Book: Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life by James Daschuk

A June 2013 book on the the politics of ethnocide of Canadian aboriginals, then and now.

Clearing the Plains

1. Description:

In arresting, but harrowing, prose, James Daschuk examines the roles that Old World diseases, climate, and, most disturbingly, Canadian politics—the politics of ethnocide—played in the deaths and subjugation of thousands of aboriginal people in the realization of Sir John A. Macdonald’s “National Dream.”

It was a dream that came at great expense: the present disparity in health and economic well-being between First Nations and non-Native populations, and the lingering racism and misunderstanding that permeates the national consciousness to this day.

“Clearing the Plains is a tour de force that dismantles and destroys the view that Canada has a special claim to humanity in its treatment of indigenous peoples. Daschuk shows how infectious disease and state-supported starvation combined to create a creeping, relentless catastrophe that persists to the present day. The prose is gripping, the analysis is incisive, and the narrative is so chilling that it leaves its reader stunned and disturbed. For days after reading it, I was unable to shake a profound sense of sorrow. This is fearless, evidence-driven history at its finest.” Elizabeth A. Fenn, author of Pox Americana

“Required reading for all Canadians.” Candace Savage, author of A Geography of Blood

“[C]learly written, deeply researched, and properly contextualized history … Essential reading for everyone interested in the history of indigenous North America.” J. R. McNeill, author of Mosquito Empires

2. Available through the University of Regina Press.

3. Facebook page.

4. Newspaper articleWhen Canada used hunger to clear the West, James Daschuk, The Globe and Mail, July 19, 2013.

Excerpt:

For years, government officials withheld food from aboriginal people until they moved to their appointed reserves, forcing them to trade freedom for rations. Once on reserves, food placed in ration houses was withheld for so long that much of it rotted while the people it was intended to feed fell into a decades-long cycle of malnutrition, suppressed immunity and sickness from tuberculosis and other diseases. Thousands died.

Sir John A. Macdonald, acting as both prime minister and minister of Indian affairs during the darkest days of the famine, even boasted that the indigenous population was kept on the “verge of actual starvation,” in an attempt to deflect criticism that he was squandering public funds.

btw: I saw two copies of Clearing the Plains in the Barrie Chapters on the weekend ($40 plus).

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