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Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Review: A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape

Reviewed: A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape”
By: Christine McFarlane

The book “ A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape” written by Candace Savage, takes the reader on an exploratory journey through the lands surrounding the little town of Eastend Saskatchewan. There are road trips into the back hills of Cyprus Hills, animal watching out on the plains and trips to view century old dinosaur skeletons and fossils.

“A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape” is part memoir but also offers a history of the southwestern plains of Saskatchewan. Savage conceptualizes for the reader a portrait of the lands and ecosystems in the prairies, speaks about the deliberate extermination of the buffalo, and the malicious tactics that Sir John A. MacDonald’s government ruthlessly applied to Canada’s aboriginal people. Savage also questions American author William Stegner’s revisionist view of history and asks “Do the lands around us remember?

In answer to do the lands around us remember? I say yes because to First Nations people, land is as integral to our way of living, as it is for us understanding the environment around us, and how it operates within our teachings. The land remembers because as First Nations people, we have always had close ties to the land and everything around us. It has to do with what we call traditional ecological knowledge.

Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is defined as “a body of knowledge built up by a group of people through generations of living in close contact with nature” and that it is “both cumulative and dynamic, building upon the experiences of earlier generations and adapting to the new technological and socioeconomic changes to the present.

According to Indigenous people all over the globe, traditional knowledge is a way of life, the law of the land and no matter where you are; the land is a part of us. The lands remember the abuses wrought upon it. Whether that is through the eco systems ability to adapt to the extreme weather- blazing heat, brutal cold, sudden downpours, the decline of grassland birds to the decline of the buffalo, and/or the unrest surrounding treaty rights, land rights, and most recently the implementation of Bill C-45 which is the most recent omnibudget bill that strips protection from 99% of lakes and rivers leaving only 3 oceans, 97 lakes and 62 rivers under the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

Wherever we are, the lands around us remember. We all need to think about what is happening in our own backyards because the environment is past, present and future, and it is a knowledge that needs to be protected and preserved.

Candace Savage’s book “A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape” does a great job in offering a new viewpoint in how to look at plains history. It makes you look at more than just the surface, the picture before you. It makes you delve deeper, and wanting to read more.

"A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape" is published by D&M Publishing Inc and is 224 pages. It is the recent winner of the 2012 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize

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