Dr. Palmer Patterson, retired Professor of History at the University of Waterloo, passed away on May 17, 2023. He was a scholar of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and later in his career of the American South during the post-Civil War period. Originally from New Orleans, he completed his PhD in History at the University of Washington in 1962 on the Squamish Nation activist Andre Paull. He began his career at St. Jerome’s College at the University of Waterloo in 1962, and he joined the History Department at the University of Waterloo in 1964. A scholar of indigenous histories, his monograph The Canadian Indian: A History Since 1500 (1972) was a pioneering academic study of the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada. He later studied the interactions of European missionaries with the Nisga’a Nation, as well as the histories of Haida and Inuit communities. He would be pleased to see the continued tradition of these fields in the History department today. Dr. Patterson also lived his scholarship, engaging in social justice and public history activities such as leading a teach-in in protest of violence during the Biafran War in the late 1960s, and writing elementary and secondary school textbooks on Indigenous histories. Those interested in Dr. Patterson’s scholarship can consult his fonds in the University archives.
Dr. Patterson retired in 1992, but he continued to pursue his scholarly interests long into retirement. A committed philanthropist, he made a mark both at the University of Waterloo and in the community. Dr. Patterson is pre-deceased by his wife Nancy-Lou Patterson, Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of Waterloo and a founding member of the Department of Fine Arts. A funeral service will be held on Tuesday June 27, 2023, at 11 a.m. at St. Columba Anglican Church, 250 Lincoln Road, Waterloo.