Part I of II: "Living next to you [the U.S.] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt." - Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, addressing the Washington, D.C., Press Club in 1969 Canada encompasses five times zones and borders on three oceans as well as a neighbouring hegemonic political, economic and military power that has ten times Canada's population. The histories, politics, geographies and cultures of these two nation states are profoundly different. Five hundred years of European colonialism gets told through an awkward and often contradictory series of stories about two distinct founding settler societies encountering Aboriginal peoples whose ancestors still represent more than 600 distinct First Nations in the country today. Late nineteenth and twentieth century movements built a nation arguably known for its hewers of wood and haulers of water rather than its industrial and human rights innovations. Late twentieth century neoliberalism has witnessed Canada's natural and ideological resources, its water, oil, wood and healthcare, increasingly threatened by free but not necessarily fair trade market agreements that more often end up favouring our southern neighbour. The papers in this double session explore Canadian anthropology: The first session examines the “Roots of Anthropological Engagement in Canada”, while the second part highlights “Contemporary Engaged Research in Canada”. The sessions trace the flows and tidal marks of a distinct ethnological landscape that sparked the Boasian tradition, at least ethnographically, and bridges the reputed theoretical and applied divide by offering a unique “sustained critique of society”. From Boas to the science studies of biotechnologies, Canadian anthropology remains distinct from the anthropologies practiced outside of our borders while sharing many of its people and practices. Besides its anchoring in a North American tradition of anthropology, Canadian anthropologists sit at the intersection of a number of European influences. What is our history? How has that guided us? Who are we? And what are we doing in 2011? The traces, tidemarks and legacies of past and possible future distinctions in Canadian anthropology will be partially remembered, partially re-created and partially invented in this session.