The ranchers who resettled British Columbia’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 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 grasslands and the people who lived there by looking closely at these eradication efforts. In the process, the author uncovers in claims of “range improvement” and “rational land use” more complicated stories of dispossession and marginalization.
John Thistle is a research associate at the Labrador Institute at Memorial University.
Layer upon layer of history and ecological change are writ large on the map of B.C. Resettling the Range is very much a story about our relationship with animals, landscapes, indigenous peoples and their pursuit of aboriginal rights. Environmental historian John Thistle has generated a necessary and thorough study of rancher settlement, the ranching industry’s interactions with grasslands and the effects of ranching on First Nations peoples, most of whom were dispossessed from access to grasslands – a profound rangeland legacy that lives with us still.
At a time when climate change threatens a host of populations at the margins, Thistle’s work represents a welcome addition to a body of literature that documents the efforts of humans to improve upon nature and the consequences for the planet and its inhabitants.
Thistle’s richly researched, interesting, and tightly argued book will be of enormous value to anyone who teaches or researches Canadian environmental history.
Resettling the Range is clearly written, and its argument is convincingly based in archival sources and relevant secondary material. In addition to the researched narrative, this book is enhanced by an insightful foreword by renowned environmental historian Graeme Wynn and by Thistle's own excellent conclusion, which reaches beyond his central historical argument ... I thoroughly enjoyed Resettling the Range, with its penetrating insights into the capitalist view of land as commodity. Sadly, Thistle's lesson about the human readiness to use lethal options to combat non-human threats has far too many parallels elsewhere.
Thistle writes powerfully about First Nations dispossession at the hands of ranchers and regulators. A variety of national and international forces intersect in his story, including confederation, the railway, capitalism, improvement, and efficiency … While this book will undoubtedly find a place on the shelves of environmental historians and historians of British Columbia, it is also of interest to those studying the history of science, indigenous history, and Canadian history more broadly. In placing BC’s grassland ecology in conversation with interactions between First Nations and settlers, small-holders and monopolists, the province and the nation, and the nation and the world, this book represents an important contribution to the field.