Frank Tough, PhD

Phased Post Retirement-Faculty, Faculty of Native Studies


Phased Post Retirement-Faculty, Faculty of Native Studies



DR. FRANK TOUGH, Professor of Native Studies (University of Alberta) 

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, uses numerical data when appropriate, and usually aimed at addressing specific problems pertaining to applied historical research. 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 deep 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 Aboriginal 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 long 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 historical geography of the Métis. For three decades Frank has pursued an applied research agenda in which the evidentiary power of archival records is directed towards the judicial clarification of Treaty and Aboriginal rights. However, 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. 

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, property rights, and Treaty and Aboriginal Rights

Featured Publications

Frank J. Tough

Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization. 2021 November; 56 (4):320-342 10.3138/cart-2020-0010

Frank J. Tough

Prairie History. 2021 November; (4):18-35

Sandy J. Hoye, Christina L. Williamson, Frank J. Tough, Victoria M. Anderson

Cartouche: Canadian Cartographic Association. 2021 September; 98

Frank J. Tough

Canadian Issues. 2021 April; Spring/Summer

Frank J. Tough

Minds Alive. 2020 January; 10.3138/9781487531881-018

Frank J. Tough

The Journal of Aboriginal Economic Development. 2013 January; (8 (2)):24-39

Frank J. Tough, Kathleen Dimmer

Settler Economies in World History. 2013 January; 9

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

Frank J. Tough, Veronique Boisvert

2009 January;

Frank J. Tough

The Journal of Aboriginal Economic Development. 2005 January; 4 (2)

Frank J. Tough

Alberta Law Review. 2003 July; 41

Frank J. Tough

Prairie Forum. 1992 January; 17 (2):225-50