Harvey Locke is trustee of the Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation, based in Banff, Alberta, and in The Last of the Buf
falo Return to the Wild he has put together an interesting and informative series of essays. The first and largest chapter is written by Locke and focuses on Banff National Park and its role in the conservation of the plains bison in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. With photos, illustrations, letters, and maps that outline where the buffalo roamed, it tells the story of the largest plains bison herd that emerged from those early conservation efforts.
The second chapter, written by George Colpitts, a history professor at the University of Calgary, focuses on the history of the plains bison before those conservation efforts and explains why the bison were then so close to becoming extinct.
Jennifer Rutkair, archivist for the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, details the preservation of the original The
Last of the Buffalo booklet, published in 1908 and included here in facsimile form. The reproduction features photos of the 1907 roundup of that largest bison herd.
A chapter written by First Nations educator Leroy Little Bear discusses the Buffalo Treaty of 2014 as well as the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the buffalo. And the final chapter, written by Norman Luxton in 1912, is a first-person account of his role and activities in that 1907 roundup.
With the reintroduction of wild bison to Banff National Park in February 2017, this book offers a timely reflection on the efforts made by so many people to return this magnificent beast to its historic home. — Danielle Chartier A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance, and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderland edited by Karolyn Smardz Frost and Veta Smith Tucker Wayne State University Press, 304 pages, $55.95 In A Fluid Frontier: Slavery, Resistance and the Underground Railroad in the Detroit River Borderland, editors Karolyn Smardz Frost and Veta Smith Tucker present essays by both Canadian and American academic and community historians. The collection aims to bridge the African-American and African-Canadian experiences in this transnational region before the American Civil War.
In thirteen essays divided among five themes, A Fluid Frontier introduces readers to the people, places, and events that were instrumental in leading more than thirty thousand refugees to freedom. The short, informative chapters are easy to read, and many of them are illustrated by maps and historic images.
The editors set out to debunk the myths and legends of the Underground Railroad that have been perpetuated in both American and Canadian histories. They do this by seeking to refocus attention on the fact that “African people’s experience of freedom predated their arrival in the West, fuelled their discontent with slavery, and motivated the inexorable migrations that became the Underground Railroad.” — Jessica Knapp Montreal, City of Secrets: Confederate Operations in Montreal during the American Civil War by Barry Sheehy
Baraka Books, 297 pages, $34.95 When the United States of America went to war against itself in 1861, it sparked a conflict of catastrophic proportions.
The northern states fielded more than 2.1 million soldiers in the American Civil War, roughly double the number of Confederate troops. The combined death toll stands at approximately 620,000, but some estimates place it as high as 850,000.
As for Canada, while it was far from the battlefields geographically, it was on the front lines when it came to the machinations that went on behind the scenes. The nexus of this activity was Montreal, which played host to Confederate spies as well as to millions of dollars in hard currency or gold — much of it used to bankroll clandestine activities against the U.S. North.
In Montreal, City of Secrets, author Barry Sheehy paints a vivid portrait of a city teeming with spies, smugglers, and assassins. Perhaps the most notorious Confederate expat in Montreal was John Wilkes Booth — the man who assassinated U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. The book’s appendix contains an especially intriguing list of all the known Confederate agents and sympathizers who operated in the city during the period.
Well- researched, with detailed endnotes and ample black-and-white period photography, the book is a real eye-opener for those who think Canada sat idly by during America’s bloodiest conflict. –– Mark Collin Reid Witness to Loss: Race, Culpability, and Memory in the Dispossession of Japanese Canadians edited by Jordan Stanger-Ross and Pamela Sugiman McGill-Queen’s University Press, 318 pages, $29.95
Witness to Loss reminds us of a difficult chapter in Canada’s history — the dispossession and internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War — through the lens of one man and his complex relationship with the racist world of 1940s Vancouver.
Editors Jordan Stanger- Ross and Pamela Sugiman present the memoir-intranslation of Kishizo Kimura, who details his involvement with wartime committees that facilitated the coerced sale of Japanese-Canadian fishing boats and property. Historic photographs, including a striking shot of hundreds of impounded boats floating together at the Annieville Dyke, and reproduced newspaper clippings bring Kimura’s memories to life.
While his writing can be stoic and technical at times, Kimura’s message to later generations betrays his desire to defend his actions: “We swallowed our tears.” His was an internal struggle, a careful negotiation with institutional racism, grounded in his belief that his “obedience” was an act of quiet advocacy for his community.
Stanger-Ross and Sugiman — both of them university professors involved with the Landscapes of Injustice project regarding the dispossession of Japanese Canadians — rely on the reflection and analysis of academic historians, some of whom also have family histories of internment. These essays push the discussion beyond simplistic binaries of right or wrong, victim or collaborator. For readers, the experience is illuminating and challenging — unsettling at times, but ultimately worthwhile. –– Sharon Hanna The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in British Columbia by Andrew Scott
Harbour Publishing, 272 pages, $24.95 In The Promise of Paradise journalist and photographer Andrew Scott dives into the history of utopian British Columbia settlements, unpacking 150 years of alternative and experimental communities that have both flourished and failed on B.C. soil.
Scott outlines the philosophical, economic, and religious reasons why so many idealistic colonies found sanctuary on Canada’s West Coast.
One of these colonies was the vision of William Duncan, an English missionary who dreamed of using Christianity to “elevate” the First Nations people of Metlakatla (near Prince Rupert). “By our standards,” writes Scott, “Duncan was an autocrat — paternalist, manipulative, even cruel. But by the standards of the day, he was a success.”
Edward Arthur Wilson, more popularly known as Brother XII, is another religious leader who attracted hundreds of followers to the British Columbia islands of De Courcy and Valdes. In the 1920s, Wilson created a religious cult known as the Aquarian Foundation. Scott writes that it “eventually collapsed in a series of sensational lawsuits, amidst allegations of black magic, sexual misconduct, brutality, fraud, and theft.”
In these episodes and many others, Scott intertwines his personal journey of research and discovery with the histories of these communities. The stories are supplemented with photographs and hand-drawn maps that are helpful to readers who are not well versed in B.C. geography.
This expanded second edition of the book picks up where Scott left off in 1997 and looks at more recent cohousing complexes and eco- villages. –– Moriah Campbell