- Community and Frontier: A Ukrainian Settlement in the Canadian Parkland by John C. Lehr
Historical geographer John Lehr subscribes to French historian Marc Bloch’s idea that “all history is local” (7). Lehr’s book extends and builds on his related and substantial earlier work on Western Canadian settlement and on the region’s Ukrainian rural immigrants in particular. The introduction and conclusion liberally canvass the secondary literature on frontier settlement with references to other Western Canadian rural local histories, and Lehr infuses his analysis in broader themes, especially colonialism. He acknowledges gender with material on the division of labour in the pioneering families and a reference to the gendered perceptions of space.
The frontier community of Stuartburn and its surrounding district in southeastern Manitoba, which serves as the case study, is situated in the context of its hinterland connections to imperial Britain (Lehr cites Niall Ferguson’s “Angloglobalization”), the economic heartland of eastern Canada (J. M. S. Careless’s “metropolitanism”), and Winnipeg, the West’s once premier city. Bordering Minnesota, the Stuartburn district was the most southerly of Western Canada’s Ukrainian settlements. Oddly, Lehr does not offer population figures for the district, but it is probably a smaller community now; the rural municipality had barely 1,600 souls in the 2006 census. Essentially, his story is about a frontier settlement’s beginnings and development, not its decline. Winnipeg, the destination for many Ukrainians, appears only once in the Index, although the body of the text refers to the city throughout, and its influence on Stuartburn’s society and economy has always been substantial. Studying Stuartburn as a community on the periphery of international and domestic empires is logical, indeed vital, since Stuartburn’s settlement—it was established in 1896—peaked around 1910 when Britannia ruled the waves, industrial Montreal and Toronto were burgeoning, and Winnipeg served as Canada’s version of Chicago. It may surprise some then that Alan Artibise’s Winnipeg, A Social History of Urban Growth, 1874–1914 is absent from the excellent bibliography.
Lehr’s book is the most recent and the sixth in the Studies and Immigration Series by the University of Manitoba Press. Chapter subjects include infrastructure and communications, health, education, and commerce. The chapter on order and [End Page 363] the law refers to the substantial quantities of homebrew produced, a tradition carried over from the old country. Students of ethnicity will be particularly interested in Lehr’s story of inter-ethnic relations and the roles of religion and class, topics that mark historical, sociological, and political studies of Manitoba.
The chapter on religion, culture, and identity, titled “Colonizing Stuartburn,” documents the deep fissures between the Galicians, the majority of whom were Greek Catholics, and the Greek Orthodox Bukovynians. The Ukrainian churches, so vital in Ukraine’s cultural life, were noticeably absent in Canada until 1912. A shortage of celibate Greek Catholic priests, whom the Manitoba French Roman Catholic church—under whose jurisdiction the Greek Catholics fell—insisted upon, compounded the sometimes violent religious factionalism and inter-denominational rivalry that arose in the community.
There is a reference to the parallels in the peasant backgrounds of the Mennonites and the Ukrainians, although immigration policy separated the rural settlements of the ethnic groups. We learn, however, that a Mennonite miller owned Stuartburn’s first car and Poles also appear here and there, particularly in Tolstoi, the small community adjacent to the American border. Everything plays out against the backdrop of the mores of Manitoba’s then-dominant Anglo-Canadian community. Jews appear as the colony’s pioneer merchants, reproducing the relationship of the Ukrainians and Jews in the Old World, where legal stricture precluded Jews from engaging in agriculture and where Ukrainians regarded commerce as an alien occupation. As Ukrainian nationalist feelings rose and as Jewish merchants left for Winnipeg so that their children could benefit from the cultural milieu of its substantial Jewish community—a point elaborated upon in Allan Levine’s Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People...