Gerry B's Book Reviews

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, by James Daschuk

A must-read for students, and a should-read for others.

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Click on the cover to purchase.

Click on the cover to purchase.

Story blurb: In arresting, but harrowing, prose, James Daschuk examines the roles that Old World diseases, climate, and, most disturbingly, Canadian politics—the politics of ethnocide—played in the deaths and subjugation of thousands of aboriginal people in the realization of Sir John A. Macdonald’s “National Dream.”

It was a dream that came at great expense: the present disparity in health and economic well-being between First Nations and non-Native populations, and the lingering racism and misunderstanding that permeates the national consciousness to this day.

About the author: My research focus is on the impact of environmental change on the health of indigenous people. My historical work investigates the role of disease, changes to subsistence practices and climate change in the historical development of western Canada. My current research projects include the impact of introduced species, horses and domestic cattle, on the well-being of First Nations.

Recent Publications

James Daschuk, Paul Hackett and Scott D. MacNeil, “Treaties and Tuberculosis: First Nations People in Late 19th Century Western Canada, A Political and Economic Transformation.” Canadian Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 23 (2006): 307-330.

James Daschuk, “An Examination of Common and Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental History of the Northwestern Plains.” In G.P Marchildon, ed., The Early Northwest: History of the Prairie West Series. Volume 1. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 2008. 35-47

James Daschuk, “A Dry Oasis: The Northern Great Plains in Late Prehistory,” Prairie Forum 34(Spring 2009).

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Review by Gerry Burnie

As most everyone knows, my passions are 1) Canada, 2) Canadian history, 3) history, and 4) everything else. When I was going to school, right through my university days, Canadian history was colonial history, i.e., a sub-category of English history, populated by kings and generals and dry as chalk.

Unfortunately, with the exception of people like James Dashuk  and a few others, Pierre Burton comes to mind, very little has changed. However, now the focus is on multicultural history, and once again Canadian heritage history is being brushed aside.

It is not to say Canadian history hasn’t been without its dark side, which James Dashuk so capably points out in Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal life [University of Regina Press, August 1, 2014].

An actual pile of buffalo skulls. Slaughtering the buffalo was part of a plan to starve the Natives off the land.

An actual pile of buffalo skulls. Slaughtering the buffalo was part of a plan to starve the Natives off the land.

In it, Dashuk presents an indictment of meticulously researched evidence to show that the catastrophes visited on many of the Native People were state sanctioned. That is to say that John A. MacDonald, his government, speculators, and lobbyists like the Canadian Pacific Railway, indulged in systematic starvation, as well as the spread of infectious diseases to eradicate ‘the Native problem’ on the western prairies.

I will not take any examples out of context, for they are best read along with the supporting evidence; however, suffice to say that Dashuk presents a very compelling case with scalpel-like precision.

A word must be said for the writing style, as well. This is an academic treatise, to be sure, and yet it is readily readable by the average person with an average vocabulary. Indeed, the author’s prose is as precise as his topics he presents.

However, I will also add a caveat to those who would attempt to apply these ‘atrocities’ to the Canada of today, or to Canadians of the assign blame to future generations – As Stephen Harper did regarding the poll tax of the 1880s (imposed by John A. MacDonald, by the way)

We can justifiably accuse the governments and people who participated, now dead, but the crimes of our ‘forefathers’ do not appropriately apply to the seventh generation.

This is a great book: A must read for students, and a should-read for others. Five bees in the nonfiction category.

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Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  The McMichael Art Collection, Kleinberg, Ontario: The collection that love put together.

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

October 6, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Native history, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Wild Onions, by Sarah Black

A tale of hope and heritage, as well as a gentle love story. 

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Wild Onions - coverStory blurb: THE YEAR was 1882, and the last of the native tribes had dropped to their knees and slipped on their yokes under the boots and guns of the US Cavalry. The Blackfoot were the last, and then the buffalo hunt failed. The vast plains were barren and empty, and the people began to starve. Desperation spread like poison across the land. Evil men, seeing their chance, fed on the hunger, ate the clean hearts of the people. The blood that was spilled in 1882 has not been avenged today. The ghosts are waiting for someone to set them free.

Robert looked over to the corner of the porch. Their old fishing poles were leaning against the screen. He carried them back to his chair, started untangling the nylon fishing line. Val’s pole was for serious fishermen, a supple thin Orvis fly rod with a reel full of braided yellow nylon. His pole was cheap, from Wal-Mart, with a soft cork handle and a reel with a sticky thumb button. Val laughed when he saw it, said it was for little boys fishing at reservoirs.

He put Val’s pole back in the corner, carried his down the slope to the river bank. It took him a little while to find his balance again. He didn’t try to get into the water. That would probably be too much for his shaky leg. But after a few casts he got his rhythm again, let the weight fly out low over the water.

There was a splash a bit upriver, and a moment later a young man appeared, walking down the middle of the shallow river from rock to rock in green hip waders, dressed in the dark green uniform of Fish and Wildlife. He had a fishing pole over his shoulder and a woven oak creel. From the weight of it on his shoulder, Robert could see he’d had some luck. He was Indian, Blackfoot, maybe, and his long hair was tied back at his collar. He raised a hand in greeting.

Robert nodded back. “Evening.” He reeled in his line, and the man watched the red and white bobber bouncing across the water in front of him.
The man’s face was impassive, but he blinked a couple of times when he watched the line come out of the water, bobber, lead weight, no hook. No fish. “I guess I don’t need to ask you if you have a fishing license,” the man said. “Since you aren’t really fishing.”

Robert nodded to the creel over the man’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve had some luck.”

The man eased the basket off his shoulder, dipped it down into the icy river water. “Yes, I sure did.” He slapped the Fish and Wildlife patch on his uniform shirt. “Course, I don’t need no stinkin’ license! Just another example of the generalized corruption of the Federal Government.”

Robert grinned at him. “Wonder how many times you hear that in the course of a week? We must be in Idaho! I’m Robert Mitchell.”

The man reached for his hand and they shook. “I’m Cody Calling Eagle.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Three Piegan Blacckfoot chiefs on the prairies of Montana.

Three Piegan Blacckfoot chiefs on the prairies of Montana.

And speaking of shared dreams (…as does the story of Wild Onions by Sarah Black) I believe she and I may have shared a couple of visions as well. My latest work-in-progress-novel deals with forgotten legends and unsettled spirits too, and so I read this story with particular interest,

It is a lovely story—a true romance—and somewhat unique inasmuch as it deals with love across cultural lines.

The story opens poignantly with Robert Mitchell visiting the cabin he frequently visited with his deceased lover, Val.  The cabin goes way back in Val’s ancestry, but beset with medical bills Robert is now thinking of selling it to get out from under these. However, once he gets there and surrounded by memories, he has a change of thought.

Enter Cody Calling Eagle [my main character’s name is ‘Cory’], a Blackfoot descendent  who is still as fresh-faced and unaffected as the wilderness around Salmon River, where he is employed as a conservation officer.

He is like a breath of fresh air that fans the embers of love within Robert, and Cody is open to it as well. Then, as mentioned above, they began experiencing visions of a disturbing past connected to the cabin and Val and Cody’s ancestry. These also begin to have an affect on their relationship, and so Robert has to work hard to overcome this.

At another level, Ms Black weaves  into the storyline some of the history of the Piegan Blackfeet, i.e. the 1882 disappearance of the buffalo, and the ‘Winter of Starvation”  (1883-84),  during which 500 Blackfeet died of starvation.

Despite this it is a story of hope and dedication, as well as a gentle love story. Five bees.

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Presenting the revised cover for my upcoming novel: Coming of Age on the Trail – Part One 

Presenting the revised cover for my forthcoming novel: ComiNG of Age on the Trail - PART ONE.

Presenting the revised cover for my forthcoming novel: ComiNG of Age on the Trail – PART ONE.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  “Spadina House:  One of the great houses of Canada.

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

      

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Cross Cultural romance, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay romance, Historical period, Native history | 2 Comments

   

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