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humanities 273 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 fascinating account of an evolving contemporary Native culture based on credible sources, interviews, and personal visits to the site written to appeal to both a general and scholarly audience. (JUDITH NASBY) George Colpitts. Game in the Garden: A Human History of Wildlife in Western Canada to 1940 University of British Columbia Press. 205. $75.00, $29.95 We might accept that First Nations see the world differently from the continent=s post-contact arrivals, but George Colpitts presents a more complex pattern in Game in the Garden. Colpitts never plays on his title, although he clearly interprets game species and the >games= played with them. Colpitts=s work derives in part from his master=s and doctoral research and is as meticulously researched and comprehensively indexed as that would imply. His thesis is social: humans imbue nature with symbolic meanings that change at critical environmental or economic junctures. The story opens in 1774 as competition forces Hudson=s Bay Company fur traders to journey inland. Amerindian fur-trading >middlemen= have discovered that the voyageurs are willing to come to them, obviating a trek to the coast. So the games begin. HBC traders= reputations may be based on their ability to return skins, but employee journals tell of the degree to which the search for food dominates >day to day life in the fur trade.= Colpitts makes it clear that traders= pocketbooks may depend on skins but their lives depend on finding food. HBC records point to millions of animals killed during the fur trade years and Colpitts uses journals and letters to describe an interdependent business model grounded in the realities of survival. Uncounted in the company skin numbers are the millions of pounds of meat needed to sustain the fur competition with its concomitant over-exploitation of animals. Demise of wildlife is a perception well suited to the players of the next game: the promoters touting the riches awaiting settlers in the West. A land that once flourished with wildlife can now deliver that wealth to the farmer: a region >teeming not with fauna but with flora, not with wild animals, but wheat.= Colpitt argues that mid-Victorian liberalism and Darwinian notations of improvement promise the West God intended. Food reciprocation (now one way to make Amerindians destitute) is transmogrified into >fur paternalism,= a convenient denigration fitting comfortably with governments lacking money. Describing the period of western domestication is challenging. Its beginning is clear: the 1870 transfer of Rupert=s Land. Its manifestations are similar: the demise of the buffalo is >good,= the past is unsavoury, >outsiders= are pre-empting local resources. Yet the tensions B between ranchers and farmers, between both and First Nations or among established social elites 274 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 and immigrants B play out at time scales ranging from the 1870s to the First World War and back to the election of Laurier and over the broad spatial scale of the West. The domestication game is also inextricable from the early conservation /sport shooting movement and it=s difficult to know whether Colpitts=s use of separate chapters hinders or helps our comprehension. In the final analysis however, his take-home message is clear: homogenous pockets of society, each with perceptions of wildlife, advance that perception to an end, often one that marginalizes an >other.= Colpitts argues, for example, that early fish and game >protective= societies were motivated not by an environmental ethic but by social concerns: an attempt to conserve core British values in the face of >eastern European settlers, papist sodbusters, Asian labourers and Native hunters.= Colpitts=s final period comes after the First World War. He credits newly available cold storage with finally breaking the link between wild meats and the diets of the majority of westerners. Sport hunting comes into its own with wide-ranging attempts to make Nature more efficient: the purging of >unwanted, coarse fish,= from streams and their replacement with hatchery fry; elimination of predators from parks; ranching of fox, mink, and other furbearers: a sad wish that >bringing Nature under control...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 273-274
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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