A national bestselling book that harshly criticizes Canada’s first prime minister is oddly enough the recipient of the Sir John A. Macdonald prize for history.
Six months before the 200th anniversary of Macdonald’s birth, James Daschuk has been awarded the prize for his book Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life.
Daschuk says he finds some humour in the fact that he has received the award but maintains it is also a privilege.
“I don’t know if he (Sir John A. Macdonald) would appreciate it because of the irony or whatever but the Sir John A. Macdonald prize is also the Canadian Historical Association’s sort of recognition of, I guess it’s like the best book of the year, so I am pretty happy to accept it because it’s an acknowledgement from my fellow historians that my work is worth it,” he says.
Daschuk says his book paints a less than flattering picture of the first prime minister.
He adds Macdonald didn’t care what he had to do to get a national railway built.
“In the House of Commons Macdonald said, that to use the old term, all of the Indians in the territory of Assiniboia, so that is south western Saskatchewan south of the line of the proposed railway, will be removed by force if necessary. So he said that right in the House of Commons and instead of using guns what they did was they just stopped providing food.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus was so “blown away” by the book he was inspired to write and record a song about it called The Four Horses.
Along with winning the Canadian Historical Association’s top prize, Clearing the Plains has also been awarded the Clio Award for Prairie History and the CHA Aboriginal History Book Prize.
The book also took home five Saskatchewan Book Awards last month.
It is available for $39.99 at Chapters or online at Amazon.com.