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History North America

The Line Which Separates

Race, Gender, and the Making of the Alberta-Montana Borderlands

by (author) Sheila McManus

The University of Alberta Press, University of Nebraska Press
Initial publish date
May 2005
North America
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2005
    List Price

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In the late nineteenth century the forty-ninth parallel was a key site of Canadian and American efforts to shape their respective nations and to create national identities. The international border sliced through Blackfoot country, creating the Alberta-Montana borderlands yet the dynamic arising out of this region's landscape, aboriginal people, newcomers, railroads, and ongoing cross-border ties proved to challenge each government's efforts to colonize and nationalize this region. Sheila McManus makes an important and useful comparison between American and Canadian government policies and attitudes regarding race, gender, and homesteading. Drawing on government maps and reports, oral testimony, and personal papers, The Line Which Separates explores the uneven way in which the borderlands divided a previously cohesive region.

About the author

Sheila McManus is Associate Professor of History at the University of Lethbridge in southern Alberta. Her book, The Line Which Separates, was co-published by the University of Nebraska Press and The University of Alberta Press in 2005. Currently, she is writing a textbook on women in the U.S. West.

Sheila McManus' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"In this recent offering on the topic of borderlands, University of Lethbridge historian Sheila McManus argues that the establishment of the forty-ninth parallel separating Montana and Alberta was key to the development of distinct American and Canadian national identities during the nineteenth century. However, despite the desire of both nations to construct their own 'clear and unequivocal' notions of nationhood on either side of the border, policy-makers were often frustrated by the complex network of cross-border social and economic ties that hampered their efforts. The bulk of McManus's text sets out to explore the task of nation-building by examining the various processes undertaken by both governments to establish legal and ideological domination of the northern plains, a project which was completed during the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s..McManus's book is logically organized and her arguments are compelling. While one might take issue with her emphasis on the Montana Blackfeet at the expense of other nomadic indigenous groups (particularly the Cree and the Métis, who were affected profoundly by each country's differing political policies), this is a fine piece of work nonetheless." Heather Devine, University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. 76, No. 1, Winter 2007

"Sheila McManus seeks to understand how the running of the 49th parallel, which constitutes the boundary between two nations (Canada and the United States) as well as a province and a state (Alberta and Montana), played out, insofar as it was part of a policy designed to nationalize a unified geographical region occupied by a common cultural group, the Blackfoot Confederacy. As the subtitle indicates, McManus filters the elements making up the stuff of the Alberta-Montana borderlands through two historical membranes: race and gender. The book isolates and examines several problems faced by the national governments in their attempts to divide and nationalize a common topographical, economic, social, and linguistic space.. This is one of an increasing number of border studies that, by employing the techniques of comparative history and knowledge of gendered relationships, have illuminated the inner recesses of Canadian-American relations, revealing subtleties and complexities unknown to traditional students of the field." John R. Abbott, Canadian Book Review Annual 2007

"McManus relies on two types of primary research materials. The first is government documentation, namely annual reports produced by the US Department of the Interior and the Canadian Department of Agriculture. McManus rightly recognizes the research value of the annual reports in that local agents of the state often provided perspectives on Native relations, ranching, and other issues that differed from official government policy. Second, McManus utilizes the journals and remembrances of a small number of white women settlers in the region. Limited in number, these materials nonetheless provide a greater insight into social identities in the region, and McManus's use of them is her strongest contribution." Michelle Rhodes, University College of the Fraser Valley, Left History, 12.1

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