Drought and Depression
University of Regina Press / 24 April 2018

Drought & Depression (History of the Prairie West Series, Vol. 6) edited by Gregory P. Marchildon Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-539-8 Grandma Knox recalled that after her father ploughed up seven acres of virgin prairie, he seeded his entire 1933 crop to oats. “He just seeded it by hand,” she wrote. “Beautiful crop. Grew up about six feet high, and froze right down in August. Wasn’t even good feed.” This one incident pretty much encapsulates the frustrations prairie farmers felt during the Great Depression. By recording and recounting his grandmother’s experiences, Clinton N. Westman brings the flavour of the past to life. His article is just one appearing in Drought and Depression, edited by Gregory P. Marchildon. A collection of fourteen articles by fifteen authors, it’s the latest book in the History of the Prairie West Series. Each book in the series is based on a particular theme. As the title suggests, Drought and Depression focuses on the Dirty Thirties on the Canadian Prairies. This selection of articles was originally published in the Prairie Forum journal between 1977 and 2009. The advantage of this book series format is that it gathers all…

Mapmaker
University of Regina Press / 27 March 2018

Mapmaker: Philip Turnor in Rupert’s Land in the Age of Enlightenment by Barbara Mitchell Published by University of Regina Press Review by Michelle Shaw $39.95 ISBN 9780889775939 Between 1778 and 1792, Philip Turnor and his guides travelled over 15,000 miles by canoe and foot to produce ten maps, which laid the foundation for all northern geographic knowledge at that time. But until now, not much has been known about him Barbara Mitchell’s carefully researched work has changed that. She first became interested in Philip Turnor when she realized she was related to him. Initially all she knew was that he was a “significant figure in the Hudson Bay Company”; their first inland surveyor, in fact. A few years later, she heard a wisp of a story passed down through the generations of “Grandfather Philip Turnor travelling rivers in Northern Canada with only the stars to guide him.” That set her imagination on fire. “I began to imagine Turnor with his sextant, compass, and watch, and with his Cree guides and my great, great, great, great [Cree] grandmother, surveying the rivers of Rupert’s Land…. Turnor introduced me to Canada’s northern geography and early history, to the men who mapped this land,…

Hero for the Americas, A
University of Regina Press / 1 February 2018

A Hero for the Americas: The Legend of Gonzalo Guerrero by Robert Calder Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 9-780889-775091 Robert Calder’s A Hero for the Americas: The Legend of Gonzalo Guerrero is an impeccably-researched and compelling nonfiction title offering much to ingest, enjoy, and learn from. The GG award-winning author and Emeritus Professor (U of S) came to his subject as a frequent traveler to the Yucatán Peninsula, where the Spanish-born sailor Gonzalo Guerrero and numerous other conquistadors believed they’d find their fortunes. A sculpture of Guerrero, “a powerful figure dressed as a Mayan warrior,” first piqued Calder’s interest in the enigmatic 16th Century hero, and indeed, Guerrero’s relatively unsung story (as compared to that of fellow conquistador, Hernán Cortés) has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster: adventure, battles, romance, and legacy. The robust Andalusian sailor defied his country and Catholic religion after being shipwrecked (of nineteen, only Guerrero and fellow Spaniard Jerónimo de Aguilar survived) off the Yucatán Peninsula in 1512. Guerrero was enslaved by a Mayan chief; earned the tribe’s respect; married the chief’s daughter; became a Chactemal military captain; and fathered the first mestizaje children in Mexican history….

Starving Ukraine
University of Regina Press / 12 January 2018

Starving Ukraine: The Holodomor and Canada’s Response by Serge Cipko Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $80.00 ISBN 978-0-88977-506-0 Imagine going without food for an entire day. Then imagine being deprived of food for weeks or months. This is the situation Serge Cipko describes in Starving Ukraine: The Holodomor and Canada’s Response, a comprehensive and focused study of starvation in Ukraine, part of the Soviet Union, from 1932 through 1934. Except in Ukrainian circles, the Holodomor seems to have been largely forgotten. The term comes from two Ukrainian words, moryty holodom, meaning “extermination by hunger.” Citing reports of emaciated children, people eating field mice, and even cannibalism, Cipko says conditions were so severe that Joseph Stalin’s wife committed suicide in protest. Famine in Ukraine, known as the granary of Europe, had an impact on Saskatchewan, a wheat-producing province with a large Ukrainian population. Saskatchewan small towns such as Hafford, Hague, and Krydor held rallies to support relatives in Ukraine who were asking not for money but for grain and flour. When Hafford residents tried to gather half a million bushels of wheat for shipment to Ukraine, the Soviet government declined the offer, saying there was no…

Regina Indian Industrial School (1891 – 1910), The
Benchmark Press / 8 December 2017

The Regina Indian Industrial School (1891-1910): Historical Overview and Chronological Narrative by Douglas Stewart Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $20.00 ISBN 978-1-927352-35-9 When an Indigenous boy ran away from the Regina Indian Industrial School in the 1890s, a teacher caught up to him, tied a rope around him, and forced him to run behind a horse-drawn wagon the eleven miles back to school. This is one of the horrific incidents Douglas Stewart relates in his book, The Regina Indian Industrial School (1891-1910): Historical Overview and Chronological Narrative. In the first section of his book, Stewart analyzes his findings in a historical overview of the school. In the second, he provides a chronological narrative of its operation from 1891 to 1910 and its destruction by fire in 1948. By presenting both positive and negative aspects, he tries to paint a balanced portrait of the school. Commissioned by Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, Nicholas Flood Davin penned a report recommending that industrial schools be established in the Prairies. Operated by the Presbyterian Church, the Regina Indian Industrial School opened in 1891 with Rev. A.J. McLeod as principal. In spite of Indian Commissioner David Laird’s glowing report that students have…

Fiery Joe

Fiery Joe: The Maverick Who Lit Up the West by Kathleen Carlisle, with Eileen Forrieter Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-485-8 Fiery Joe: The Maverick Who Lit Up the West is a fascinating story of an incredible man. For those with a political bent, Joseph Lee Phelps was a man of many accomplishments. For those just interested in a good story, his standout feature is his personality. Author Kathleen Carlisle has produced a well-documented character study of an intensely political man. She credits Eileen Forrieter as co-author because her master’s thesis forms an integral part of this book. Using interviews with Phelps and his contemporaries, Carlisle brings him to life on the page. Phelps’ heart was firmly planted in the soil. Actively involved in numerous farm organizations, he juggled work as a telephone lineman in the Wilkie district and tended to his growing family. He later served as president of the Saskatchewan Farmers Union and was instrumental in establishing Saskatchewan’s Western Development Museum. After Phelps was elected to the Saskatchewan legislature as the member for Saltcoats in 1938, a Leader-Post columnist described the rookie: “He is a fighter. He has punch. He has…

Road Through Time

Road Through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move by Mary Soderstrom Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $26.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-477-3 Mary Soderstrom’s Road Through Time: The Story of Humanity on the Move may well be the most intriguing archaeological analysis since man set wheels on pathways. Partly memoir, it’s really a condensed history of civilization as seen through its roads. Soderstrom tells the story of humanity tramping through time, exploring, discovering, and moving on. The great trek started with early humans leaving Africa possibly as early as 80,000 years ago and continues to this day. One of the most fascinating chapters is also the most mysterious. Soderstrom outlines possible routes humans may have taken to reach North America. Some facts are known. She notes, for instance, that “every Native American throughout the western hemisphere shows common kinship with people who now live or who did live in parts of Northern Siberia.” But much is conjecture, so she titles the chapter “Mystery Roads.” One mystery she does explain is why, for most of its production period, the Model T Ford was available only in black, and it wasn’t because Henry Ford particularly liked that colour….

To Climb a Mountain
Jean Forbes-King / 5 June 2017

To Climb a Mountain. Growing Up in the Canadian West: Adventure Amid Turmoil and History by Jean Forbes-King Review by Keith Foster ISBN 978-0-9958599-1-3 Jean Forbes-King’s To Climb a Mountain. Growing Up in the Canadian West: Adventure Amid Turmoil and History is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure story of her late husband, William Forbes-King, who endures the devastating drought and depression of the Dirty Thirties, becomes an orphan at age fourteen, and is drafted into the Canadian Army as a teenager. Bill’s father, a British Army officer, survives the German gas attack at Ypres in the First World War but passes away before Bill is born in 1926. The next year, Bill’s mother leaves England with her two boys, moving to the small prairie community of Cadillac in southern Saskatchewan. As a “freckle-faced kid with sun-bleached hair,” Billy Forbes-King is a prankster. He’s also bullied, often coming home with a black eye, bruises, or bloody nose. He later learns why his older brother, Jim, who also bullies him, was himself ridiculed and bullied. After Jim joins the Royal Canadian Navy, Bill and his mother join him in Victoria, BC. Travelling by train through the Rocky Mountains, Bill is overwhelmed with their…

Towards A Prairie Atonement
University of Regina Press / 21 December 2016

Towards a Prairie Atonement by Trevor Herriot Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $22.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-454-4 For the Métis, who lived on the Canadian prairies for centuries, land was everything. They hunted on it, sustained themselves on it, fought for it, and died for it. In Towards a Prairie Atonement, naturalist Trevor Herriot’s same reverence for the land is reflected in the deep spiritual undertones embedded in his narrative. Enamoured with both the prairie and its inhabitants, Herriot pays particular attention to the birds and trees, as is his naturalist inclination. He argues that if man does not take care of the land, nature will exact its revenge, as it did in the raging dustbowl of the Dirty Thirties. If you sit very quietly in the outdoors, he says, you can hear the land moaning its loss. Herriot has a flair for playing with descriptive language, such as “fingers of grassland around bowls of forest” and “men and women as hardy as poplar trees.” He points out that some of our English words, such as coulee, originated from Michif, the Métis language rooted in a mixture of Cree and French. Herriot draws heavily on Métis Elder…

Otto & Daria
University of Regina Press / 14 December 2016

Otto & Daria: A Wartime Journey Through No Man’s Land by Eric Koch Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $25.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-443-8 When Otto Koch, a German Jew, suffers an appendicitis attack, he’s rushed to a hospital in the Third Reich reserved for non-Jews. As the anaesthesia starts to take effect, the last words he hears are his surgeon greeting his staff with “Heil Hitler.” In his memoir, entitled Otto & Daria: A Wartime Journey Through No Man’s Land, Koch vividly re-creates his life in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s. He brilliantly captures the tension in the air as the Nazis insidiously gain control. His parents protect him from the encroaching danger and at first he leads an idyllic life, isolated from the terror that is to come. Otto continues his life chronicle, studying at the University of Cambridge in England, when he meets the mysterious Daria Hambourg, a woman at first shy but more than adept at expressing herself through her writing. She’s from a distinguished English family, but with a distinctively bohemian bent. She’s also a Socialist with no qualms about expressing her views. Otto and Daria begin corresponding by…