Daschuk book subject of panel discussion

October 10, 2013

Clearing The Plains by SPHERU’s James Daschuk has generated a lot of positive press since it was released in late spring.

At the Saskatoon launch on Oct. 5, it generated a lively discussion about a dark chapter in Canadian history, the government’s withholding of food from First Nations populations on the Prairies as a political tool.

Dr. James Daschuk signs book for reader
Dr. James Daschuk signs book for reader

“I was interested in looking at the erosion of Native health. I didn’t realize it was stated policy,” Daschuk said. “They set out to under-nourish thousands and thousands of people.” Close to 100 people filled the room at Station 20 West for the discussion and book signing. (We’ve posted a few pictures from the event on Twitter.)

Daschuk was part of a panel that included Verna St. Denis, a Cree Métis and professor of Educational Foundations at the University of Saskatchewan, and Cory Neudorf, the Saskatoon Health Region’s chief medical health officer and member of SPHERU.

Neudorf provided context for the situation today, one in which the province and cities like Regina and Saskatoon show extreme health disparities, especially when it comes to First Nations people. He pointed to outcomes such as teen pregnancy and infant mortality and how these are tied to social determinants like income and education, especially so in the poorest neighbourhoods.

“We saw that some neighbourhoods had very, very high rates,” he said, adding that while some policies are now addressing these factors, more needs to be done.

St. Denis gave a personal view of the history, saying the more she learned about the situation, the more she understood things from her own life: for example, why her mother was so fond of using bleach or the circumstances behind why family members were hospitalized for tuberculosis.

“This is my history. The legacy is still present in my life,” she said.

St. Denis added that there have been many gaps in the way Canadian history is taught and understood, ones that overlook the events Clearing The Plains chronicles.

“There are many skeletons in Canadian closets, and too many want to keep the door shut,” she said. “Indigenous people are required to remain silent, yet the consequences are continuing.”


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