Man of the Trees
University of Regina Press / 7 December 2018

Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, The First Global Conservationist by Paul Hanley Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-566-4 Americans have Johnny Appleseed as one of their folk heroes; Saskatchewan has Richard St. Barbe Baker, a real-life action hero. Although Baker is not as well known, he is the original tree hugger, so well documented in Paul Hanley’s biography, Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, The First Global Conservationist. Born in 1889, Baker was an eccentric Englishman obsessed with trees. As a youngster, he wandered through a forest, lost but thoroughly enjoying the trees’ embrace. It was as if they’d adopted him. He felt born again. Enthralled with stories he’d heard of Canada, Baker migrated and in 1909 took the train to Saskatoon. He was one of the first 100 students to enrol in the new University of Saskatchewan, taking out a homestead at Beaver Creek, fifteen miles from the campus. He then worked as a lumberjack north of Prince Albert. The nearby sawmill at Big River was the largest in the world at that time. Appalled at the wastage in the cutting process, Baker determined to save trees….

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,…

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…

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…

Mudeater
University of Regina Press / 26 April 2017

Mudeater: An American Buffalo Hunter and the Surrender of Louis Riel by John D. Pihach Published by University of Regina Press Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $27.95 ISBN 9-780889-774582 It’s significant when an illustrious individual appropriates an ancestry, ie: Archie Belaney reinventing himself as Grey Owl. Frontiersman Irvin Mudeater had Grey Owl beat: Mudeater switched back and forth between Indian and European ancestry each time he crossed the 49th Parallel. Born to a Wyandot Chief in Kansas, Mudeater’s story encompasses buffalo hunting, stage coach driving, the Civil War, and criminal activity that saw him flee to Canada in 1882 and become “Robert Armstrong,” the white man who settled in Prince Albert and was credited (with two others) for bringing Louis Riel into custody in 1885. Yorkton writer John D. Pihach became fascinated with Mudeater/Armstrong’s Wild West and Canadian stories after learning that his neighbor was the great-grandson of the famous man, and that Armstrong had written an accessible and unpublished memoir. Considering Armstrong’s storytelling penchant, “some of his claims relating to certain historical events appear unconvincing,” but Pihach believes the “savage nature” of his “Indian” encounters are reliable. The result is the book Mudeater: An American Buffalo Hunter and the…

In the Temple of the Rain God
University of Regina Press / 20 April 2016

In the Temple of the Rain God: The Life and Times of ‘Irish’ Charlie Wilson by Garrett Wilson Published by Canadian Plains Research Center Review by Keith Foster $29.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-288-5 Reading In the Temple of the Rain God: The Life and Times of “Irish” Charlie Wilson is like getting two stories in one, or more precisely, a story within a story. The subject of this biography is one that author Garrett Wilson is intimately familiar with –his father. A family history, this book is also a history of Saskatchewan’s first 50 years as seen through the eyes of one man. In weaving a narrative of his father, Garrett quotes heavily from a combination of diary entries, correspondence, and tape-recorded reminiscences that his sister had the foresight to record. As a result, Charlie is able to tell his own story in his own words. Born in Ireland, Charlie immigrated in 1905, the year Saskatchewan became a province, and settled, appropriately, in Limerick, SK. He wore many hats in his lifetime – homesteader, businessman, politician, and debt adjuster. Charlie hobnobbed with prominent politicians of the new province. A genial host, he had all but one of Saskatchewan’s early premiers stay overnight…

Identities of Marie Rose Delorme Smith: Portrait of a Métis Woman, 1861 – 1960
University of Regina Press / 4 September 2015

The Identities of Marie Rose Delorme Smith: Portrait of a Métis Woman, 1861-1960 by Doris Jeanne MacKinnon Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-236-6 Doris Jeanne MacKinnon’s The Identities of Métis Rose Delorme Smith: Portrait of a Métis Woman is an incredible story of a seemingly ordinary woman who lived a remarkable life spanning nearly a century, from 1861 to 1960. In an era when ordinary women often remained unknown, what sets her apart? She lived at a time and place when significant western Canadian history was being made and personally knew many of the historical personalities of the time. She was also well-educated and literate, rare for a Métis woman of that period, and recorded her experiences in a diary. It’s incredible that she overcame all the hardships she did – surviving whooping cough as a youth, being “traded” in 1877, at age sixteen, to a white man more than twice her age for $50, giving birth to seventeen children, and losing two sons in the First World War. According to Marie Rose, her arranged marriage was the result of a misunderstanding. When Charlie Smith, a wealthy whisky trader, grabbed hold of her…

The Strength of Women
Coteau Books / 1 February 2012

The Strength of Women, Ahkameyimowak by Priscilla Settee Published by Coteau Books Reviewed by Donna Gudjonson $19.95 ISBN 13:9781550504569 Author Priscilla Settee is an Aboriginal scholar, educator, writer, and activist in Saskatchewan. In her book The Strength of Women she unfolds a collection of spellbinding stories told by fifteen Aboriginal women who have all struggled through great adversity to become unsung heroes, role models, activists, educators, artists and spiritual healers. The stories are presented in five categories: Beginnings, Work, Art, Spirit and Community. Though each story is unique there are underlying threads of injustice, racism, abuse, sexism and hardship seasoned with happier memories and anecdotes. As the book flows on we see how each woman’s path is shaped by her experiences. I found the first stories to be the most enlightening yet sorrowful to read but I found myself drawn deeply into each woman’s life and because it is written in her own voice and dialect it was like hearing her tell the story in person. The women spoke of how racism, poverty, violence and substance abuse affected their own families and communities. Each storyteller speaks of a personal struggle and a turning point when an opportunity presented itself to…

With Love To You All, Bogga S.
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 14 December 2011

With Love to You All, Bogga S by Audrhea Lande Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Catherine Fuchs $28.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-62-0 This biography of Sigurbjorg Stefansson, known affectionately as “Bogga”, brings to us the original and inspiring story of “Bogga’s” life. From the outset, author Audrhea Lande engages the reader by weaving together the stories and personal letters from the life of Sigurbjorg Stefansson, long time teacher and philanthropist. With Love to You All, Bogga S contains personal and evocative descriptions of the hardships of immigrant life in the early 20th century amid the Prairie Provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The story of “Bogga’s” life are preserved with many historical pictures, letters and newspaper clippings that give a visual support to this personal account of one of Canada’s outstanding pioneers. Audrhea Lande reveals the depth of character that was possessed by Sigurbjorg Stefansson, a woman who cared deeply about social issues, and a woman who was ahead of her time as a freethinker and humanist. Sigurbjorg “Bogga” Stefansson, like many of the Icelandic pioneers contributed greatly to furthering literacy in Canada through the arts and education. Sigurbjorg Stefansson taught school at Carrick, Lundar, and at Gimli from 1923…