Riel in context
In the February-March 2020 issue of Canada’s History magazine, Jean Teillet, an Indigenous-rights lawyer and the great-grandniece of Louis Riel, writes about a book she calls “the most insightful biography of Louis Riel to date.”
Teillet says that in The Audacity of His Enterprise: Louis Riel and the Métis Nation That Canada Never Was, 1840–1875 Max Hamon offers a new understanding of the Métis leader. In particular, she says, Hamon provides context for Riel’s departure from his program of education and demonstrates the importance of his “extensive networking, particularly during the critical period of 1872–74.”
In the same issue, former Canadian Historical Association president Lyle Dick reviews The Rise and Fall of United Grain Growers: Cooperatives, Market Regulation, and Free Enterprise, by Paul D. Earl. “Earl traces the history of the Winnipeg-based cooperative grain marketing company from its origins in 1906 to its fall in a corporate takeover a hundred years later,” Dick writes.
Toronto teacher, writer, and editor Bill Moreau reviews Master and Servants: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Its North American Workforce, 1668–1786, by Scott P. Stephen. Moreau says Stephen argues that “HBC posts were really an extension of early modern Britain … and are best understood as microcosms of that strictly hierarchical society.”
Meanwhile, Governor General’s History Award-winning teacher Connie Wyatt Anderson considers two books about the meanings and impacts of the Indian Act for Indigenous peoples in Canada: 21 Things You May Not Know about the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality, by Bob Joseph, and Talking Back to the Indian Act: Critical Readings in Settler Colonial Histories, by Mary-Ellen Kelm and Keith D. Smith.
Wyatt Anderson says “the first step towards reconciliation is dispelling errors by filling the gaps in our knowledge that have been left by our history education” — and she finds that both books contribute to this objective. “Joseph approaches the task using a conversational tone, highlighting twenty-one restrictions imposed at some point by the Indian Act in its 144 years of existence, while Kelm and Smith provide a critical-thinking framework to analyze a collection of historical extracts pulled from or related to the Indian Act.”
Also in this issue, we look at books about the Sierra Club in British Columbia, African-Nova Scotian writer and activist Rose Fortune, a nineteenth-century murder in rural Canada, and New Brunswick’s wealthy Irving family.
As always, our book reviews can be found both in Canada’s History magazine and on our website.