction of being the only Canadian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual track-and-field event, the sacred Indigenous boulder that was unceremoniously blown up to make way for the South Saskatchewan River Dam project, or the Prince Albert druggist who was elected to the House of Commons and appointed to the Senate but never uttered a word in either chamber.
In follow up to my October 2017 column, Freak Storm on Lake Waskesiu Left Four Dead, I received the following letter and update from the Waskesiu Foundation in August of 2018.
I am Chair of the Waskesiu Foundation, a charity that supports social, recreational, cultural and environmental initiatives that improve the Waskeisu Experience for residents and visitors.
Your Saskatoon StarPhoenix article from October 11, 2017, titled History Matters: Freak Storm on Lake Waskesiu Left Four Dead ended with a suggestion there needs to be a plaque at the Kapasiwin tree naming the four people who died and explaining why they were once buried there. Your article inspired our Board to do just that. It also inspired two donors to come forward to make donations to cover the cost of the sign. I’m pleased to advise the Waskesiu Foundation, in partnership with the Waskesiu Heritage Museum have installed a sign by the memorial tree at Kapasiwin. The sign not only lists the names and explains the tragedy, but it also has four photographs. to supplement the text. Dorell Taylor has been involved as we moved forward on getting the permissions, photos, text etc.
I know you would be interested in seeing the sign, and I hope you can soon come to Waskesiu to do so. In the meantime, I have included a photo of the memorial tree with the sign beside it and a close-up of the sign, so you can read the text and see the photos. The sign measures 30 by 40 inches and is themed to be compatible with the heritage signs in Waskesiu.
Thanks for your suggestion that prompted action.
Chair, Waskesiu Foundation