Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 27, No. 2, Spring 2007, pp. 148-149.
Collectively the eight essays in One West, Two Myths provide readers with a solid introduction to the comparative approach to historical study. The forty-ninth parallel serves as the volume's focus. And though the surrounding region has had, and retains, certain social, cultural, and economic commonalities, the book clearly argues that the international border is real and meaningful-despite its geographical arbitrariness.
The lead essays, by three senior historians of the Canadian and American Great Plains (Elliot West, Donald Worster, and Gerald Freisen) provide what are essentially historiographical engagements with the region as viewed through the prisms of social geography, the myth of development, and the NAFTA agreement, respectively. In three of the volume's subsequent case studies, Beth LaDow, Michel Hogue, and Sheila McManus place race at the center of their analyses to show the significance of the "medicine line" not only in the policies of the U.S. and Dominion governments, but in the political/economic strategies of various indigenous people.
Indigenous agency and colonial manipulation get balanced treatment in discussions of Sioux and Metis spaces of sanctuary and oppression (LaDow), cross-border Cree travails (Hogue), and Blackfoot displacement (McManus). Following these, Molly Rozum and Peter Morris critically engage aspects of the history of newcomer settler communities in their chapters '''The Spark That Jumped the Gap': North America's Northern Plains and the Experience of Place" and "Fort MacLeod of the Borderlands: Using the Forty-Ninth Parallel on Southern Alberta's Ranching Frontier."