Not Really a Prairie Province, New Book Reveals
Reprinted from the Brandon University Alumni News, June 1996
A definitive new book on the geography of Manitoba edited by BU Professors
Welsted and John Everitt (and former BU prof Christoph Stadel,
who now resides in Austria) was released recently. "The
Geography of Manitoba, its Land and its People" is the first comprehensive
update of Manitoba Geography in more than 25 years and is current to within
3 months of its release date.
According to Dr. John Welsted (Geography) the book, which took
about 6 years to assemble, is aimed at 2nd year university students, or
anyone with an interest in geography. "We provide a good level of detail
without trying to be too ultra-technical," Welsted said. "You can pick
it up at any point and find something interesting. We're hoping it sets
the standard for (future) geography texts.
Along with setting standards, the book reveals some interesting facts
about the province, like the fact that Manitobans use the term "prairie
province" loosely when describing their surroundings. Manitoba is primarily
located on the rocky Canadian Shield, and part of it is subarctic tundra;
"prairie" areas make up a small portion of the province.
Contributors (47 in total) ranged from experts in botany, history, political
science, geology and geography, as well as community planners, a museum
curator and church minister. A number of them are BU or Brandon College
grads, including Allison Williams, Dr. Tom Carter '67, David McDowell
'65, Bill Hillman '71/'89/'91,
Rev. Paul Curtis '70, and Brian McGregor '86.
Academic participants included representatives from Brandon University,
the Universities of Manitoba, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, Simon Fraser University
and the University of Salzburg in Austria.
There are more than 200 maps, figures, black and white photos plus
a colour section. The book is 352 pages long and will sell for $54.95.
It is available at the BU bookstore (204) 727-9732. A Geography
of Manitoba - Its Land and its People is published by the University
of Manitoba Press and distributed by the University of Toronto Press. -BC
is a Must for any Manitoba School
Fred McGuinness Column -- Brandon Sun -- December
1996: What with all this talk of books in the air, I must confess to
a scandalous oversight. A few weeks ago, I mentioned how much I had enjoyed
Brandon: Historical Perspectives on the Wheat City, which was assembled
and produced by the Department of Geography at Brandon University.
About that oversight. Earlier this year I neglected to tell you of a
companion publication assembled by the same department. It is Geography
Manitoba: Its Land and its People.
This is a collection. Three professors: John Welsted, John Everitt and
Christoph Stadel worked on the blueprint of a publication that would examine
a province and its residents from every important aspect. Having done this,
they requested the assistance of 37 persons whom they list as contributors.
Once a contributor had agreed to participate, he or she was assigned
a topic and a schedule.
This is an important publication, important to the point that a copy
should be in the library of every school.
There are major sections: The physical background; People and settlements;
Resources and industry; Recreation. Inside each of those there are scores
Inside the latter you will find brief items which illustrate the writer’s
principal points. As an example, after Emdad Haque wrote his chapter, Population
of Manitoba: Patterns and Trends, complete with 45 footnotes, there are
several case histories. Geoffrey Smith wrote on the Graying of Manitoba;
Laurence Nixon wrote on the Changing Religious Trends in Manitoba; and
James Darlington wrote on the Cemeteries of Southern Manitoba.
While, in essence, this is an academic book, in its chapters you can
find nuggets of information available nowhere else, in my opinion.
For example, when Sam Corrigan and Robert Annis wrote Aboriginal Settlement
in Manitoba, they included the story of Ste. Madeleine, Manitoba, a tiny
village near St. Lazare. Correction, it once was near St. Lazare and it
is no more. PFRA one day put the bulldozers to homes and church and turned
the district into a community pasture.
Let me indulge in a personal note here. I say this book is so good
because the professors made their system work; they hewed precisely to
the blueprint and its companion schedule. I know this because I was involved
in a most modest manner, as befits a fellow who has a lot about which to
Would I participate? I was asked this question on the telephone by Dr.
Everitt. I said I would be delighted. He said my assignment was an article
on the Agricultural Hall of Fame, which, you should know is currently (and
temporarily) located on the walls of the dining room at the Ag. Centre.
The Hall is a collection of brass plaques honoring outstanding individuals
from the basic industry. Thanks to the courtesy of Glen Olmstead, Hall
of Fame majordomo, I spent hours in the files of the members. This gave
me an introduction to some of the former greats, like Almon James cotton
of Swan River, J.D. McGregor, Dr. Frank Leith Skinner and Henry Louis Patmore,
as well as to a number I know, or have known. I think here of Grant MacEwan,
Alf and Edith Poole, Dr. Harvey Tolton, among others.
That’s enough digression.
What is important about Geography Manitoba: Its Land and its People,
is the extraordinary amount of information that is now available between
a single set of covers. While it is exhaustive, it is also readable.
Those of you who are feeling generous this Christmas should think of
donating a copy of this book to your school, or your public library. It
deserves a wide and continuing audience.
Fred McGuinness is a Brandon-based freelance writer.
"One of a kind ... a comprehensive, attractive
and valuable reference book for anyone interested in Manitoba, and everyone
who lives there."–Prairie Books Now
Manitoba is more than one of Canada's three prairie provinces. Encompassing
649,950 square kilometres, its territory ranges from Canadian Shield to
grassland, parkland, and subarctic tundra. Its physical geography has been
shaped by ice-age glaciers, while its human geography reflects the influences
of its various inhabitants, from the First Nations who began arriving over
9,000 years ago, to its most recent immigrants. This fascinating range
of geographical elements has given Manitoba a distinct identity and makes
it a unique area for study.
Geography of Manitoba is the first comprehensive guide to all
aspects of the human and physical geography of this unique province. Representing
the work of 47 scholars, and illustrated with over 200 maps, diagrams,
and photographs, it is divided into four main sections, covering the major
areas of the province's geography: Physical Background; People and Settlements;
Resources and Industry; and Recreation.
As well as studying historical developments, the contributors to Geography
of Manitoba analyse recent political and economic events in the province,
including the effect of federal and provincial elections and international
trade agreements. They also comment on future prospects for the province,
considering areas as diverse as resource management and climatic trends.