A heart-rending true story about racism and reconciliation
Divided by a beautiful valley and 150 years of racism, the town of Rossburn and the Waywayseecappo Indian reserve have been neighbours nearly as long as Canada has been a country. Their story reflects much of what has gone wrong in relations between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. It also offers, in the end, an uncommon measure of hope.
Valley of the Birdtail is about how two communities became separate and unequal—and what it means for the rest of us. In Rossburn, once settled by Ukrainian immigrants who fled poverty and persecution, family income is near the national average and more than a third of adults have graduated from university. In Waywayseecappo, the average family lives below the national poverty line and less than a third of adults have graduated from high school, with many haunted by their time in residential schools.
This book follows multiple generations of two families, one white and one Indigenous, and weaves their lives into the larger story of Canada. It is a story of villains and heroes, irony and idealism, racism and reconciliation. Valley of the Birdtail has the ambition to change the way we think about our past and show a path to a better future.
About the authors
ANDREW STOBO SNIDERMAN is a writer, lawyer and Rhodes Scholar from Montreal. He has published reporting and op-eds in the New York Times, the Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Citizen and the Sunday Times (UK). His profile of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools won the award for best print feature of 2011 from the Canadian Association of Journalists. Andrew has argued before the Supreme Court and advocated for Indigenous clients. He has also served as the human rights policy advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and as a law clerk for a judge of South Africa’s Constitutional Court.
Douglas Sanderson (1920-2002) was a native of Kent, England. A veteran of the RAF, after the Second World War he emigrated to Montreal, where he studied briefly at McGill. Sanderson turned to writing mystery thrillers when his first novel met with disappointing sales. Hot Freeze, his second foray into the genre, was followed by twenty others; many written under the noms de plume "Martin Brett" and "Malcolm Douglas".
Brian Busby is Ricochet Books' series editor. He is the author of A Gentleman of Pleasure: One Life of John Glassco, Poet, Translator, Memoirist and Pornographer (McGill-Queens UP, 2011) and editor of The Heart Accepts It All: Selected Letters of John Glassco (Véhicule, 2013).
"Meticulously researched and written with compassion, Valley of the Birdtail draws two parallel lines hopelessly distant, and then shows us a pathway through which they can come together. It’s a work of trauma, of broken relationships, of how we perceive one another, but ultimately, it’s a story of possibility and healing." — David A. Robertson, author of Black Water: Family, Legacy, and Blood Memory
"This is a magnificent book. It’s a new history of Canada, as lived in two communities—Rossburn and Waywayseecappo—who shared the same valley but never lived the same reality. I am haunted by what I learned and touched by the hope that these communities can teach us all how to live together in peace and justice. A truly extraordinary achievement: peeling back the layers of the history, searching through the records, but never once losing the characters, the detail, the grit of lives lived. I'm just so impressed." — Michael Ignatieff, author of On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times