Awakening to history

Literacy, Education & Employment

PhD scholarship recipient examines colonization of the prairies

The average Canadian’s understanding of our country’s history differs wildly from person to person and generation to generation.

Karen Brglez is a PhD student studying Canadian History at the University of Manitoba and her work focuses on settler communities in Saskatchewan and how their colonization of the prairies affected Indigenous people.

“When I was in school in the ’90s, we didn’t learn about any of this,” Brglez says. “We didn’t learn about residential schools or the ’60s scoop, it was all unheard of. My understanding of Canadian history was that it was very dull.”

After majoring in History at the University of Winnipeg, Brglez changed course from her path of becoming an elementary school teacher. Instead, she is pursuing her PhD with a focus on German Lutheran settler communities in Saskatchewan and how they contributed to the colonization of the Canadian prairies in the late 19th century.

The current national conversation about truth and reconciliation and the rights of Indigenous Peoples is core to her work, and inspired Brglez to learn more.

“It’s a really interesting time to be studying Canadian history because it’s at the forefront of so many discussions right now,” Brglez says. “Historians have been talking about the history of Canada’s colonization for the past 20 to 30 years, but it’s really interesting that the general public in Canada seems to be awakening to these issues,” says Brglez.

Since 2015, she has been employed as a research assistant for German-Canadian Studies at the University of Winnipeg where she has conducted research in the fields of migration, oral, and Canadian history.

For one of her projects, she examined the roots of German-Canadian historiography by looking at the life of Gottlieb Leibbrandt, a German from Ukraine that joined the Nazi party in the 1930s. She incorporated this work into a chapter in the forthcoming Being German-Canadian: History, Memory, and Generations, set for publication this spring.

“I’m incredibly honoured to receive this Fellowship from The Winnipeg Foundation,” Brglez says. “And I am deeply appreciative of the support from The Foundation to help me further my studies in western Canadian history. I fell in love with history. This is what I want to do.”

“Because knowing the past helps us develop a stronger understanding of our world, enabling us to make sense of the present.”

Karen Brglez, recipient of The Winnipeg Foundation Centennial Scholarship for Doctoral Studies in Canadian History

This story is featured in the Fall 2021 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

About the photo

Karen Brglez, recipient of The Winnipeg Foundation Centennial Scholarship for Doctoral Studies in Canadian History

How would you like to start?

Give Now Start Your Own Fund Contact Us