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About the Author

Maggie Siggins

“Maggie Siggins is the author of twelve books including Canadian Tragedy: The Story of JoAnn and Colin Thatcher, which received an Arthur Ellis Award for crime writing and Revenge of the Land, which won a Governor General’s Award for Nonfiction. Riel: A Life of Revolution; In Her Own Time: A Cultural History of Women; and Bitter Embrace: White Society’s Assault on the Woodland Cree all won the City of Regina Best Book Award and were named a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year. Canadian Tragedy and Revenge of the Land were made into four-hour miniseries broadcast on CBC and American networks.Maggie has also written-produced more than twenty documentaries for her company, Four Square Entertainment, of which she is vice-president, creative. Maggie lives in Toronto with her husband Gerald Sperling and two dogs.

Books by this Author
Bassett

Bassett

John Bassett's forty years in politics, publishing, business and sports
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook
tagged : business
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Bitter Embrace

Bitter Embrace

White Society's Assault on the Woodland Cree
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

For months Gordon Peter* Ballantyne had looked forward to the fish derby. He had dug deep to come up with the $150 entry fee for both him and his wife, Susan. The stakes were high, first prize a brand new half-­ton, second prize ten thousand dollars cash. But at eight-­thirty in the morning, as he was launching the shabby little boat he had borrowed, he noticed the crowd starting to gather. The power-­crafts slithered off their trailers like partying Jackfish. There’d be more chance of cashing in on Jumping Jackpot Bingo than delivering the winning pickerel, Gordon Peter concluded.

He firmly believes that, where there are small fish, there are large fish. Just a while back a friend had won a new Chevy in a similar derby. He had settled in the same spot all day, every now and then pulling out the kind of specimen others laughed at. Then, just before the finish, he snagged the fat grandfather lounging on the bottom and won the competition. This was Gordon Peter’s model. He found a spot where a couple of two- and three-­pounders were landed and he had wanted to park there. But after an hour or two his wife had grown restless. “Not getting anything here,” Susan said. “Let’s try another spot.”

“You have to be patient when you’re fishing,” he kept saying, until Susan finally lost patience. They quarrelled. She had walloped him on the cheek with her fishing rod.

Lots of pickerel were caught (and thrown back — a rule of the derby), but they ­weren’t that big. So right up until the last moment, everybody, including Susan and Gordon Peter, felt they had a chance. Then, ten minutes before the closing, a young woman from Amisk Lake pulled out a seven-­pound-­three-­ounce fish. Goodbye shiny red truck.

So far this has not been the luckiest year for Gordon Peter. For the first time in twenty years he ­hadn’t been called up by the band council to work as a foreman on construction. No money to build houses, they announced. All spring he’d had to scramble. Tired of waiting a year for a bathroom door to be replaced or a broken window fixed, reserve folks, who admired Gordon Peter’s skill and hard work as a carpenter, asked him to renovate their houses, but often they forgot to pay him. “The end of the month,” they’d say, and he knew the pelicans would have come and gone before he’d see his money.

There’d been more disappointment. In the spring Gordon Peter had run for band councillor and had lost. His seventeen-­year-­old son announced that he was quitting school and that his girlfriend had just had a baby. And then a cousin, Leland Ballantyne, had been hit on the head with a baseball bat while he was partying in Saskatoon. During the funeral at St. Gertrude’s Church, Gordon Peter’s heart had gone out to Leland’s wife and four children. He may have felt gloomy about all this, but he certainly ­wasn’t surprised. Life on this reserve is always an unpredictable soap opera. “It’s worse than All My Children,” says Darlene McKay, one of the reserve’s comedians. “Erica Kane would feel right at home.”

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In Her Own Time

In Her Own Time

A Class Reunion Inspires a Cultural History of Women
edition:eBook
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Marie-Anne

Marie-Anne

The Extraordinary Life of Louis Riel's Grandmother
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged :
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Excerpt

Finally the wind shifted to the southwest, and almost overnight the temperature climbed. On May 5 the ice on the Saskatchewan River broke. Soon the purple heads of wild crocuses had popped out of the slush. A flock of nine white swans flew by — a loud, clear klooo, kwooo honked out. Everyone in the fort thanked God that they had survived the terrible winter.

To make up for the poor haul of buffalo and furs, the Lagimodières decided that as soon as the weather permitted they would leave for the bison hunt. This year they would journey much further south in their quest.

It’s not known whether the Lagimodières travelled with other freemen in the spring of 1811, but probably they were accompanied by the Chalifoux family as well as others. An incident occurred along the way once again involving LaPrairie, now two years old, that made them all nervous. It’s related by Marie-Anne’s biographer, Georges Dugast. One day several Assiniboine arrived at the freemen’s tents. The chief dismounted and asked to speak to Mme Lagimodière. Jean-Baptiste, who had some proficiency in that language, agreed to act as a translator. It was obvious that the old man was enthralled with LaPrairie. Dugast described what happened next

The chief represented that they desired to have the boy and taking the rope which held the finest horse he put it in her hand making signs that he would give it in exchange for the child. As one can well imagine Madame Lajimoniere refused his offer and made signs that she would never consent to such a trade. The Indians believing that she was not content with one horse drew up a second and put the cord of this one also in her hand . . . She said to her husband, “Tell him that I will not sell my child that he would have to tear my heart out before I would part with him.” “Very well!” said the Indian, “take the horses and one of my children.” “No!” said she, “you can never make me consent to such a trade,” then taking her child in her arms she began to cry. The Indian apparently was touched by her tears, for he ceased to insist on the [ex]change and went on his way with his people and horses.

This was a most unsettling episode because the Lagimodières and the others were travelling to the Cypress Hills, which had traditionally been a hunting grounds for Aboriginal peoples; whites were not welcome there. Once again the Lagimodières were teasing fate.

It was an ideal place to track down buffalo. In the 1850s Captain John Palliser called Cypress Hills “a perfect oasis in the desert.” Another visitor wrote, “No better summer pasture is to be found in all the wide North-west than exists on these hills, as the grass is always green, water of the best quality is always abundant, and shelter from the autumnal and winter storms always at hand.”

Cypress Hills received more rain than the plains, and as well as supporting nutritional grasses which “cover the ground like a thick mat,” it sustained forests of lodgepole pine, Jack pine, white spruce, and Douglas fir. But storms also descended with deadly speed; the Cree called the area Thunder Breeding Hills.

These hills are a strange phenomenon, huge mounds, almost mountainous in height, pushing up from the flat grasslands. Unusual animals — reptiles, insects, and birds — are abundant. According to Cree myth, the creatures have been left alone from the time God created the world. The native people were too frightened to hunt them down because they thought the woods were full of demons who made the winds howl and lightning flash.

After three weeks of travel, the party finally arrived at their intended destination — the southwestern part of the hills. The trail climbed upward, circling round and round until the plateau was reached. Here on the top of the prairie world, silver and yellow grasses stretched for miles. Marie-Anne kept her eye out for a spot she thought was suitable. She found it in a circular grove of mixed poplar and birch, with evergreens standing behind like tall soldiers. There they camped and the preparations began. A bed of moss was laid on the ground, branches of lodgepole pine cut. Two days later, Marie-Anne gave birth to her third child. Jean-Baptiste baptized the baby Marie-Josephte, after his mother. But like her brother before her, she was forever known by her nickname, LeCyprès.

Despite all their efforts to get there, not long after the birth, the Lagimodières give up on the buffalo hunt and headed north again. Exciting news had reached them. A colony of English-speaking immigrants was to be established at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, under the patronage of the Scottish philanthropist, Lord Selkirk. It was expected that eventually thousands upon thousands of farmers, poor crofters from Scotland and Ireland, would settle in a huge area that was now called Assiniboia. The Lagimodières decided at once to join them. It had been such a hard year — the near- starvation, the anxiety of conflict with the Indians, the poor fur catch — but that was not the primary reason they decided to give up on the North West. At Red River, they imagined fields of wheat tall as a man’s belly button. Cattle grazing. Orchards full of apples. Pretty houses with gardens. And most important, a church with an imposing steeple and bells clanging them to mass every morning. The children could finally be baptized as God ordained.

The Lagimodières probably didn’t realize it, but it would be many years of unremitting hardship before this paradise became reality.

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Revenge of the Land

Revenge of the Land

A Century of Greed, Tragedy, and Murder on a Saskatchewan Farm
edition:Paperback
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Riel

Riel

A Life of Revolution
edition:eBook
tagged : historical
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