Saskatchewan Dirt

18 July 2023

Saskatchewan Dirt: A Pandemic Quest for Connection
by Bev Lundahl
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Toby A. Welch
$24.95 ISBN 9781778690129

We all know you should never judge a book by its cover, but I made that mistake initially with Saskatchewan Dirt. Based on the title, I assumed this book would be about a farmer’s search for ways to connect with others during the height of Covid. Wrong! It’s a “genealogical and geographical pursuit of the early connections between settlers and Indigenous people in southeast Saskatchewan.”

This book unfolds in a creative way. Basically, the author and her road trip sidekick, Georgina, hit the highways and back roads of Saskatchewan to uncover the history of the settlers and Indigenous people of that region. (I loved that they spent plenty of time in the Estevan area, my stomping grounds.) Between and after the two road trips they took, the research continued via Zoom meetings and deep dives into the Internet. The details Lundahl unearthed add to the depths of this work. In addition to the genealogical aspects, the residential schools atrocity takes up a portion of the book. (She even touches on Pope Francis’s apology in 2022 for the Catholic church’s role in the history of residential schools.)

The pictures scattered throughout Saskatchewan Dirt add greatly to this book. You’ll find photos of old documents, lists of interesting information (like a fascinating one that details the wages for the threshing crew in 1921) as well as pictures of things discussed in the pages. They helped round out the story that Lundahl painted with her words. 

This is one of the most thoroughly researched books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Lundahl clearly did a tremendous amount of investigation when working on this labour of love. If you’d like to learn more after you turn the last page, you’ll find a detailed list of additional resources at the back.

This may seem trivial to most people but as a tactile person, I loved holding this book as I devoured it. The paper is my favourite kind: thicker than regular paper but not quite card stock. I felt a jolt of pleasure every time I turned the page. Small, yes, but a factor that added to my enjoyment of Saskatchewan Dirt

Dirt. Such a simple thing but I will never look at it the same. Previously the only association I had with the word dirt is the stuff I walk on where there is no grass. But this book opened my eyes as the author meant it more metaphorically: as in digging up dirt that is the secrets and uncovered truths from the past. 

Anyone interested in Saskatchewan history, Indigenous issues, or even a reminder of what life was like in the early days of Covid will enjoy Saskatchewan Dirt. It is an entertaining and educational read all rolled into one.


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