Magnificent Nahanni, The

The Magnificent Nahanni: The Struggle to Protect a Wild Place by Gordon Nelson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-460-5 Can man and nature live in harmony? Can they even co-exist? These are issues Gordon Nelson addresses in The Magnificent Nahanni: The Struggle to Protect a Wild Place. Nahanni National Park Reserve, located in Canada’s Northwest Territories, is indeed impressive. Nelson describes a magical place with cliffs, canyons, caves, and a waterfall even higher than Niagara Falls. This is a place where wildlife predominates – bright flowers, butterflies and birds, caribou and wolf. The Nahanni River itself “stands out among northern rivers, not because of its size but because of its unique grandeur and rich natural diversity,” he says. All these attributes have been described in other books, but what sets Nelson’s apart is his detailed description of the enormous efforts required to preserve this lush landscape, focusing on the long struggle to conserve the river and its watershed as a national park reserve. The name of the Nahanni River likely evolved from the mysterious Indigenous people who inhabited the area. Nelson notes that the name has a “vague mystical flavour” suggesting the inhabitants…

Firewater
University of Regina Press / 28 February 2017

Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (And Yours) by Harold R. Johnson Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $16.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-437-7 Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (And Yours) packs a wallop as Harold Johnson unveils the harsh truth about alcoholism on Aboriginal reserves. He exposes the truth, and the truth hurts. But by having the courage to confront alcohol head on, he stares it down into submission. Johnson himself is an Aboriginal who has struggled with the crippling effects of alcohol addiction, so he knows what he’s talking about and speaks with authority. Although he directs his highly controversial book primarily at Aboriginals, non-Aboriginals could also benefit greatly from it. Johnson is at heart a storyteller, using the storyteller’s technique of repeating certain words and phrases to create a hypnotic effect on readers. He elaborates on the devastating effects alcohol has had, and continues to have, on Aboriginal people. Johnson’s shocking statistics are real eye-openers. He estimates, for instance, that fully one-half of all Aboriginals on Treaty 6 territory will die from an alcohol-related death, whether they drink or not. He also produces statistics showing that 35 per cent of Aboriginals don’t use…

Outlier: Life, Law, and Politics in the West
Benchmark Press / 7 February 2017

Outlier: Life, Law and Politics in the West by Garrett Wilson Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-1-927352-28-1 In his hard-hitting autobiography, Outlier: Life, Law and Politics in the West, retired lawyer and author Garrett Wilson doesn’t pull any punches. He tells it as he sees it, exposing scandalous government corruption at both provincial and federal levels. His chapter on Hazen Argue and his wife Jean, for instance, exposes outrageous abuses in the Canadian Senate. The Outlier title may be somewhat misleading as it implies Wilson is on the outside looking in while momentous decisions are being made. But Wilson is not merely an eyewitness to history; he‘s at its very nerve centre and plays a role in making that history. When the Ku Klux Klan tries to intimidate Wilson’s father in the 1920s by burning a cross just outside their village, Wilson may sense he’s in for a rough life. He develops a severe kidney infection and his older brother Kevin is killed in World War II. While studying law at the University of Saskatchewan, Wilson becomes editor of The Sheaf, the student newspaper, winning three trophies, including one for best editorials. He begins to…

Glad I Dropped In
Benchmark Press / 18 January 2017

Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore by June Mitchell Published by Benchmark Press Review by Keith Foster $20.00 ISBN 978-1-927352-27-4 Anyone looking for the pure pleasure of getting lost in a good book need look no further than June Mitchell’s Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore, a memoir sure to evoke both laughter and tears. June, or Junie as she refers to herself in the early portion of the book, tells her life story as she recalls it. In those earlier sections where she has no recollection, she narrates as an outside observer, based on what she heard from others. June inherits her socialist leanings from her parents. Her mother, Marjorie Cooper, becomes the third female Member of the Saskatchewan Legislature, serving four terms for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. June’s father, Edward Cooper, is a high school teacher and fellow member of the CCF. June also develops her social activism from her Aunt Luella. When she witnesses a man dragging a woman down the street, Luella calls police, who ignore her. She then adds that her father has just left the house with a hammer; the police respond immediately. June…

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…

Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan: An Illustrated History
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 30 November 2016

Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan: An Illustrated History by Edward Willett Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-76-8 Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan: An Illustrated History by Regina author Edward Willett is a masterful work of art in both narrative and illustration, solid in structure, and powerful in its rendition. It’s actually a revised and enlarged version of Margaret Hryniuk’s A Tower of Attraction, edited by Garth Pugh and published in 1991 for the 100th anniversary of Government House. That book is long out of print, and a lot has happened in the last twenty-five years – time for a new version for the 125th anniversary in 2016. The Government House Historical Society, with its foresight to preserve its past for the future, undertook both book projects. Willett revises A Tower of Attraction, which covers the period up to and including the term of Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Fedoruk, using it as his launch pad and taking off from there. This book is as up to date as it can be – going through to August 2016. In addition to interviewing the staff at Government House and the widow of former lieutenant Governor John E.N “Jack” Wiebe,…

Reflections of Ukraine: Ukrainian Churches of the Saskatchewan Countryside
Lloyd and Rose Virag / 9 November 2016

Reflections of Ukraine: Ukrainian Churches of the Saskatchewan Countryside by Lloyd & Rose Virag Published by Lloyd & Rose Virag Review by Keith Foster $39.95 ISBN 978-0-9950034-0-8 Have you ever wondered about all those little churches that dot the Saskatchewan landscape? Lloyd and Rose Virag have pondered them too, and set out on a motor trek of discovery. Focusing specifically on Ukrainian churches because of Rose’s ethnic background, their results are recorded in Reflections of Ukraine: Ukrainian Churches of the Saskatchewan Countryside, an attractive coffee table book they self-published. Lavishly illustrated with more than 700 colour photos taken at 160 different sites in Saskatchewan, the book showcases 142 country churches. The first seven chapters include Ukrainian Orthodox, Ukrainian Greek Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic, and Ukrainian Greek Catholic churches. The next two chapters feature three Russian Orthodox churches and a surprising variety of other denominations with Ukrainian connections. Chapter ten shows a selection of cemeteries where the churches no longer exist. In captions and photos, the Virags have assembled a wide collection of churches, cemeteries, and small chapels, known as kaplychkos. And these are just the ones that still exist. Some of the churches have been replaced more than once as the…

Life & Times of Lighthouse McNeil, The
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 3 November 2016

The Life & Times of Lighthouse McNeil: An Adventure in the RCMP by George Garrett Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-65-2 The legendary traditions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are based on individual members who excelled. In The Life & Times of Lighthouse McNeil: An Adventure in the RCMP, George Garrett chronicles the exploits of one such legendary member – Alexander Stirling McNeil. Born in Winnipeg in 1908, McNeil joined the RCMP in 1931, taking his training at “Depot” Division in Regina. By the time he retired in 1966, he had served in more than thirty detachments across Canada and became a legend in his time. He earned his nickname “Lighthouse McNeil” in 1931 while playing with the Regina Roughriders, forerunner of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Standing at six feet, four inches, he made an easily visible receiver. Returning to the huddle after one particular play in which the quarterback hadn’t thrown to him, he protested, “Why didn’t you throw the ball to me? I’m like a ruddy lighthouse out there!” McNeil was involved in several significant events in Saskatchewan’s history, such as quelling a coal miners’ strike in Estevan in 1933, and…

Aboriginal Rock Paintings of the Churchill River, The

The Aboriginal Rock Paintings of the Churchill River by Tim E.H. Jones Published by Saskatchewan Archaeological Society Review by Keith Foster $21.00 ISBN 9780969142065 When Tim Jones saw his first rock paintings on Kipahigan Lake in northern Saskatchewan in 1964, he was both puzzled and fascinated by them. The subject of his Master’s thesis, studying these paintings became his lifelong passion. The Aboriginal Rock Paintings of the Churchill River is the second printing of a book originally published in 1981 based on Jones’s thesis. By the time it went out of print in 2005, it had become a “best seller,” having sold more copies than any other book dealing with Saskatchewan’s archeological past. According to Jeff Baldwin, President of the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society, the book remains “the main published resource on the ancient rock art of Saskatchewan’s north.” In his preface, Jones points out the importance of this study. “Rock art is the most widely spread, diverse and ancient of all human creative endeavours.” In learning about past artists and their worlds, we learn more about our own world and our current culture. These rock paintings depict a variety of subjects, primarily human-like figures, thunderbirds, and snakes. Tobacco pipes, rings,…