Spring 2019 - HIST 323 D100

The Canadian Prairies (4)

Class Number: 3939

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    WMC 2522, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including six units of lower division history.



An intensive survey of the Canadian prairies, as a political region and as an evolving ecological region within broader American space. Examines both traditional and more modern contests over resource use and policy vis-a-vis indigenous peoples, as well as patterns of prairie literature and visual art. Students with credit for HIST 390 as The Canadian Prairies (Studies in History) may not take this course for further credit.


“Canadian history is so boring,” is one of the most odious and absurd Canadian humble-brags. Canadians grow up being told that our history is boring and uneventful, not because this is an accurate description but because of the false humility embedded in our civic nationalism. The country of “peace, order and good government” is a place that should have an uneventful history because of its extraordinary ability to maintain peace and order. While this statement seems self-deprecating, it actually bespeaks the false humility of a nation pretending to be what it is not.

Canada began conducting a genocide against the indigenous peoples of the Prairies in the 1800s and this genocide continues apace with routine abductions of indigenous children by the state, involuntary sterilization of indigenous women and off-the-books police executions of young native men, which all continue up to the present day.

Winnipeg, the oldest city on the Canadian Prairies, has twice been invaded by the Canadian military, once in the nineteenth century and once in the twentieth to put down uprisings by workers and indigenous people. Saskatchewan is the birthplace of Canadian socialism where a province-wide strike by doctors to resist the socialization of medicine gave birth to Canada’s national healthcare system at the expense of dozens who tied as doctors withheld their labour in defiance of the government. And it was this same party, the Saskatchewan NDP, which authored the Notwithstanding Clause of the Canadian Constitution allowing provincial governments to over-rule the courts on matters of human rights.

The Prairies are not just the land of Canada’s first megaprojects, its two transcontinental railroads; it is also the site of some of the world’s largest hydroelectric projects and the only railroad outside of Russia that crosses the tree line. Today, Alberta, under its first social democratic government, is known, the world over as one of the greatest climate villains on the planet with ambitious plans to double the emissions of the Alberta Tar Sands, the single largest source of global warming gases on the entire planet.

This history has produced not just powerful stories but dynamic cultures that have given rise to some of Anglo America’s greatest novelists and poets. History 323 will take students through Prairie history examining the cultural, social and political history of this extraordinary region.


  • Oral Participation 25%
  • Response – Oral 5%
  • Response - Written 15%
  • Draft Essay Proposal 5%
  • Final Essay Proposal 10%
  • Term Essay 40%



David Laycock, Populism and Democratic Thought on the Canadian Prairies 1910-45

Margaret Laurence, A Bird in the House

Gerald Friesen, Immigrants in Prairie Cities

Additional readings will be posted to the course’s Canvas site

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html