Nation Provisoire, La -The Provisional Nation

16 January 2024

La Nation Provisoire -The Provisional Nation
by Laurier Gareau
Published by la nouvelle plume
Review by Toby A. Welch  
$20.00 ISBN 9782925329053

What a fascinating book for anyone interested in Canadian history or the role of the Métis in our country’s past. The Provisional Nation explores how Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont – two of the most well-known Métis leaders – approached dealing with colonization; Indigenous people lived through a century and a half of colonization after Canada acquired Rupert’s Land. In this book, Gareau delves deep into the days of the last armed Métis resistance against Canada’s invasion into their traditional lands.

I love how The Provisional Nation is laid out. The first half is the French version and the second half – starting at page ninety-nine – is for those who prefer to read English. Once you jump in, the content is written like a play. You’ll find a list of the cast of characters, a description of the stage setting, and then fifty subsequent scenes. [My favourite scene was number thirty-five. It opens with Louis Riel on his knees in prayer. (Riel was allegedly a deeply religious man.) Then Dumont enters the scene and the two discuss what will come next with the army’s invasion and their defense of the homeland.]

If you are skipping ahead to the English version, take a quick stop on pages ninety-five to ninety-eight to see photos of the play in action back in 1979 and 2010. The pictures are entertaining and add another level of context to the book. 

This play was originally commissioned in 1979 by the On s’garoche à Batoche festival in St. Laurent, Saskatchewan. While the play was a smash hit at that history festival, it was shelved until 2010 when Regina’s Théâtre Oskana presented it. Gareau was the co-creator of the initial play in 1979 and was involved in the 2010 production as well. 

In my experience, plays can sometimes feel stilted, the dialogue not as free flowing as a regular conversation. That didn’t happen here. Gareau’s knowledge as a playwright shines through in The Provisional Nation as the dialogue is spot on and natural. 

I can’t imagine anyone being as capable of pulling off this book as Gareau. Having written or translated over seventy plays, you can’t deny his genius as a playwright. He has a master’s degree in playwriting and is a two-time winner of the Prix du livre français at the Saskatchewan Book Awards. He was inducted as a Member of the Order of Canada in 2018 for having “made known and grown the roots of the Fransaskois for more than 40 years.” In Saskatchewan, Gareau is considered one of the leading playwrights of the province’s French-speaking community. 

If you have even a remote interest in the Métis story of 1885, snag yourself a copy of The Provisional Nation


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