2013 Finalist

Candace Savage

A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape

A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscapeby Candace Savage

Candace Savage's moving exploration of the natural and human history of the Cypress Hills begins with a brief stay at the Wallace Stegner House in Eastend, Saskatchewan. Against the backdrop of her extended sojourns in the area over the following decade, A Geography of Blood recounts the author's increasing awareness of the tragic history that lies just beneath the surface of the beautiful landscape. Walks in the hills slowly reveal more than the diverse and abundant wildlife. Tipi rings demarking spectral villages are the first hint of "the nightmare side of the national dream," and Savage moves beyond her engagement with natural history to research the ghosts she senses around her. The devastating account of the calculated extermination of the massive buffalo herds, "a butchery of unparalleled rapacity and rage...by the white vandals," pales alongside her documentation of the conscious policy of forced starvation and betrayal suffered by the Plains Indian tribes at the hands of governments on both sides of the border. This ecological and humanitarian atrocity leaves Savage feeling that she is "surrounded by desperation and the nameless bodies of the dead." Filled with shame and sadness, she sets out to "honor this land and its stories" in the belief that "telling the truth about the past could be a road to healing."

A Geography of Blood takes the reader on a surprising journey, haunting and melancholy, but one that ultimately begins to overcome the "decades of mistrust, sharp as razor wire" that stand between us and the tens of thousands of "displaced people, refugees in their home and native lands."

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