jbg Posted August 15, 2020 Report Share Posted August 15, 2020 I'll start. Even though I'm a "Yank" I read my share of "Canadian content." I just finished reading the book, The Great Lone Land, by William Francis Butler, was a thrill to read. I was led to this book by The Impossible Railway: The Building of the Canadian Pacific, by Pierre Berton. The Burton book relied extensively on The Great Loan Land's description of pre-railroad conditions. Or, to quote Gordon Lightfoot, "There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run, when the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun, Long before the white man and long before the wheel, when the green dark forest was too silent to be real." This book describes a world that is almost unreal; deeply isolated, with bone-warping cold and only recently teaming with bison. The Great Lone Land strikes me as a Canadian Journal of Lewis and Clark. Some of the material echoes that found in 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann. In particular, the author details the depredations of the smallpox virus on First Nations/Native Americans. The author, William Francis Butler, was commissioned by William McDougall, Lieutenant Governor of the Northwest Territories (then covering most of Canada west of Ontario except for a much smaller province of Manitoba) to: "1) report upon the whole question of the existing state of affairs in that territory, and to state your views on what may be necessary to be done in the interest of peace and order; 2)ascertain, as far as you can, in what places and among what tribes of Indians, and what settlements of whites, the small-pox is now prevailing, including the extent of its ravages; 3) ascertain, as far as in your power, the number of Indians on the line between Red River and the Rocky Mountains; the different nations and tribes into which they are divided and the particular locality inhabited, and the language spoken, and also the names of the principal chiefs of each tribe." (paraphrased). This book was a tale of his fascinating journey, from October 1870 to February or March 1871, through what Butler called "The Great Lone Land." The journey started at Fort Garry, near modern Winnipeg, thence west to modern Edmonton, southwest to Rocky Mountain House, then returning to the Red River area of Winnipeg. During his journey he intercoursed with the Metis (he called them "half-breeds"), First Nations (called "Indians" at the time) and white settlers and members of the military. The Appendix is essential reading. It contains McDougall's original orders, and the report Butler filed about two months after his journey. Books such as these are rare, and hard to get. I will email PDF's of the book to anyone who requests and supplies an email address, since the book is no longer under copyright. My edition of the book goes to 351 pages, 384 with the appendix. 1 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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