#IdleNoMore
University of Regina Press / 4 September 2015

#IdleNoMore: And the Remaking of Canada by Ken Coates Published by University of Regina Press Review by: Justin Dittrick $27.95 ISBN: 9780889773424 In #IdleNoMore: And the Remaking of Canada, Ken Coates examines the Idle No More movement from its understated beginnings in November 2012 to its climax in the late winter of 2013. While Idle No More can be compared to other social movements, such as Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, it differs from them in several important ways. It is these differences that make the movement truly remarkable, including its lack of an official spokesperson, its lack of affiliation with political leaders, mainstream ideologies, and party elites, and its lack of an organizational structure beyond organizers’ commitment to its grassroots origins and inspiration. Indeed a convincing argument can be made that Idle No More contributes a set of best practices for peaceful, exuberant, and community-driven protest. With its energy, direction, and focus coming almost entirely from the public, it is greater than the sum of its actions and events, having galvanized discussion and instilled pride in a new generation of Indigenous Canadians on a wide assortment of issues and challenges to be faced in the coming years….

Metis and the Medicine Line
University of Regina Press / 2 September 2015

Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People by Michel Hogue Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 9780889773806 On the open prairies in the 1870s, one could look to the horizon without seeing any distinguishing features. Yet here was the border – an invisible boundary along the forty-ninth parallel – dividing the United States and Canada. The job of the North American Boundary Commission was to make the invisible border visible. They did this by building mounds of sod placed three miles apart – surely a ludicrous situation since anyone standing beside a mound would barely be able to see the next mound even on a clear day. Although “First Nations” doesn’t actually appear in the title of Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People the book devotes substantial space to their issues as well. Author Michel Hogue sheds light on both Metis and First Nations people and their culture. As the subtitle suggests, the Medicine Line divided not only the two countries, but also the people living there. Hogue points out that Metis and First Nations people were well aware of the power and…

The New Wascana Anthology
University of Regina Press / 27 August 2015

The New Wascana Anthology Edited by Medrie Purdham and Michael Trussler Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $49.95 ISBN 978-0-88977 The beauty of an anthology – and particularly a multi-genre example, like the The New Wascana Anthology, is that readers can sample from a veritable banquet of hand-picked work. This book represents a “best of” combination of two earlier “Wascana” anthologies (poetry and short fiction), plus other important and entertaining work. Editors Medrie Purdham and Michael Trussler’s intent was “to preserve the strengths of the earlier anthologies” and “add a variety of new selections to make a textbook that would be especially amenable to the twenty-first-century classroom.” Within these 551 pages you’ll discover popular works from the canon (American, British, and Canadian) sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with pieces by contemporary Canadians, including many of Saskatchewan’s finest (current or former residents), including Lorna Crozier, Patrick Lane, Gerald Hill, Karen Solie, and newcomer Cassidy McFadzean, b. 1989. You may find yourself remembering poetic lines from Shakespeare, Wordsworth or Dickinson, and then be pleased to shake the metaphorical hand of contemporary short story writers like Eden Robinson, Dianne Warren, Rohinton Mistry, Alexander MacLeod (his “Miracle Mile” is placed next to…

Overlooking Saskatchewan: Minding the Gap

Overlooking Saskatchewan: Minding the Gap Edited by Randal Rogers and Christine Ramsay Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $39.95 ISBN 9-780889-772922 If you’ve been to London, England, you’ll be familiar with the phrase “Mind the Gap,” a caution to tube-users re: stepping between the train and the platform. Randal Rogers and Christine Ramsay, joint editors of Overlooking Saskatchewan: Minding the Gap – a collection of diverse essays about Saskatchewan as seen through cultural, artistic and historical lenses – suggest their title is derived from the province’s experience of being overlooked: a metaphorical gap “between Calgary and Winnipeg, to be looked down on, literally, as one flies over.” The editors aspired to collect work that would have broad appeal “as a contribution to knowledge about Saskatchewan culture that builds upon important research,” and address the various “gaps” that have existed – or continue to exist – within the province. I surmise that the editors also wished to address why Saskatchewan should not be overlooked. They aimed to “authentically address what it means to live and belong in this place,” and they pulled in some heavy hitters to make their arguments. Although the book’s intended for both…

Women’s History

Women’s History Edited by Wendee Kubik and Gregory P. Marchildon Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 9780889773127 The history of women in the Prairies is a story of accomplishment and ongoing struggle – clearly depicted in Women’s History, edited by Wendee Kubik and Gregory P. Marchildon, This is the fifth volume in the History of the Prairie West Series, designed to appeal to a wide audience, from general readers to professional historians. Although Women’s History focuses on the three Prairie Provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba, it also extends to the American West. The book includes an array of subjects, including prohibition, vagrancy, suffrage, political activism, and union organizing. Women’s History is divided into six sections – Politics, Law, Agriculture, Labour, Journalism, and Ethnicity – covering the period from the 1870s to 2005. The seventeen analytical essays by fifteen authors were previously published in various issues of Prairie Forum; they are now conveniently located in this one volume. Each section contains essays appropriate to that area, often with intriguing titles such as “Spinsters Need Not Apply: Six Single Women Who Attempted to Homestead in Saskatchewan between 1872 and 1914,” and “25¢ an Hour; 48…

Woods Cree Stories
University of Regina Press / 17 March 2015

Woods Cree Stories by Solomon Ratt Illustrated by Holly Martin Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-345-5 Woods Cree Stories is a collection of nine Cree folkloric tales related in three versions – syllabic, Cree, and the English translation. Author Solomon Ratt embellishes his stories with humour as an aid to learning the Cree language. If they seem a little weird, it’s probably because Ratt describes himself as having “a weird sense of humour.” Some of the tales may seem far-fetched. In “Buffalo Wings,” Ratt takes readers on a fanciful flight of fantasy going back to olden days when buffalo had wings. According to Ratt’s mythology, buffalo were hunted just for their wings, which were a delicious delicacy. Shaking-Spear, a character in another story, talks to animals, and they talk back to him. In the end, he makes a talking tree very happy. Another amusing tale involves a mouse who tries to form a friendship pact with a rabbit, a man, a cat, and a porcupine, all of whom are quite conversational in both Cree and English. Inevitably their alliance starts to break up. The last straw is when man gets ravenously hungry and…

Journeys in Community-Based Research
University of Regina Press / 6 February 2015

Journeys in Community-Based Research Edited by Bonnie Jeffery, et al Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $80 ISBN 978-0-88977-306-6 Every journey begins with a first step. Journeys in Community-Based Research takes the reader on a giant first step in dealing with the ethics, advocacy, and impact of community-based research and learning. This highly academic study is a collection of essays reflecting case studies by 30 contributors skilled in assessing the needs of the marginalized and disadvantaged. Their goal was to develop a deeper understanding of communities and discover opportunities to improve their quality of life. In linking research, education, and action in Saskatoon’s core neighbourhoods, for instance, the authors point out that “participatory research requires a two-way dialogue, combining the researcher’s theoretical knowledge with the insider’s first-hand knowledge of the milieu.” They also found that “Building credibility, trust, and rapport also depended on asking the ‘right questions.’” This meant the researchers had to demonstrate that they were listening, learning, and taking community expertise seriously. To assist other researchers, the authors developed the following five-point checklist: i) identify decision makers, ii) involve them early, iii) involve them often, iv) conduct research they can use, and v) give…

Paddling Routes of North-Central Saskatchewan
University of Regina Press / 16 January 2015

Paddling Routes of North-Central Saskatchewan by Gregory P. Marchildon and Carl Anderson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-304-2 The photo on the cover of Paddling Routes of North-Central Saskatchewan shows a paddle dipping into the water. If this doesn’t make you want to pack up your troubles and explore the province’s pristine lakes and rivers, then the detailed descriptions and instructions of authors Gregory P. Marchildon and Carl Anderson surely will. Never canoed before? No problem. The authors rate the difficulties of each route so readers can choose the one most suitable for their level of expertise. If you’re up to the challenges as a seasoned canoeist, the authors have suggestive ideas aplenty. Marchildon and Anderson guide readers through twenty-three trips. Each lists the length of the trip in both miles and kilometers, the approximate time it takes to complete the trip, the number of portages required, and a list of map coordinates. Following some of the trip descriptions are endnotes with nifty tidbits of information that may surprise even some long-term Saskatchewan residents. Did you know, for instance, that Ile-a-la-Crosse takes its name from the game of lacrosse? The book provides the…

Blackfoot Stories of Old
University of Regina Press / 24 December 2014

Blackfoot Stories of Old by Lena Heavy Shields Russell and Inge Genee Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-318-9 Blackfoot Stories of Old is the third in the series of books produced by the University of Regina Press, written in Aboriginal languages with English translations. The book was written, translated, and edited by Lena Heavy Shields Russell and Inge Genee, with illustrations by William Singer III. His etchings, in many ways, look like silhouettes. Fluent in her native tongue, Lena Russell, whose Blackfoot name is “Gentle Singer,” has published 13 resource books – the first Blackfoot resource books ever published and approved by Alberta Education – and helped develop the Blackfoot language curriculum. Blackfoot Stories of Old is a collection of eight very short stories, each about the size of a postcard. Each story is told in Blackfoot on one side of the page, with English on the other. The stories are short, simple, and powerful, with an almost poetic quality. They may well cause a reader to pause and reflect. These are true stories based on Lena’s childhood. Some of the stories, like “A finger bone and a rag doll” and “A Spirit”…

Thugs, Thieves, and Outlaws of Alberta
University of Regina Press / 18 December 2014

Thugs, Thieves & Outlaws: Alberta Crime Stories by Ryan Cormier Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-300-4 In the decades before Canada abolished capital punishment, hanging was a popular mode of execution. It was not an efficient method. An executioner mistakenly cut down one man while he was still alive, with his neck grotesquely dislocated. As the young man struggled for breath in front of witnesses for another 12 minutes, prison officials discussed hanging him a second time. In the 40 chapters of Thugs, Thieves & Outlaws: Alberta Crime Stories, author Ryan Cormier describes many grisly crimes and their punishments. He explains that “good people can be fascinated by gruesome things.” A reporter for the Edmonton Journal, Cormier relies heavily on court transcripts, newspaper accounts, and his own notes. While acknowledging that “every crime has at least two sides,” he uses only the official version, the one sanctioned by the courts. Cormier’s book covers crimes in Alberta from 1870 to 2008. Many of the stories are ripped straight from the headlines, such as the murder of four RCMP officers at Mayerthorpe in 2005. Some stories seem beyond belief, like the banker who embezzled millions…