GG Award latest honour for Daschuk book

November 6, 2014

Dr. James Daschuk’s book, Clearing The Plains, received the Governor General’s History Award for Scholarly Research (Sir John A. Macdonald Prize) on Nov. 3.

He joined His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston and other winners for a ceremony at Rideau Hall to honour outstanding Canadians for their efforts to further an understanding of Canada’s history and heritage.

Dr. James Daschuk receives his award from Gov. Gen. David Johnston (credit: Sgt. Ronald Duchesne)
Dr. James Daschuk receives his award from Gov. Gen. David Johnston (credit: Sgt. Ronald Duchesne)

“I am honoured to receive this award,” Daschuk said in a University of Regina news release. “There’s only one Canadian history book that gets this award each year and this was chosen.”

The book, based on Daschuk’s thesis, looks at the history of disease, politics, starvation and the loss of life for Aboriginal people on the Prairies, as well as the role played by the federal government, especially that of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald during the era of the National Policy. The Canadian Historical Association described the book as “sweeping” and “disturbing,” adding that “Daschuk skillfully draws on ethno-history, medical history, environmental history, economic history and political economy to present a compelling overall analysis.”

The Governor General’s Award is just one of many honours for the book. In April, Clearing The Plains picked up four Saskatchewan Book Awards for Daschuk and another for the publisher, the University of Regina Press.

It made the shortlist for other awards, such as the Libris Awards and the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, and was picked as a top book of 2013 by the Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire and the Writers’ Trust of Canada.

The book has sold more than 10,000 copies and has started a conversation, both with the media and the public, about present social and health inequities for First Nations people and how these are linked to our history. As Daschuk said in an interview in the April 2014 SPHERU newsletter, “We have a national myth, a collective identity that we are a fundamentally good, even ‘nice’ people. If the foundation of a society that saw itself as the breadbasket of the world is founded on a state-supervised famine, the purposeful malnutrition of thousands of indigenous people followed by a century or more of residential schools, we should all reconsider who we are as a nation.”

The Governor General’s History Awards were established by Canada’s National History Society in 1996, and since their creation, more than 100 people have been honoured at Rideau Hall and at the Residence of the Governor General at the Citadelle of Québec. The society works in partnership with Canada’s leading national history organizations, such as the Canadian Historical Association, the Canadian Museums Association, and the Historica-Dominion Institute.

• The University of Regina Press Facebook page includes all the reviews for the book.


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