The ranchers who resettled BC's interior in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries depended on grassland for their cattle, but in this they faced some unlikely competition – from grasshoppers and wild and feral horses. With the help of the government, settlers resolved to rid the range of both.
Resettling the Range explores the ecology and history of the grassland and the people who lived there by looking closely at these eradication efforts. In the claims of "range improvement" and "rational land use", author John Thistle uncovers more complicated stories of marginalization: the destruction of wild horses worked to dispossess aboriginal people and discredit their claims to land and resources, while the campaign to exterminate grasshoppers exposed long-standing class conflicts and competing versions of resettlement among immigrant ranchers.
When settlers and governments separated environmental issues from their social and ecological contexts, they not only made their problems worse in many cases, but also created new ones that no one anticipated. This unconventional history examines the implications for humans and nature alike, in the process revealing a fascinating – and troubling – chapter of BC history.
"The twinned accounts unfolded in these pages invite readers to think again, and anew, about the processes of dispossession that newcomers inflicted, in different ways, upon indigenous peoples across the American hemisphere and beyond. They also offer new understanding of the course of development in North America's interior grasslands, make a fresh and distinctive contribution to the history of British Columbia, and limn new ways of thinking about questions of importance to environmental historians, historical geographers, and historians of science."
– From the Foreword by Graeme Wynn
"This is an imaginative and innovative book, which introduced me to a new way of looking at relatively familiar landscapes."
– Simon Evans is an adjunct professor of geography at the University of Calgary, and author of four books on ranching history
Foreword: Mapping the Ecology of Place / Graeme Wynn
Part 1: Wild Horses
1 Wrestling with Wild Horses
2 The Biogeography of Dispossession
3 Eradicating Wild Horses
Part 2: Grasshoppers
4 Grappling with Grasshoppers
5 Resisting Range Monopoly
6 New Enemies, Enduring Difficulties
Notes; Selected Bibliography; Index
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John Thistle is a research associate at the Labrador Institute at Memorial University.