Research profile

Name:  R. Scott Sheffield

Department:  History

Contact information:, 1-888-504-7441, x4763

Current research program:

Since being hired at UCFV/UFV in 2005, Dr. Sheffield has continued his earlier work in Canadian indigenous peoples and the Second World War. 

Building on his interests in Aboriginal military service, English-Canadian images of the ‘Indian’ during the War, Native veterans access to benefits, and the comparable New Zealand experience, Dr. Sheffield has developed his present project: a collaborative study with Dr. P. Whitney Lackenbauer (St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo, Ontario), comparing the experience and service of indigenous people in the Second World War in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. 

The Second World War experiences of indigenous minorities shared much in common, despite the diverse nature of the status of indigenous peoples in each state and of their relationship with the settler society in which they lived. Aborigines, First Nations, Maori and Native Americans all chose to engage actively in the Second World War. Why? What did the war mean for those who fought overseas? What did it mean for those who remained on the home front? How did Australians, English-Canadians, Pakeha New Zealanders, and Americans respond to indigenous contributions, and why were the similarities so strong? 

This proposed study seeks to answer these questions through a comparative, thematically-driven analysis of experiences in these four “British settler societies.”  Scholarship on indigenous peoples during the world wars has grown over the last two decades, providing rich foundational literature for trans-national research.  Moreover, this subject has become politically important as indigenous veterans and organisations have fought for recognition and restitution in recent decades.  The Second World War was a transformative, even pivotal event, in the twentieth century, and the sacrifices of indigenous soldiers and communities made during that conflict profoundly shaped the era that followed.  These experiences challenged settler society notions of indigenous identity and character, as well as their constitutional/political status and their appropriate place in the national order.  The policy transformations that occurred in the immediate postwar years in all four countries demonstrate the lasting impact of the war on indigenous groups.  The more recent indigenous revival and focus on this matter demonstrates its continuing relevance.

This work was aided by funding for student research assistants from UFV and St. Jerome’s University in 2007, and subsequently by a three-year SSHRC Standard Research Grant in 2008.  Since that time, one student has been working at UFV digitizing microfilm material and conducting primary research in newspapers.  In addition, two doctoral students were hired in Australia and New Zealand to initiate research in those countries during 2008-09.  An additional undergraduate student will be hired here at UFV and a graduate student at St. Jerome’s to complete the research during 2009.  The outputs forecast for this present project include a major monograph, and a number of refereed journal articles and conference presentations through to 2011.    

Student research assistants:

Name    Duties/activities
Kim UnruhResearch Assistant. Hired initially with a Research Assistantship from the Research Office at UFV, and subsequently with funds from SSHRC.  Kim’s duties have included doing research in period newspapers, as well as digitizing Indian Affairs archival documents from microfilm.
Anna LownieDirected Studies student. As part of her directed studies project, Anna helped with the digitizing of the Indian Affairs archival material.  She then drew on this source in the preparation of her major research essay, a superb piece of work worthy of graduate level.


P. Whitney Lackenbauer and R. Scott Sheffield, with John Moses and Maxime Gohier.  Aboriginal Peoples in the Canadian Military. Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 2009. 

P. Whitney Lackenbauer, R. Scott Sheffield and Craig Mantle, eds. Aboriginal Peoples and the Military: Canadian and International Perspectives.  Kingston: CDI Press, 2007.

R. Scott Sheffield, “Rehabilitating the Indigene: Post-war Reconstruction and the Image of the Indigenous Other in Anglo-Canada and New Zealand, 1943-48,” in, Rediscovering the British World. Phillip Buckner and R. Douglas Francis, eds.  University of Calgary Press, 2005.
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