Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life – A Book Review

“Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life”
by James Daschuk
Published by University of Regina Press
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$27.95 ISBN: 978088776227

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life, written by James Daschuk and published by University of Regina Press can be best described as a heart wrenching but enlightening review of the systematic destruction of Indigenous peoples and culture in the prairies via the purposeful introduction of disease, starvation, and health disparities by both the Canadian government and private companies. This 2019 New Edition and winner of the Aboriginal History Prize, Cleo Prize, Governor General’s History and ironically the Sir John A. McDonald Prize, was originally published in 2013 and since then has obviously been praised by critics and readers alike. In fact, this reviewer truly believes that every Saskatchewanian should have a copy of this book on their shelves.

James Daschuk, a PhD in history and a current associate professor with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina showcases his unpresented capacity for research and provides the reader with fascinating (albeit sickening) review of the history of Indigenous health both pre and post-contact. During initial contact, while the country of Canada was either non-exist or in its infancy various systems where initialized by the country, by the church and by private organizations to ensure the continuous disadvantage of Indigenous people. Daschuk describes these imposed disparities and their brutal executions with such intricate detail and a level of historical research that makes it difficult for the reader to not seriously question the moral integrity of our nation’s roots and of the powers that be today.

Unlike many pieces of literature regarding Canadian literature, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life does not stick to the history found to the East but, as the title suggests, provides an in-depth review of the First Nations history that occurred right here at home in Saskatchewan. This is brilliantly documented from archival, academic research, interviews and a plethora of other resources.

The mostly-pleasant, comfortable life of an average Canadian typically leads them to think that Canada has always been one of the most progressive and tolerant countries in the world. In history class, we are led to believe that we have always been the “nice guys”. The thought that our nation has always been founded on the systematic genocide makes most people uncomfortable, it’s certainly not dinner-talk. Genocide is a heavy word but an appropriate one. Despite this book being an academic piece, Daschuk vividly paints the brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples both across the nation and within our own province.

In conclusion, this book is a juggernaut in the context of dark Canadian history and an invaluable resource to teach readers as to how the social climate regarding Indigenous people has evolved to what it is today. The only warning that I could possibly give for this book is a trigger warning. Please be advised that there are dark themes and incredibly violent truths found within these pages.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

 

Smothered

Breathless gasps
above raging waves.
Hapless grasps
slipping on the reigns.

A race that I cannot win,
A weight that I cannot lift.
Too little forgiveness of sin,
Too much space in this rift.

Pushed down,

down,

down.

Expected to rise.

I will drown
in the quicksand.
Small grains build muffled screams and burning eyes.

Throw me a rope.
Throw me a hand.

To get here you must have been a dope.
At least pretend like you understand.

Tar on my heels,
tar in my head.

I’m sorry if that’s the way you feel.
Maybe try growing up instead?

Smothered

Like a mother who won’t let go.

Undiscovered

Like under a dusty vinyl cover, the contents hidden and stowed.

Eggshells

Why must I tiptoe around dysfunction,

why not trade a lifetime bliss by raising a little Hell?

Why must I obscure my own vision,

and scuttle through the eggshells?

 

Why must I sit, when I know I should stand?

Why must I whisper, wilt and whimper?

Why be a worm, when I must be man?

I lick my wounds, guilt and bitter.

 

I cannot make waves to save Earth,

I must silence justice

and prepare her hearse.

Where is God, and his iron fist?

 

Seated, I stay.

My lips sewn shut.

The wolves lie in wait

Will no one stop their strut?

 

Soapbox Stories Presents: Life Lessons From A Red Serge – A Book Review

“Life Lessons from a Red Serge”
by Barb Porter and Linda Garvey
Published by McKenzie Carver & Associates
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$15.95 ISBN: 9781775353607

“Life Lessons from a Red Serge”, written by sisters Barb Porter and Linda Garvey is an uplifting slice of Canadiana that warms the heart and strengthens the spirit. This collection of life lessons, take-aways, and advice compiled by the sororal duo is dedicated to the authors’ brother, Staff Sergeant Peter Garvey, who unfortunately passed away in 2017 at the age of 54 years old. This book acts a touching tribute both to the Saskatchewan born-and-raised officer and to the service of others in need that he strived for. In addition to serving his communities as an RCMP officer, Peter was also actively involved in the Search and Rescue Saskatchewan Association of Volunteers (SARSAV) as a Search and Rescue member. In fact, profits from the sale of this book will be donated to SARSAV in his honour.

The contents of this book contain a series of life-lessons inspired by Peter. The authors had written them into a checklist format with the intention of providing daily reminders to the Sergeant’s grandchildren of how to live as the best people that they can be. The list is categorized into such themes as honesty, listening to others, living with a sense of humour, humility, gratitude, the importance of family, and many others. Each theme is divided as chapters containing a few pages of meaningful insights that a reader of any age and any walk of life can appreciate. The chapters also end with a simple yet powerful summary of the lesson. Personally, I enjoyed the segment of “Honesty, Sincerity, & Integrity” as it provided me with the reminder that it is important to listen to every person that you meet and to take their words seriously. You may never know what a person may teach you from listening to them.

If I could describe this book in one word, it would be “wholesome”. The daily reminders found within this delightful read do not push an agenda but simply act as a guide that anyone can follow and implement into their daily lives at any time. The writers also did a fantastic job at showcasing the Sergeant’s love of dogs and their importance to life and family, and really, who doesn’t agree with that?

I highly recommend this book as a gift for the people in your lives who are passionate about the service of others. This checklist of counting blessings and remembering what’s important in life does not take long at all to read. It could easily become a daily routine for policemen, firemen, nurses, teachers, paramedics, and to anyone in your life that you turn to when you need help. Not only did the authors draw their inspiration for helping others through their brother but also through their own passion for helping others that they have demonstrated through their accomplished nursing careers. By picking up a copy of this book, you too can help people by providing a plethora of insight and contributing to the Search and Rescue efforts of Saskatchewan.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

 

 

 

Soapbox Stories Presents: Beyond Shattered Dreams: A Journey Through Grief to Self-Empowerment – A Book Review

“Beyond Shattered Dreams: A Journey Through Grief to Self-Empowerment”
by Gaylene Guillemin
Published by Gaylene Guillemin
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$16.99 ISBN: 9781775220404

“Beyond Shattered Dreams: A Journey Through Grief to Self-Empowerment”, written and published by Gaylene Guillemin can be best described as a powerful and tender guide through the inescapable sorrows of the human condition that are grief and loss. Guillemin has a wide variety of expertise in the field of loss as a motivational speaker, an angel card reader and from formal education with a certificate in Death and Grief Studies. However, it is not from her studies or her energy work that Guillemin draws from to speak on her experiences with loss but from the tragic loss of her late husband in 2014, Mervin Guillemin, whom she affectionately refers to as “Merv”.

The book begins as Gaylene discusses her relationship with Merv. She had been married to him for twenty-two years and from her descriptions of their family and life together the reader can easily see the deep level of love that she still has for him. Gaylene goes on to discuss Merv’s declining health, and the challenges that losing mobility, being in and out of hospitals constantly, and the potential of organ transplantation bring to a family. Through Guillemin’s beautiful, poetic, and vivid writing the reader is truly brought to her world to see the good times and the bad. The reader gets to experience what an honourable, loving, caring and kind man that Merv was and how much he meant to those around him. After the passing of Merv, Guillemin describes her experiences with themes such as accepting loss, allowing grief, finding identity, and facing new days with optimism and hope.

The subject matter of this book is certainly a heavy one and I would recommend that a reader eases into it with an open mind and the discretion to read at their own pace. The start of the book will resonate with anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one or is currently experiencing a loved one’s declining health. That being said, I truly believe that there is a plethora of wisdom and insightfulness that will help a person through these issues, even if they are hesitant to experience the emotional weight of it at first.

Death is not an easy thing to even think about, let alone talk about and write about. I applaud Guillemin for her bravery and her transparent selflessness that is this book. When life brings tragedy, it is far too easy to become embittered by it, blaming the world for your sorrow. Guillemin instead chooses the altruistic option of helping people that are going through similar tragedy that she has gone through. It seemed fitting to me that I began this book in tears and closed it with a smile.            

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

Soapbox Stories Presents – A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online – A Book Review

“A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online”
by Jennifer Wemigwans
Published by University of Regina Press
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$29.95 ISBN: 9780889775510

“A Digital Bundle: Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Knowledge Online”, written by Jennifer Wemigwans and published by the U of R Press is an outstanding example of how the knowledge dissemination of revolutionary Indigenous research is done correctly. In the field of Indigenous research, technology is hardly discussed, especially in the context of Indigenous sovereignty to language and information. Wemigwans, an Anishnaabekwe woman from the Wikwemikong First Nation, the president of Invert Media, and an assistant professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto challenges the reader to change this discourse and begin to evaluate how modern technology can be an invaluable asset to the retention of Traditional Knowledge.

The namesake of the book, the “Digital Bundle”, refers to Wemigwans online project www.FourDirectionsTeachings.com. This website was designed as an online tool to promote the Traditional Knowledge and worldviews of five distinct Indigenous Nations through the teachings of Elders and Traditional Teachers. These five nations include Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and M’ikmaq. If you were to go to the website, and I highly recommend that you do, you will find an interactive experience that will educate and inspire people of all ages. The website also contains a plethora of teaching resources and tools to increase its interactivity and keep people of all knowledge levels challenged and engaged. In the book, Wemigwans discusses the Digital Bundle including its inception, the Indigenous context in which it was created, and its implications on Storytelling, Traditional and non-traditional teaching, and decolonizing the internet. The book discusses much more, I am simply scratching the surface of the themes and sheer information discussed within. This is not only because of the vast amount of standard academic research that Wemigwans had utilized for this project, but also due to the significant consultation that Wemigwans had documented from Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Traditional Teachers, Chiefs, artists, activists, and a wide-range of other Indigenous stakeholders with valuable Knowledge and worldviews. Quite frankly, it was very refreshing to read about an Indigenous research project that was both Indigenous-led and upheld Indigenous sovereignty and principles.

The internet is becoming a progressively more censored place. What was once a beacon of hope for the free exchange of knowledge and ideas is becoming riddled with threats to net-neutrality, corporate meddling, and the self-imposed censorships of echo-chambers found both on social media and in the deep pockets of obscure forums. Do Indigenous Ways have a place on the World Wide Web, or is the closing window of opportunity leaving only space for more misinformation and invincibility of Indigenous people? Wemigwans believes in the former, and after picking up a copy of this highly informative book so will you.

 

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

 

 

 

My Top Facts That Sound True But Actually Aren’t.

To tell the truth, I am completely full of shit. Do not make the mistake in thinking that I am a bad person because of this, it is really on the contrary. I am one of the few people out there who is honest about how full of shit I actually am.

I understand and accept this about myself so that instead of using my inclination for deception to sell you a steal-of-a-deal 2008 Kia Sorento that, “my manager is gonna be so pissed I’m giving it away for this low”, I channel my deceitful ways into my writing. A writer is essentially just a bullshit artist on paper, after all. I have met enough writers who write bullshit and see themselves as artists, anyway.

But enough of me passing off my flaws as strengths as if I’m in a job interview at Sherwin-Williams Paints that I showed up a half hour late and visibly hungover for. I want to talk about you. You are a nice person, but honestly, you’re a little boring. You know this and all of your friends now this. Your suspicions are all correct, your friends and family definitely do talk about you behind your back and none of it is good. I’m sorry I had to be the one to tell you, but we talk and they all agree with me. Your uncle has started gambling again too, by the way. Now, before you accept this and go back to watching Grey’s Anatomy and scrolling through NowThis articles like the dull, sad, creatively-bankrupt sack of shit that you are, just know that there is hope.

In the unlikely event that you get invited to a party, it’s integral to create the illusion that you are well-informed, clever, and funny. To do this, all you need to do is to tell fellow party-goers these essential facts to be rewarded with a slew of admiration and respect. Keep in mind that none of these facts are real, but the fact is it doesn’t matter. All you have to do is spit them out with conviction and you will be on your way to being the seemingly interesting person that every struggling Instagram influencer aspires to be.

Without further ado, here they are:

  • A mile is how fast a steamboat can travel in an hour.

 

  • Heineken was invented as a cheap cure to allow Dutch people to forget that they are Dutch.

 

  • The bass guitar was developed by the Christian Mentors Network as a means to allow their members to pursue music and retain sexual abstinence.

 

  • Curling is the only sport left that’s whites-only (I’m actually not sure if this one is fake or not, research it before you use it).

 

  • There is a law in Val Marie, SK that states a man can have sex with his cousin. But he can only do it once, and only if she’s, like, crazy hot.

 

  • Scientists have yet to answer whether men with mustaches develop foot fetishes or if men with foot fetishes prefer to grow mustaches.

 

  • Women evolved from birds.

 

  • Pornography started out as the first indie wrestling films during the 1920s and the genre just kind of got out of hand.

 

  • Morrisey has a part-time job as a collection agent working out of Rawlins, WY. He doesn’t need the money or anything, he just enjoys being a dick to poor people.

 

  • The Premier of Saskatchewan, Scott Moe, is a woman and she actually makes a decent broccoli casserole. Her husband, Darrin, is a pretty chill guy, too.

 

And there you have it. I doubt that you will handle these with dignity or grace, but if you can manage to sputter one of these out to another human being and not spittle Cheeto-dust and rancid breath on them, you might do OK. Until next time, always remember that it’s better to be full of shit than feel like shit.

-BD Charles.