Even poets make lists (How do I love thee, let me count the ways …) We depend on them – grocery lists, to-do lists, and so on. In this age of short, screen-sized blurbs rather than long analytical articles (except in academia) the list format can pinpoint specific facts. And although a cosmos of information can be googled, the internet represents the tip of the iceberg in the world’s ocean of knowledge. So, we made lists of things that should be common knowledge but aren’t, pointing the way to further inquiry.
Our history is especially fascinating but it’s been done. We spotlight the high – or low – points in our history.
Geographically, our province is not just flat plains and endless forest, split by the parkland belt. It is richly varied, with many striking but little-known landforms, and gorgeous vistas. Here we list some of the more striking ones.
The fertile expanses of Saskatchewan have produced much more than grain. “Saskatchewan’s best export is its people,” comedian Art Linkletter observed. Many people know that several internationally famous luminaries came from here or lived here: Joni Mitchell, Gordie Howe, John Diefenbaker, Buffy Saint-Marie, Tom Jackson, Grant MacEwan, Tommy Douglas, Guy Vanderhaeghe, to name a few. But thousands more have shone in a kaleidoscope of fields, all contributing to the fabric of society. Some of their achievements have been stunning. And even ordinary people often have remarkable back-stories.
This blog/website is in many ways a testament to the tenacity and courage of Saskatchewan people who faced fearful odds, just as Margaret Atwood told us in Survival. A theme we noticed while exploring possible topics was how unstoppable our people have been since the earliest days of European settlement, and before. Fur traders, adventurers, and couriers de bois sometimes faced insurmountable obstacles. So have many others — our indigenous people facing starvation when the buffalo disappeared, ranchers trying to save their livestock in fierce blizzards, homesteaders trying to reach their promised lands, doctors striving to reach far-flung patients in winter, the horrors of two world wars, the desperation of the Depression days. Many gave up in despair and left the province, but those who remained overcame it all, or died trying.
For a province with a population that rarely tops one million, our people have always punched above their weight, in a good sense. We chose to highlight extraordinary people, and significant or unusual historical events, rather than emulate a who’s who. Some people or entities fit more than one list. So many people, so little space! There are entire books about our major movers and shakers, but we tried to be selective for the sake of brevity.
Usually we had to qualify our lists somehow — most famous, most unusual, recipients of great honours and so on. When faced with this quandary, often we chose people who achieved national or international prominence in their fields. Often that meant luminaries honoured by the government or universities.
Our Indigenous peoples are a central presence in our history and society, and so in most chapters we have integrated them into our lists, rather than isolating them. From the First Nations come many long, lyrical names for entities, including our province’s name.
We had to devise shortcuts for some terms: “Saskie” for Saskatchewanians; “U of S” or “Usask” (which the university uses) for the University of Saskatchewan, and so on.
We discovered many surprising facts while compiling this book – hard-to-find facts buried in a vast array of sources both written and experiential. We delved into libraries and archives, newspapers and magazines for intriguing topics. We were blessed with input from highly-respected experts. To them, and all those who suggested possible topics, our heartfelt thanks.
We plan to keep adding material and illustrations, as this is an ongoing project. We’re open to suggestions for things we’ve missed. With informed feedback, we might even open up new vistas of knowledge.