Book Reviews

Book Review: Clearing the plains


Settlers, especially the governments of France and England treated aboriginals very poorly. Sometimes their actions were not planned, but at other times they were.

Aboriginals were regarded as savages, and lazy people who simply had to be “civilized”. In reality, if it wasn’t for aboriginals’ agricultural know how, the first settlers would not have been able to survive their first winter.

Regardless, both French and English government armed forces had technical superiority with their weapons, and the use of horses. Aboriginals suffered a great deal more when diseases brought by settlers and armed forces started spreading.

Without appropriate medical facilities and medications, thousands died unnecessarily.

Commerce with the white man meant disease, wealth, and opportunity, but also death.

Often aboriginals starved due to lack of food. Buffalo, the mainstay of Prairies aboriginals was hunted to extinction, and many also died of diseases through cattle that were brought into their traditional, virgin territories.

Although tuberculosis was present before the arrival of settlers, though rarely, but after the arrival of first settlers, and coureurs de bois diseases spread rapidly mostly due to poor nutrition, and absence of treatment facilities. Aboriginals had no immunity to these diseases.

This book is a tour de force that disputes the fact that the English and ultimately Canadian governments treated aboriginals fairly.

They have been taken advantage of due to their naivety, poor understanding of “European” languages, and trickery.

The author of this outstandingly researched book shows clearly how infectious diseases and state-supported starvation combined created the relentless decline of a once vibrant population.

The narrative is gripping, the analysis incisive, and the story is also shocking that the reader becomes very disturbed reading it, and even long after.

This book ought to be required reading for all established, and immigrant Canadians.

Highly recommended.

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