Frank Tough, PhD

Professor, Faculty of Native Studies


Professor, Faculty of Native Studies
(780) 492-7260
1-01 Pembina Hall
8921 - 116 St NW
Edmonton AB
T6G 2H8



DR. FRANK TOUGH, Professor of Native Studies (University of Alberta) and an historical geographer with strong interest in economic history. The interdisciplinary character of Tough's teaching and research is reflected in a large number of adjunct appointments and academic sojourns at the University of Aberdeen and the London School of Economics.

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). More recently, he has been canvasing closely the records of the Colonial Office (United Kingdom’s national archives). Tough has published articles/chapters on the transfer of Rupertsland, Indian economic behavior, the demise of Native fisheries, historical Crown-First Nation treaties, the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement, the unreported legal history of treaty hunting rights, the use of accounting records to understand labour and consumption, and access barriers to archival records. The longest term research commitment concerns Métis entitlements (scrip) and the analysis often disputes the conventional assumptions of both lawyers and historians. 

Along with academic research, Tough has served 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. Efforts have focused on maintaining a research lab which digitizes historical documents, making archival records accessible online through database technology, and training undergraduate students in applied research.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 usually aimed at addressing specific problems pertaining to applied historical research.

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


"Full Circle" Theories of Property Rights as Indicated by Two Case Summaries Concerning the Individualization of Collective Indigenous Lands Interests

Author(s): Frank J. Tough
Publication Date: 2013
Publication: The Journal of Aboriginal Economic Development
Volume: 8
Issue: 2
Page Numbers: 24-39
External Link:

"I am a half-breed head of a family...": A Database Approach to Affidavits Completed by the Métis of Manitoba, ca. 1875-1877

Author(s): Frank Tough, Véronique Boisvert
Publication Date: 2009
Publication: Histoires et identités métisses: hommage à Gabriel Dumont / Métis Histories and Identities: A Tribute to Gabriel Dumont
Page Numbers: 141-184
External Link:

From the "Original Affluent Society" to the "Unjust Society" A Review Essay on Native Economic History in Canada

Author(s): Frank Tough
Publication Date: 2005
Publication: The Journal of Aboriginal Economic Development
Volume: 4
Issue: 2
Page Numbers: 30-70
External Link: