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Manitoba History: Y. Georg Lithman, Rick R. Riewe, Raymond E. Wiest and Robert E. Wriglen (editors), People and Land in Northern Manitoba

by Robert Robson
Department of History, Brandon University

Number 25, Spring 1993

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct all inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

Y. Georg Lithman, Rick R. Riewe, Raymond E. Wiest and Robert E. Wrigley (eds.), People and Land in Northern Manitoba, 1990 Conference at the University of Manitoba, University of Manitoba Anthropology Papers, 32, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1992, pp. 273, xi, ill. ISSN 0227-0072; 32.

Entitled The Conference on People and Land in Northern Manitoba, the Symposium from which this volume emanates was an ambitious attempt to bring together the wide and divergent interests of northern Manitoba. Included in this number were northern residents, groups representative of special northern interests, educators, academics, consultants, industrialists and government representatives. Sponsored in part by provincial government funding through the Department of Northern Affairs and Environment as well as the Premier’s Office, federal government funding through the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, University funding through the Office of the President and the Office of the Dean of Arts at the University of Manitoba as well as through “generous contributions” from Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company, Manitoba Hydro, Northern Stores and Repap, the Conference offered a unique forum for the discussion of northern issues and concerns and further, for the publication of the same.

People and Land in Northern Manitoba is comprised of twenty-five papers or paper summaries, grouped into eight thematic sections. The themes or sectional headings range from “The North Imagined” to “People and Land in Northern Manitoba — Reassessment” while the papers range from Doris Young’s “Northern Manitoba Hydro Electric Projects and their Impact on Cree Culture” to Harvey Nepinak and Harvey Payne’s “Wildlife Co-Management.” Whether in consideration of the thematic topics or the essays themselves, the contents of People and Land in Northern Manitoba clearly reflects the diversity of both northern issues and northern interests. William Pruitt, for example, in the paper “The Boreal Forest of Manitoba” offers commentary on the “enhanced greenhouse effect” that has resulted from northern forest clearing. Oscar Laithlin in his presentation “Economic and Human Resource Development in Community Development Strategies” discusses the attributes of The Pas Indian Band’s struggle for “Progress and Independence.” Michael Anderson in “Large-Scale Projects and Local People” writes of the stewardship of resources as pursued by First Nation communities. Ruth McCleary in “Going North” discusses the imagery of the north. Gerry Friesen in “Northern Manitoba 1870-1970 — An Historical Outline” develops a historical overview of northern Manitoba. J. K. Stazer and M. E. Turpel in the final selection, “People and Land in Northern Manitoba: Impressions from the Conference” provide a conference summary which not only highlights conference themes but also identifies “future directions” of northern development.

While there was indeed an effort put forth by Conference organizers to consider the wide and varied interests of northern Manitoba, People and Land falls considerably short of attaining the goal. Although the papers included in this volume do consider such issues as environmental protection or wildlife management, the vast majority of them do so from an economic perspective. If there is one unifying theme to the volume it is the continuing economic viability of northern Manitoba. Unfortunately, through the discussion of “sustainable development”; “resource capital value”; “equality partnership”; “regional development accords”, “economic strategy” or “strategic planning initiatives”, the people and in many cases, the land as well, gets lost in the jargon of the local economy. There is much, much more to northern Manitoba than “sustainable development, or “strategic planning initiatives.” Where, for example, is the discussion of family and changing family circumstances? Where is the question of gender and gender relations? Where are the issues related to changing age structures? Where are the important topics such as health care, education or justice? All of these issues beg consideration.

People and Land in Northern Manitoba, while offering an overview approach to northern Manitoba — albeit a selected overview approach — provides little in the way of a focused interpretation of northern Manitoba. Beyond the very brief Preface and Introductory comments, the editors make no attempt whatsoever to tie the subject together. The book jumps far too readily from essay to essay, from theme to theme. Unfortunately as well, the book does not provide for a Conference discussion component. In many ways more instructive then the papers themselves, the audience too deserves a voice.

Hudson's Bay Mining and Smelting at Flin Flon, circa 1935.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

Page revised: 11 April 2010

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