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Frank Tough, PhD


Native Studies

About Me

DR. FRANK TOUGH, Professor of Native Studies (University of Alberta) and historical geographer has held several adjunct positions and is sojourning as an honourary professor with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland). 

Tough published As Their Natural Resources Fail: Native People and the Economic History of Northern Manitoba, 1870-1930 (UBCPress) which received two book awards. Frank Tough has specialized in the post-1870 historical geographies of Aboriginal peoples and has acquired an expertise in a variety of federal government records, several provincial archives, as well as, the more conventional archival sources (Indian Affairs, missionaries and the Hudson’s Bay Company). 

He has published articles/chapters on the transfer of Rupertsland, Indian economic behavior, the demise of Native fisheries, Indian treaties, the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement, , and Métis entitlements (scrip) which often disputes the conventional thinking of both lawyers and historians. Along with academic research, Tough has severed as an expert witness in several court cases concerning Aboriginal and treaty rights. In particular, expertise has been required on the economic history of the Métis. He has also engaged in archival research for the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat, the federal Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Treaty Commissioner Office of Saskatchewan. Past efforts have focused on maintaining a research lab which digitizes historical documents, making archival records accessible online through database technology, and training undergraduate students in applied research. 

His interests and expertise concern three really odd empirical/disciplinary pairings: (1) history and law, that is, the legal history of say the infringement of Treaty harvesting rights; (2) history and geography, such as the historical geography of the fur trade; and (3) economics and history, as in the case of an economic history approach to the individualization of collective property rights. These themes are usually tinged with a little bit of political economy, but Tough’s research is almost entirely based on archival sources; it is empirically oriented, and aimed at addressing specific problems pertaining to applied historical research.

Tough is qualified to support graduate student interests in several areas: (1) economic history; (2) resource management; and (3) archival research relating to Aboriginal and Treaty rights. 

When not spending time in the archives, Tough would prefer to play volleyball on a tropical beach.


AREA(s) Research Methods, Métis historical geography, fur trade, and Treaty and Aboriginal Rights