WET PRAIRIE: A N E N V I R O N M E N T A L HISTORY OF W E T L A N D S , FLOODING A N D D R A I N A G E IN A G R I C U L T U R A L M A N I T O B A , 1810-1980 by Shannon Stunden Bower A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPY i n THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (Geography) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A August 2006 © Shannon Stunden Bower, 2006 ABSTRACT Southern Manitoba's wet prairie region is marked by persistent problems with surface water management. Through a historical geographical approach to wetlands, flooding, and drainage from the early 19 t h to the late 20 t h century, this dissertation offers an environmental history of a dynamic landscape, emphasizing the complex two-way relations between changes in human communities and environmental conditions. European newcomers mimicked Aboriginal populations in making use of wetland resources, and the development of property relations attuned to the local environment helped define the Red River settlement, established at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in 1812. The creation of the Province of Manitoba in 1870 prompted new disputes over land rights, and perceived racial distinctions were consolidated by differences in how Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal claims were adjudicated. Farming expanded in late 19 th century Manitoba. Many farmers failed to account for environmental variability and found their progress hampered by wet areas or periodic flooding. Early government drains were inadequate, and failed ditching efforts compounded settler frustration. The Land Drainage Act of 1895 expanded reclamation, but settler expectations remained unmet. The environmental consequences of intensive agriculture compounded the problem. Provincial inquiries in the first half of the 20 t h century revealed the patterns of contention that, along with the ditches themselves, defined the drained landscape. ii Flood problems at the international border, the continental significance of waterfowl habitat, and the catastrophic 1950 flood along the Red River were catalysts of change, and led to involvement by American interests and the Canadian federal government. Still, contention continued. Ultimately, it was new concern over surface water erosion - a problem in many ways specific to the local topography of southern Manitoba - that proved most important to the reconceptualization of the drained landscape. This dissertation examines efforts to reconcile progress, property and the Manitoba landscape, often through the exercise of government authority. It engages the notions of bioregion and nation, highlighting the importance of culture in the interconnected processes of human and environmental change. Finally, it emphasizes the importance of cultivating the capacity for adaptation to dynamic environments. iii T A B L E OF C O N T E N T S Abstract. i i Table of Contents •. iv List of Maps : '. vi List of Images - vii List of Abbreviations viii Acknowledgments ix Dedication xi 1 Introduction: 1 1.1 The Wet Prairie 1 1.2 The Physical Geography of Southern Manitoba 5 1.3 Wet Prairie or Flooded Land? 9 1.4 Region and Bioregion 12 1.5 Futility and Its Consequences 18 2 The Great Adaptation: Wetlands, Aboriginal People and Red River Settlers 24 2.1 Introduction 24 2.2 Wetlands as Ecological and Cultural Islands 26 2.3 The Haying Economy of the Red River Settlement 32 2.4 The Great Transformation: Settler Experiences 41 2.5 The Great Transformation: Aboriginal Experiences 52 2.6 Conclusion 67 3 Making Manitoba: Drainage Before the 1895 Land Drainage Act 69 3.1 Introduction 69 3.2 Early Drainage 71 3.3 Drainage as Permanent 80 3.4 Drainage and Political Culture 86 3.5 The Politics of Drainage 97 3.6 Conclusion 107 4 Jurisdictional Quagmires: Dominion Authority and Prairie Wetlands, 1870-1930 110 4.1 Introduction 110 4.2 Contexts and Precedents 113 4.3 The Swamp Lands Arrangement, 1885-1912 126 iv 4.4 Reclamation on the Prairies 136 4.5 Conclusion 148 5 Watersheds: Conceptualizing Manitoba's Drained Landscape 150 5.1 Introduction 150 5.2 The Land Drainage Act and Early Enthusiasm 151 5.3 The Sullivan Commission and the Watershed 161 5.4 Dry Years, Obstructed Flows 172 5.5 Wet Years, Flooded Fields 186 5.6 Conclusion '. 199 6 Crossing Borders and Restoring Wetlands: Changing Perceptions of the Manitoba Environment 203 6.1 Introduction 203 6.2 Roseau River and the International Joint Commission 206 6.3 Ducks Unlimited and Manitoba's Big Grass Marsh 218 6.4 Conclusion 232 7 A Flood of Change? Catastrophic Flooding and Agricultural Drainage 236 7.1 Introduction 236 7.2 Early Catastrophic Flooding 239 7.3 Extreme Floods Return 244 7.4 Flooding, Erosion and Drainage 252 7.5 Conclusion : 268 8 Patterns of Flow Not Entirely of Their Own Devising: Environment, Culture and History in Manitoba 270 Selected Bibliography 299 Appendix I: Annual Capital Expenditures on Drainage, 1896 to 1932 334 Appendix II: The Status of Drainage Districts in 1934.... 335 v LIST OF M A P S Map 1.1: Landforms of Southern Manitoba 6 Map 2.1: The Red River Settlement and Important Wetlands •. 30 Map 3.1: Manitoba Rivers, Creeks and Drains, 1882 99 Map 4.1: The Prairie Region in 1894 , 112 Map 5.1: Drainage Districts in Manitoba, 1933 155 Map 5.2: Municipalities and Drainage Districts, 1933 166 Map 6.1: Surface Waters, Flood Control Infrastructure, and Conservation Districts 204 vi LIST OF I M A G E S Image 5.1: Double Dyke Drain 196 vii LIST OF A B B R E V I A T I O N S HBC Hudson's Bay Company U M D M D Union of Manitoba Drainage Maintenance Districts DC International Joint Commission D U Ducks Unlimited v i n A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S Every grad student should have a committee like mine. Gerald Friesen (Department of History, University of Manitoba) has been guiding my intellectual development since I found myself in his first-year introductory survey nearly ten years ago. Beyond his continued support, I am grateful for his example of how prairie stories speak to larger concerns, both scholarly and public. I first met Tina Loo (Department of History, University of British Columbia) as assigned reading in Professor Friesen's course. In the past five years, I've learned that her skills as teacher and critic are as impressive as her research and writing. And she always seemed to know just when I needed to be told to relax a bit. Matthew Evenden (Department of Geography, University of British Columbia) has helped me in ways far too numerous to list. Perhaps most important has been his example of careful scholarship, generous criticism and committed teaching. From him I've learned a great deal about the scholar I'd like to be. And, finally, my supervisor, Graeme Wynn (Department of Geography, University of British Columbia). I'm always amazed at his ability to do it all: head a large department, pursue an ambitious research agenda, and engage with students in various ways, from welcoming them in his office to shepherding them through the Fraser Canyon. I'm most grateful, I think, for how he always made clear to me that it was because he believed in my capacity for good scholarship that his critique of my work was so vigorous. The Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia is a remarkable place, where scholars engaged in extremely diverse work find ways to share a coffee maker. I'm grateful to the faculty and staff that make it such a congenial environment. Lorna Chan, Junnie Cheung, Eric Leinberger, Mary Luk and Sally Hermansen merit special mention. I'm especially indebted to fellow grad students, both at U B C and beyond: David Brownstein, Emily Davis, Bonnie Kaserman, Arn Keeling, Sharmalene Mendis, Mary Jane McCallum, Liza Piper, Joanna Reid, Amanda Stan and John Thistle, as well as others too numerous to list. Thanks, too, to those affiliated with the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE), Nature/History/Society and Quelques Arpents de Neige, whether as organizers or participants. I have been enormously fortunate to work within an historical community (Canadian environmental history) that is showing every promise of a successful maturity. Gordon Goldsborough (Department of Biology, University of Manitoba) and Dale Wrubleski (Research Scientist, Ducks Unlimited) welcomed a historian into their wetland ecology field course. I appreciate the patience they showed in responding to my questions, as well as their willingness to offer assistance of various sorts. Also, other staff members at Ducks Unlimited (Canada) were extremely helpful. Scott St. George (Dendrochronologist, Geological Survey of Canada) was generous with time and resources. Most importantly, archivists and civil servants in various institutions and departments have facilitated my work in innumerable ways. I'm grateful for their help. Financial assistance from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the University of British Columbia is gratefully acknowledged. i x Thanks to all my old pals in Winnipeg. Of them, Anders Johansson and Kathryn McKenzie merit special mention. And perhaps this is the place to thank Craig Coughlan. Newer friends in Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver, and beyond have helped me laugh through the bleakest moments. Shannon Alary, Jodie Bezdzietny and Dayna Helgason are my main collaborators in the ongoing project of adding magic to everyday life. Without them, my world would make much less sense. Kirsty Bower and Sarah Bower, my sisters, usually remember to ask about my work, but are always more interested in hearing about whatever else is going on. Thanks girls. You help me keep it all in perspective, and make it all that much more fun. This dissertation probably should be dedicated to my parents, but it isn't. Nancy Stunden and Peter Bower have always gone far beyond the call of duty in support of my undertakings. In the past five years, they have schlepped my documents and me across the country on numerous occasions, offered invaluable research support of various kinds, and performed heroic work on my footnotes. Throughout, their interest in my project (and the innumerable tales of Manitoba's wet prairie that I inflicted on them) has not waned. Given all of this, dedicating my work to my parents would seem a little like telling someone you made them dinner after they have done all the chopping. Maybe next time, folks. Dedications aren't usually announced in advance, but on this matter I'm very glad to have broken with tradition. Completion was still a distant dream in the winter of 2005, but commitments made at that time, along with the love and encouragement I have always received from my grandparents, have helped see me through the difficult phases of my project. M y grandfather passed away in spring 2005. He is missed as much as my grandmother is treasured. M y dissertation is dedicated to my grandparents, George and Janet Stunden. x To George and Janet Stunden, my grandparents And to all who remember Xantippe xi 1 I N T R O D U C T I O N 1.1 The Wet Prairie The newcomer's confrontation with a vast, unbroken vista of earth and sky has become the archetypal moment of prairie resettlement. Homesteaders were struck by the sheer extent of the prairie, and awed by both the possibility of claiming some of it as their own and the amount of work necessary to make a home in the region. In government immigration literature, this was an auspicious encounter, a contemplative interlude soon replaced by vigorous and productive labour.1 Little attention was paid to how, as many newcomers stood in southern Manitoba and gazed west, their feet were soaked through. The prosaic reality of wet boots gets at an often-overlooked aspect of prairie resettlement. This dissertation is an environmental history of the wet prairie of southern Manitoba. The term 'wet prairie' was used by 19 t h century newcomers to describe parts of the north-central United States and it was adopted by the United States Soil Survey.2 The classification was not picked up by Clementian ecologists, and their work has influenced both scientific and popular conceptions of the area. They identified much of south-central Manitoba as tall grass prairie, an ecological community that once extended south to Texas and east to the boreal forest. The south-western corner of 1 Ronald Rees, New and Naked Land: Making the Prairies Home (Saskatoon: Western Producer Books, 1988). See especially chapter 3: Reactions to the Prairie. 2 Leslie Hewes, "The Northern Wet Prairie of the United States: Nature, Sources of Information, and Extent," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 41, no. 4 (1951), 307. The most thorough recent discussion of the term wet prairie is Hugh Prince, Wetlands of the American Midwest: A Historical Geography of Changing Attitudes (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997). See especially pages 27 to 74. 1 Manitoba and much of agricultural Alberta and Saskatchewan was mixed-grass prairie, with vegetation that rarely achieved the heights reached in eastern areas. More abundant water was a key factor in the growth of tall grasses. And it was the water that caused difficulties for those who sought to replace the tall grass with fields of cultivated grain. I use the term 'wet prairie' to convey how many people in southern Manitoba dealt with a set of surface water problems not attributable to a single aspect of regional geography or ecology, but linked by what they saw as too much water in agricultural areas. In the early 1950s, American geographers Leslie Hewes and Phillip E. Frandson noted that although the amount of American land served by drainage systems was far greater than that improved through irrigation, academic attention focused almost entirely on irrigation in arid areas. For Hewes and Frandson, this owed something to the fact that geographers were primarily interested, in explaining discontinuities in the landscape, such as that between the parched and the verdant in irrigated acreages. Drainage minimized differences as formerly waterlogged areas became indistinguishable from adjacent cultivated fields. While irrigation produced the sort of landscape that geographers found intriguing, drainage made the wet prairie less interesting.3 It is not necessary to accept that geographers are biased toward heterogeneity to appreciate that Hewes and Frandson had identified an important oversight. With the notable exception 3 Leslie Hewes and Phillip E. Frandson, "Occupying the Wet Prairie: The Role of Artificial Drainage in Story County, Iowa," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 42, no. 1 (1952): 24-52. 2 of Hugh Prince's recent historical geography of the American Midwest, the environmental history of the wet prairie still has not been widely studied.4 Renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold reflected on a related point in 1938 after visiting Delta Marsh, a wetland complex along the southern shore of Lake Manitoba. Leopold mourned the loss of the wetland landscape that "once sprawled over the prairie from the Illinois to the Athabasca." His elegiac description of the plant and animal communities before him made clear that he was concerned with the ecological diversity that depended on standing water. Leopold predicted that the marsh would end up "dyked and pumped," and, like so many others, be "forgotten under the wheat, just as today and yesterday will lie forgotten under the years."5 In his prophecy, Leopold was wrong. Clandeboye Bay and some other parts of Delta Marsh have survived, but taken 4 Prince, Wetlands of the American Midwest. Recent works of note include: John Thompson, Wetlands Drainage, River Modification, and Sectoral Conflict in the Lower Illinois Valley, 1890-1930 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002). Thompson's book is a revealing study of a localized region, but his focus on the flood plain of the Illinois River valley means he is concerned with a somewhat different set of ecological and human processes. Anthony J. Amato, Janet Timmerman, and Joseph A. Amato, eds. Draining the Great Oasis: An Environmental History of Murray County, Minnesota (Marshall: Crossings Press, 2001). This set of articles provides a detailed study of a single county much troubled by surface water. Ann Vileisis, Discovering the Unknown Landscape: A History of America's Wetlands (Washington: Island Press, 1997). Vileisis does not address the wet prairie landscape, though she does offer insight into the transformation of its wetter areas. Her lack of attention to the wet prairie may be connected to how contemporary wetlands classification systems often do not address the wet prairie as a distinctive landscape. On this, see Prince, pp. 337-347. Influential American historians have noted that eastern areas of the Great Plains receive more precipitation than western reaches, but have rarely investigated the distinctive environmental histories of wetter areas. A particularly well-known example is Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1959). As he avoided Webb's environmental determinism, James Malin has been seen as an important precedent for modern environmental historians. Nevertheless, like Webb, he did not devote extensive attention to the wet prairie. For a discussion of Malin and environmental history, see Richard White, "American Environmental History: The Development of a New Historical Field," Pacific Historical Review 54 (1985): 297-335. See also Donald Worster, "History as Natural History: An Essay on Theory and Method," Pacific Historical Review 53 (1984): 1-19. Malin's contribution is addressed in many places, but Dan Flores' discussion is of particular note due to his emphasis on Malin's possibilism as an alternative to determinism. Dan Flores, "Place: An Argument for Bioregional History," Environmental History Review 18 (1994): 1-19. 5 Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), 162. 3' more broadly, Leopold points toward an answer to the question of what happened to Manitoba's wet prairie landscape and the wetlands it included.6 Much of southern Manitoba has been drained for agriculture. In a small handful of articles, historical geographers have emphasized the extent of the province's drainage infrastructure and the dramatic character of the environmental transformation it effected. Rarely have they attempted to quantify the change.7 William Carlyle estimated the loss of wetland at one million hectares.8 More recently, Irene Hanuta compared the records of late 19 t h century surveyors to late 20 t h century conditions and concluded that the wetland area fell from 11% to less than 0.1% in the 100 townships she studied.9 Similar estimates for the entire wet prairie region remain elusive, but the transformation has been widespread.10 The history of wetlands, flooding and drainage in Manitoba's wet prairie region is the story of a forgotten landscape. 6 In my work, wetlands are both component parts of the wet prairie and distinctive ecosystems with their own unique characteristics. Wetlands are typically defined as areas subject to inundation for periods sufficient to permit the formation of hydric soils and to support wetland-adapted flora and fauna. W. J. Mitsch and G. W. Gosselink, Wetlands, 3 r d ed. (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000), 26. 7 William Carlyle, "Water in the Red River Valley of the North" Geographical Review 74 (1984): 331-358; H. Albert Hochbaum, "Contemporary Drainage Within the True Prairie of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Basin," in Life, Land, and Water: Proceedings from a Conference on the Environmental Studies of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Region, ed. William Mayer-Oakes (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1967), 197-204; John Warkentin, "Human History of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Region in the 19th Century," in Life, Land, and Water: Proceedings from a Conference on the Environmental Studies of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Region, ed. William Mayer-Oakes (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1967), 325-337; John Warkentin, "Water and Adaptive Strategies in Settling the Canadian West," Manitoba Historical Society Transactions 3 (1971-1972): 59-73. 8 William Carlyle, "Agricultural Drainage in Manitoba: The Search for Administrative Boundaries," in River Basin Management: Canadian Experiences, eds. Bruce Mitchell and James S. Gardner (Waterloo: University of Waterloo, 1983), 279-295. 9 Irene Hanuta, "A Reconstruction of Wetland Information in Pre-Settlement Southern Manitoba Using a Geographic Information System," Canadian Water Resources Journal 26, no. 2 (2001). 4 1.2 The Physical Geography of Southern Manitoba Making sense of this forgotten landscape requires an understanding of the physical geography of agricultural Manitoba. The provincial south can usefully be conceptualized as comprising three distinct landforms, oriented north-south: the Precambrian Shield, the Manitoba Lowlands (or Valley), and the Southwest Uplands beyond the Manitoba Escarpment (see Map 1.1)." The igneous rock of the Precambrian Shield, also known as the Canadian or Laurentian Shield, extends across northwestern Ontario and into Manitoba. This is, almost everywhere, a rough-hewn landscape, carved up by rivers, dotted with lakes, and covered with boreal forest. In southeastern Manitoba, the land generally slopes down to the west, with the transition to the Lowlands occurring around the 300 metre (980 foot) contour line. Once dominated by tall grass prairie, the Manitoba Lowlands have proven an especially-rich agricultural area. Varying from 64 to 80 kilometres (25 to 40 miles) in width, the Lowlands are bisected by the northerly-flowing Red River. The land slopes in toward the river as well as down toward Lake Winnipeg, though at very modest rates 1 0 The difficulty of quantifying the wetland landscape is not unique to Manitoba. Geographer Michael Williams has discussed the challenges of measurement in an American context. See Michael Williams, "Agricultural Impacts in Temperate Wetlands," in Wetlands: A Threatened Landscape, ed. Michael Williams (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 200-204. 1 1 The Red River lowlands have been described as the first prairie level and the southwest uplands as the second prairie level. 5 Map 1.1: Landforms of Southern Manitoba All cartography by Eric Leinberger. 6 12 in both cases. Comparatively flat land and clay-based soils contribute to significant drainage problems in many areas. Above the western 260 metre (850 foot) contour line, soil permeability improves, though the land continues to rise at only a moderate rate. The Manitoba Lowlands are bounded to the west by a southeast-northwest trending Escarpment, which is marked by a rapid increase in elevation. Beyond the Escarpment are the Southwest Uplands, where the land is more undulating and the precipitation more limited. Over the last century, fire suppression and the absence of grazing bison has allowed aspen and bur oak to invade the Uplands, with rapidly-growing scrub cover moving south from the boreal forest that extends across the northern prairies.13 This has resulted in an expansion of the Parkland, a transitional area between forest and grassland, even as more and more land has been cleared for agriculture. The Assiniboine River flows east through the Assiniboine Delta, a pre-glacial embayment that interrupts the scarp face to the southeast of Lake Manitoba. Diminishing rates of precipitation to the west are reflected in the river's flow. Although the Assiniboine drains about 101 388 km (39 146 square miles), its average flow is much smaller than that of the Red River (which has a drainage basin of only 77 249 km 2 [29 826 square miles], when the Assiniboine's contribution is set aside). 1 2 Gene Krenz and Jay Leitch describe the Red River valley, including both north and south of the international border, as "one of the largest, truly flat landscapes in the world (roughly the size of Denmark)." Gene Krenz and Jay Leitch, A River Runs North: Managing an International River (Red River Water Resources Council, 1993), 3. 1 3 Geoffrey A. J. Scott, "Manitoba's Ecoclimatic Regions," in The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People, eds. John Welsted, John Everitt, and Christoph Stadel (Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1997), 46. 7 Taken together, these three distinct areas form the macro-topography that affects surface water patterns in Manitoba's wet prairie. Awareness of the changes in elevation that distinguish them and of the key geographical features of each takes us some distance toward an understanding of what would become, in the later years of the 19 t h century, Manitoba's drainage problem. The following chapters will examine specific flooding problems attributable not only to this basic physical geography but also to the local topography nested within it and to the climatic disturbances that moved over it. Climatologist Danny Blair has argued that the Manitoba climate is characterized by extreme temporal variability, manifest in both precipitation and temperature regimes.14 In the wet prairie, variability operated geographically, creating a checkered landscape of wet and dry, as well as temporally, with some periods far wetter than others. Flood risk was defined in part by soil moisture content, winter snowfall, melt patterns, and spring rain. Vulnerable Manitobans kept a close watch on the interaction between these key variables, not only in their immediate surroundings, but also over a significant portion of the Saskatchewan-Nelson River basin. This immense drainage system discharges through Hudson Bay, and much of the water has first flowed through the provincial south. There is some truth to the assertion that Manitobans sit "downstream from everyone else," and increased flow from the east, west, or south has contributed to flooding.1 5 Variability in water patterns should not, however, be regarded simply as a 1 4 Danny Blair, "The Climate of Manitoba," in The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People, eds. John Welsted, John Everitt, and Christoph Stadel (Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1997), 31-39. For a discussion of the variability of Manitoba's rivers, see P. Ashmore and M . Church, The Impact of Climate Change on Rivers and River Processes in Canada (Geological Survey of Canada Bulletin 555,2001), 31. 8 threat to regional prosperity. Some of the province's most fertile soils are those in the Red River valley that have been enriched by deposition during periods of flood. 1 6 Wetland ecologists have made clear that expansion and contraction of wet areas is fundamental for continued ecosystem vitality. 1 7 Change was basic to the environment of southern Manitoba and water was a primary driver of change. 1.3 Wet Prairie or Flooded Land? The first chapter in this study considers relatively successful efforts at adaptation to the dynamism of the Manitoba environment. Aboriginal communities made effective use of wetlands in the period prior to colonization. In the Red River settlement, haying in wetlands was an essential activity, and its regulation helped define the nature of the community. Beginning with chapter two, the analytic focus shifts in response to a change in the dominant approach of land users. Efforts to adapt to variability were replaced by efforts to change the environment. The dynamic nature of Manitoba's wetlands proved a major challenge to land drainage projects and made it difficult for contemporaries to differentiate between anthropogenic (human-caused) and non-anthropogenic change. Paradoxically, this provided a major impetus for ongoing political and social debates that turned on flooding but encompassed far more than geography and affected far more than the environment. If water was the primary driver 1 5 Thomas E. Weber, "On Being Downstream from Everyone Else," Canadian Water Resources Journal 4, no. 3 (1979): 75-81. 1 6 J. H. Ellis, The Soils of Manitoba (Manitoba Economic Survey Board, 1938), 47. 1 7 van der Valk, A. G. and Davis, C. B. "The role of seed banks in the vegetation dynamics of prairie glacial marshes," Ecology 59 (1978): 322-335. For an alternative view on drivers of wetland ecological processes, see L. G. Goldsborough and G.G.C. Robinson, "Pattern in Wetlands," in Algal Ecology in Freshwater Benthic Ecosystems, eds. R.J. Stevenson, M.L. Bothwell and R.L. Lowe (Academic Press, 1996), 77-117. 9 of nonanthropogenic change in the wet prairie, change in the wet prairie was the primary driver of many of the events analyzed in this study. Many newcomers to southern Manitoba saw neither the wet prairie nor a wetland landscape, but dry land afflicted by flooding. Even modest agricultural development put human enterprise in the way of ongoing environmental variability. To newcomers, it was the water that seemed to be in the wrong quantities in the wrong places at the 18 wrong times. In agricultural Manitoba, the problem took three guises: too much water some of the time, too much water all or nearly all of the time, and far too much water on rare occasions. Identifying different magnitudes of inundation and frequencies of occurrence help make sense of human efforts to modify the provincial landscape. Too much water some of the time was a problem attributable to the seasonal rise of waterways or accumulation of melt-water; it was a relatively moderate and fairly predictable pattern of inundation that could nonetheless interfere with agriculture in affected areas. Larger rainstorms during the summer months could create problems of a similar magnitude. Wetlands in desirable agricultural areas were seen to have too much water most of the time. In the early years of drainage, projects designed to address such perennially flooded areas followed a somewhat different trajectory from those designed to cope This short but useful definition of flooding builds on Clinton Evans' description of weeds as 'plants out of place.' Clinton Evans, The War on Weeds in the Prairie West: An Environmental History (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2002), 10. For a discussion of the challenges of defining flooding, see Jacquelyn L. Beyer, "Global Summary of Human Response to Natural Hazards: Floods," in Natural Hazards: Local, National, Global ed. Gilbert White (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974). 10 with periodic flooding on agricultural lands. Finally, southern Manitoba's major rivers, the Red and the Assiniboine, are prone to catastrophic inundation. While large-scale flooding caused problems for early settlers and Aboriginal people on numerous occasions, the period from the mid-1880s to the middle of the twentieth century was remarkably free of catastrophic floods. As a result, and to a large extent, drainage in Manitoba through the period considered here was a means of coping with intermittent inundation and of transforming wetlands. From the second chapter onward, this study examines how some Manitobans tried to solve the flooding problem. Chapter two addresses the early years of drainage: how the problem was perceived, how efforts to address it related to other developments in the newly-formed province, and the consequences of attempted solutions. From one perspective, chapter three is an extended examination of one remedy, as Winnipeg and Ottawa worked together to address the problem of substantial wetland complexes in desirable agricultural areas. From another angle, this section focuses on an exceptional series of events. Between about 1880 and about 1912, Manitoba wetlands became a political vehicle in an ongoing and often-heated intergovernmental debate over the control of prairie resources. Comparison with developments in Alberta and Saskatchewan clarifies how state actions consolidated environmental differences between Manitoba and the drier prairie provinces. Provincial legislation, official investigations, and public debate about flooding and drainage between 1895 and the middle of the twentieth century are the focus of chapter 11 four. Drainage was both a concrete problem requiring a practical solution and a catalyst for creative thinking about the meaning of community and the character of the local environment. Its dual nature did not make the problems it posed easier to solve. Chapter five overlaps chronologically with chapter four, but the theme is quite different. By the second quarter of the 20 t h century, new ways of thinking about water in Manitoba began to assume greater prominence. These came to the fore in response to changing environmental conditions and increasingly sophisticated ways of perceiving the environment. The final chapter situates water management in agricultural Manitoba in the context of an international move toward multipurpose water management, and considers how the catastrophic Red River flood of 1950 catalyzed policy development at the national level. It makes clear, however, that the contentiousness that had long characterized discussions of surface water management remained a key factor bearing on Manitoba drainage. By the second half of the twentieth century, Manitoba's tall grass prairie, the only Canadian example of this ecosystem, was nearly eliminated. But the problems of the wet prairie, in many ways also unique to agricultural Manitoba, resisted all attempts at resolution. 1.4 Region and Bioregion Regions have been important to Canadian historians. They have been one of the primary means of disaggregating a landscape too sprawling and a people too diverse to be explained adequately within a single national narrative. The prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have often been studied as a region. Scholars have found it useful to consider three ways of thinking about regions: the formal, the 12 functional, and the imagined. The formal has been tied to the basic physical geography that some have seen to shape regions. The prairies have been described as both environmentally foreboding and entirely hospitable, with interpretations turning on divergent views of soils, climate, and the sheer expanse of the northwest. Conceived as a functional region, the prairies are related to other places, often through economic or cultural linkages. Such linkages have been seen as exploitative, with central Canadians or the nation at large profiting at the expense of prairie residents. The imagined region is connected to the work of cultural producers, with the prairies emerging out of the contributions of early writers and artists who documented the experiences of newcomers. The imagined region increases in influence as it informs popular conceptions of the place to which it refers.19 The wet prairie landscape has not received much attention from Canadian historians working within this framework. Study of surface water in Manitoba builds on valuable scholarship in the tradition of regional history, while also highlighting elements that merit further historical analysis. Attention to water patterns emphasizes the significance of environmental differences within the prairie region. Further, it illustrates the importance of complex, two-way relations between humanity and the environment. The wet prairie landscape was characterized as much by irregularity and dynamism as by excess water. During the late 19 t h and early 20 t h centuries, artificial drainage eliminated 1 9 For a summary of how Canadian historians have employed the concept of region, see Gerald Friesen, "The Prairies as Region: The Contemporary Meaning of an Old Idea," in River Road: Essays on Manitoba and Prairie History (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1996). See also B. Kaye and D. W. Moodie, "Geographical Perspectives on the Canadian Plains," in A Region of the Mind: Interpreting the Western Canadian Plains, ed. Richard Allen (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1973), 17-46. 13 many wetlands and speeded flow from agricultural fields. Attempts to rein in dynamism have been less successful; seasonal and catastrophic flooding remain significant problems. Variations in precipitation rates and melt patterns contribute to the degradation of the drainage infrastructure, emphasizing how, even in the drained landscape, the relation between land and water remains unsettled.20 As an especially dynamic area, and in the context of a historiography that would benefit from more sophisticated engagement with environmental processes, the wet prairie serves to mark the importance of the sort of ongoing human-environment interaction that takes more subtle forms elsewhere. Gerald Friesen has recently suggested that Canadian historians should revise the categories used in regional analysis, in part by incorporating the work of geographers and with the intention of developing more complex ways of addressing the spatial dimensions of human history. Friesen proposed that formal and functional be grouped together as objectively-denoted regions, emphasizing their shared origin in the work of experts and academics. Grouping these two emphasizes the contrast with instituted regions that emerge through structures of authority such as governments. Instituted regions are often nested within each other and are always being reshaped in relation to each other and to peoples' engagements with them. One of the challenges for those who work within this revised framework will be to figure out the role of the environment in regional dynamics. If scholars remain open to the significance of non-Michael Williams, "Agricultural Impacts in Temperate Wetlands," Wetlands: A Threatened Landscape, ed. Michael Williams (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1999), 216. 14 human forces, there may be useful cross-fertilization between practitioners of Canadian regional history and environmental history.21 As regions have been important in Canadian history, so bioregions have been important in environmental history. In the 19 t h and 20 t h centuries, historians, geographers, scientists, and popular writers concerned with southern Manitoba produced a number of works addressing an environmental unit that spans the international border. Authors have examined concrete geographic illustrations of regional linkages, from a common glacial history to similar agricultural conditions to the shared risk of catastrophic flooding.2 2 In light of widespread recognition of bioregional integrity, and especially because environmental historians have recently been paying a great deal of attention to bioregionalism, it is important to explain why I have not taken a bioregional approach. Bioregionalism emerged as a North American cultural touchstone in the 1970s. It was a product of that decade's concern with ongoing environmental degradation as part of a search for new ways of thinking that would be conducive to less destructive interactions between humanity and the rest of nature. Bioregionalism also has longer roots in what 2lGerald Friesen, "Space and Region in Canadian History," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association Forthcoming June 2006. Friesen is drawing primarily on the work of Robert Ostergren. See Robert C. Ostergren, "Concepts of Region: A Geographical perspective," in Regionalism in the Age of Globalism, vol. 1, Concepts of Regionalism, eds. Lothar Honninghausen, Marc Frey, James Peacock, and Niklaus Steiner (Madison: Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, 2005). 2 2 Representative examples include William Carlyle, "Water in the Red River Valley of the North," Geographical Review, 74 (1984): 331-358; Stanley Norman Murray, A History of Agriculture in the Valley of the Red River of the North, 1812 to 1920 (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1963); Vera Kelsey, Red River Runs North! (New York: Harper, 1951); John Perry Pritchet, The Red River Valley, 1811-1849; A Regional Study (Toronto: Yale University Press, 1942); Warren Upham, The Glacial Lake Agassiz (Washington: Monographs of the United States Geological Survey no. 25, 1895). 15 has been called "the biogeographical approach to natural history" evident in the works of Gilbert White and Alexander von Humboldt.23 For historians, Dan Flores reinvigorated the idea of bioregionalism with his influential 1994 article "Place: An Argument for Bioregional History." Flores argued that environmental historians should derive their subjects of inquiry from ecological categories. In an oft-quoted phrase, he suggested that "the politically-derived boundaries of county, state and national borders are mostly useless in understanding nature."24 Environmental historians, Flores put forth, should investigate the "natural nations" of the world - those defined by boundaries that "make real sense ecologically and topographically."25 Part of the sensitivity to the relation between history and environment at the core of the bioregional approach rests on an understanding that the distinction between humanity and the rest of the nature must be treated with care and precision. This seems at least potentially in conflict with Flores' proposal that bioregions be drawn according to ecological connections. Bioregional historians are interested in human-environment interactions within the bioregion, but purport to draw the boundaries of the bioregion in relation to environmental factors. Why? Just as environmental boundaries have had consequences for humanity, so human boundaries have had consequences for the environment. Particularly when a bioregion straddles political borders, it is at least possible that the environmentally significant human component might differ 2 3 William L. Lang, "Bioregionalism and the History of Place," Oregon Historical Quarterly (Winter 2002): 416. 2 4 Flores, "Place: An Argument for Bioregional History," 1-19. 2 5 William G. Robbins, "Bioregional and Cultural Meaning: The Problem with the Pacific Northwest," Oregon Historical Quarterly (Winter 2002): 421. The phrase 'natural nations' is derived from personal correspondence between William Robbins and Michael Egan: 16 substantially from one portion of the bioregion to another. In an important article, historian Richard White called for greater attention to the production of analytic scale. He did not use the word 'bioregion,' but his focus on relations between scales (whether defined by human communities or non-human nature) is suggestive.26 As Canadian historians might benefit from attention to how nonhuman processes contribute to the production of regions, so may environmental historians benefit from resisting all rigidity in the conceptualization of environmentally-significant units of analysis. Wetlands, flooding, and drainage in southern Manitoba may be part of a larger bioregional problem, but their history is best explained with careful and extended attention to the actions of Canadian governments (local, provincial and national) in the portion of the wet prairie north of the international border. This dissertation is both more than and less than a bioregional history of the wet prairie. M y work expands on political and social factors that transcend the ecological boundaries of the bioregion while remaining focused on the portion of the wet prairie north of the American border and on the theme of wetlands, flooding, and drainage. It emphasizes the complex role of the environment in the production of Canadian regionalism. In what follows, the geographical area of concern is in part a natural nation and part of a nation state. Both contributed to how residents of agricultural Manitoba perceived the flood problem. 2 6 Richard White, "The Nationalization of Nature," The Journal of American History 86, no. 3 (1999): 976-986. 17 J 1.5 Futility and Its Consequences In his essay on Delta Marsh in A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold employed a Manitoba example to address the large-scale processes that he saw threatening both Clandeboye Bay and the other wild areas he valued. This was typical of Leopold's literary strategy, and his capacity to see the general in the specific is part of the explanation for the continuing significance of his work. However, the story of Manitoba's wetlands is not adequately explained only through attention to the broad forces that concerned Leopold. M y work might be seen, in part, as a cultural history of drainage in southern Manitoba. In common usage, cultural history refers to the study of the production of meaning in specific historical contexts.27 Here I wish to broaden the term to encompass how interactions between humanity and nonhuman nature operate as significant generators of meaning. This is in tune with what Richard White has identified as a hallmark of the cultural turn in environmental history: an analytic emphasis on the varied ways people have understood their interactions with the environment.28 In my view, the most compelling argument for close attention to the production of meaning is William Cronon's influential 1992 article titled " A Place for Stories." Though Cronon is On cultural history, see Victoria E. Bonnell and Lynn Hunt, "Introduction," in Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture, eds. Victoria E. Bonnell and Lynn Hunt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 1-32. See also Peter Burke, What is Cultural History? (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004). 2 8 Richard White, "From Wilderness to Hybrid Landscapes: The Cultural Turn in Environmental History," The Historian 66, no. 3 (2004): 557-564. 2 9 William Cronon, "A Place for Stories: Nature, History, and Narrative," The Journal of American History 78, no. 4 (1992): 1347-1376. 18 focused on the narrative strategies of environmental historians, I would argue that there should also be a place for stories crafted by cultural groups or cultures at large. I am interested primarily in stories produced as by-products of engagements between humanity and the rest of nature, those that underpin and emerge from interactions shaped by human efforts to meet culturally-specific needs or desires, such as property ownership. These stories are cultural artifacts with material and intellectual consequences. They help define the character of future human-environment interaction and become part of the raw material out of which others will manufacture meanings of l their own. In my research, I have found government records particularly rich in evidence of how people - and not only politicians or experts - have understood human-environment interaction. My strategy has been to treat such sources as cultural documents, which they surely are. Cultural historians have often sought to make sense of local, small-scale historical 30 processes. Such an approach has much to offer environmental historians who continue to bemoan their failure to persuade historians at large that nature matters in history.31 Because of a discipline-wide commitment to careful examination of evidence, the most convincing way to make this general point is by illustrating it through extended analysis of particular ecological processes in specific historical contexts. Studies that seem to sacrifice theoretical ambition to analytical depth may actually offer satisfying responses 3 0 Bonnell and Hunt, "Introduction," 7. 3 1 A recent reiteration of this is Ellen Stroud, "Does Nature Always Matter? Following Dirt Through History," History and Theory 42 (2003): 75-81. 19 to those who continue to doubt the importance of environmental history. Perhaps the field's big question (what is the significance of nature in history?) has many small, local answers, each distinguished by the compounded contingencies of the human and nonhuman worlds. To recast this in relation to my work: perhaps the swamps of Manitoba are an effective illustration of how prairie resource administration - long a concern of Canada's political historians - is better understood i f the environment is interpreted as carefully as politics. The importance of fine-grained analysis is redoubled for environmental historians who are interested in the intellectual as well as the material outcomes of nature-culture dynamics. While broad interpretive frameworks, such as the idea of progress invoked by Leopold or the doctrine of liberalism that has been the subject of recent debate among Canadian historians, contribute a great deal to our understanding of what happened in Manitoba's wetlands, the social and political significance of drainage becomes apparent when the analytical focus is fixed firmly on fleshing out the local 32 context. Drainage in Manitoba is not only a microcosm in which to perceive broader patterns. It is also fertile ground for the development of ways of thinking and interacting that made sense in the local social, political, and environmental contexts. What follows 3 2 For a discussion of progress see Laurence Fallis, "The Idea of Progress in the Province of Canada: A Study in the History of Ideas," in The Shield ofAchilles: Aspects of Canada in the Victorian Age ed. W. L. Morton (Toronto: McLelland and Stewart, 1968), 169-183. See also John C. Weaver,"Concepts of Economic Improvement and the Social Construction of Property Rights: Highlights from the English-Speaking World," in Despotic Dominion: Property Rights in British Settler Societies, eds. John McLaren, A. R. Buck and Nancy E. Wright (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005), 79-102. For a recent engagement with liberalism that has provoked interest among Canadian historians, see Ian McKay, "The Liberal Order Framework: A Prospectus for a Reconnaissance of Canadian History," Canadian Historical Review 81, no. 4 (2000): 617-645. See also Ruth Sandwell, "The Limits of Liberalism: The Liberal Reconnaissance and the History of the Family in Canada," Canadian Historical Review 84, no. 3 (2003): 423-450. 20 can be seen as an argument for the generation of meaning at a local level, within communities defined in relation to human and environmental factors. Life in agricultural Manitoba was, I think, not just the working out of plans conceived or modes of thought developed elsewhere. It was not just the establishment of a liberal hegemony or the continuation of imperial imperatives, though both do figure. Rather, an environmental history of the wet prairie points to a creative process of ongoing engagement between Manitobans, their governments and institutions, and the provincial environment. Drainage in Manitoba was part of wider patterns, both in the history of North American wetlands and in the establishment of Canada as a liberal nation, but it was also a local event, with significant consequences for how Manitobans interacted with their environment and with each other. And while drainage was a relatively small component of progress and liberalism, it was a relatively large part of the environmental discourse within the Province of Manitoba. Cultural history is characterized by its concern with power.33 Many cultural historians have been keen to explore how people understood and expressed power relations, and to document when identifiable social groups fared differently. There is a general synchronicity between the work of many cultural historians and those environmental historians who are particularly concerned with environmental justice. To my mind, the experience of Aboriginal people and land change is the fundamental question of 3 3 Alan Gordon, "The New Cultural History and Urban History: Intersections," Urban History Review 33 (2004): 3. For a collection of essays emphasizing how power can be defined in multiple ways and considered from multiple perspectives, see Bonnell and Hunt, eds. Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and Culture. 21 environmental justice in the Province of Manitoba. I suggest something of how drainage in southern Manitoba plays into this, but 1 do not go very far in this direction. Land change and the Aboriginal experience in Manitoba should be explored in a manner that transcends both the geographical and thematic limitations of my study. The need for work in this vein is growing only more urgent in light of continuing hydroelectric development and the geopolitical consequences of global environmental change, both of which are altering the provincial north. Here, however, I am interested in a different set of power relations. The public discourse on drainage in southern Manitoba was characterized by discontent and complaint, and the political discourse was riven with worry and dissatisfaction. No one was happy with drainage. To judge from much of the documentary evidence, all parties thought drainage was a colossal failure. Yet despite - or perhaps through - mistakes and unintended consequences, the landscape of Manitoba was transformed. There is a fundamental incongruity between how drainage was perceived at the level of small-scale, interpersonal or inter-group interaction, and the environmental outcome. Investigating this incongruity required extended examination of the interactions between citizens of Manitoba and the politicians and bureaucrats of their governments. Explaining it required a descriptive focus on a different range of interactions than those that might have attracted the attention of an historian focused on the question of environmental justice. The social, political, and environmental effects of how drainage was perceived in the years under investigation - or, in other words, futility and its 22 consequences - will be discussed in the conclusion. At this point, it is sufficient to assert that the incongruity is part of the local explanation for why, as Leopold predicted, the wetlands of Manitoba have been forgotten. M y work is not bioregional history, because I have limited my attention to the Canadian portion of the wet prairie bioregion. It differs from most cultural history, because the exercise of power that most concerns me lies between the human and non-human worlds, rather than among social groups. Ultimately, I have come to think of my work as situated at the nexus of cultural and environmental history. It is through such an approach, I believe, that Manitoba's wet prairie can most appropriately be remembered and understood. 23 2 THE GREAT ADAPTATION: WETLANDS, ABORIGINAL PEOPLE, AND RED RIVER SETTLERS1 2.1 Introduction In his essay on Clandeboye Marsh in A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold juxtaposed the gradual natural evolution of the marsh and its dramatic alteration through human usage in the twentieth century. What he did not see, or perhaps chose not to describe for literary effect, was how the marsh before him reflected a long accumulation of human as well as nonhuman influences. Here as in the wet prairie more generally, human beings had long interacted with the environment of what is now southern Manitoba. Both natives and nineteenth century newcomers drew on the resources of wet areas and managed these places to serve their purposes. By comparison with the dramatic environmental changes that dismayed Leopold, these adjustments were moderate. But they had lasting consequences for both people and the wet prairie. In an influential article, historian Irene Spry traced a nineteenth century "transition in Western Canada from common property resources, to open access resources, and finally to private property."3 Declines in game, increasing agricultural settlement, and the 1 An earlier version of part of this chapter has been published. Shannon Stunden Bower, "The Great Transformation? Wetlands and Land Use in Late 19* Century Manitoba," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 15 (2004): 29-47. 2 One of the most important ways aboriginal people reshaped the prairie landscape was through the use of fire. On fire in the tall grass prairie, see Roger C. Anderson, "The Historic Role of Fire in the North American Grassland," in Fire in North American Tallgrass Prairies, eds. Scott L. Collins and Linda L. Wallace (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), 8-18. On the relation between fire and' aboriginal people in the wet prairie region, see Prince, Wetlands of the American Midwest, 75-115. 24 establishment of new systems of government all contributed to profound changes in how the riches of the region were apportioned. Other scholars have built on this interpretation.4 Historian Gerhard Ens has associated the great transformation with the local consolidation of broadly capitalist economic patterns.5 Focusing on the proto-industrial activity of the Metis, those of mixed Aboriginal and European ancestry, Ens described how changes in economic structures were achieved in part through adaptation by individuals and groups.6 In the late 19 t h century, significant numbers of Metis departed from what is now southern Manitoba.7 This chapter examines some of the adaptive strategies of those who remained (whether Metis, Aboriginal, or European) and pays particular attention to property relations and environmental conditions. The story of adaptation is expanded through attention to southern Manitoba's wetlands. 3 Irene Spry, "The Great Transformation: The Disappearance of the Commons in Western Canada," in Man and Nature on the Prairies, ed. Richard Allen (Regina: University of Regina, 1976), 21-45. 4 In particular, see the contributors to Aboriginal Resource Use in Canada: Historical and Legal Aspects, eds. Kerry Abel and Jean Friesen (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1991). A more recent contribution comes from Terence O'Riordan, "Straddling the 'Great Transformation': The Hudson's Bay Company in Edmonton during the Transition from the Commons to Private Property, 1854-1882," Prairie Forum 28 (2003): 1-26. See also Stunden Bower, "The Great Transformation? Wetlands and Land Use in Late 19th Century Manitoba," 29-47. 5 Gerhard Ens, Homeland to Hinterland: The Changing Worlds of the Red River Metis in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996), 4-8. 6 Proto-industrialism is the process of industrialization before the movement of large numbers of workers to factory employment. The Metis industry involved the household-based production of buffalo-robes for the international market. Ens, Homeland to Hinterland, 6-7. 7 Factors that prompted the migration of the Red River Metis (or Metis, or other variants) have been the subject of intense dispute. Ens argues that the Metis left in pursuit of economic opportunities. Historian Douglas Sprague is among those who have argued that betrayal by Canadian authorities was the most important factor. See Douglas Sprague, Canada and the Metis, 1869-1885 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1988). For a useful discussion of the scholarly debate and its political context, see Brad Milne, "The Historiography of Metis Land Dispersal, 1870-1890," Manitoba History 30 (1995): 30-41. 25 2.2 Wetlands as Ecological and Cultural Islands Aboriginal subsistence strategies in northwestern North America turned on the seasonal exploitation of the boreal forest, the aspen parkland, and the prairie region.8 A l l three areas feature wetlands of some sort, with prairie potholes predominating to the southwest, peat bogs to the northeast, and riverine and lacustrine marshes situated along many water bodies. Anthropologist Matthew Boyd has documented the concentration of archaeological sites near prehistoric water bodies. Noting that wet areas provided opportunities for bison entrapment, hunting smaller game, fishing, harvesting aquatic and semi aquatic vegetation, gathering wood, and collecting drinking water, Boyd argued that "the intersection of a number of different types of resources ... made these locales important points on the pre-contact 'economic landscape.'"9 Wet areas throughout the boreal forest, parkland, and prairie region presented some of the same useful characteristics (such as availability of water) and served to concentrate the provisioning opportunities of the region in which they were situated (for instance, they were attractive to ungulates in the woodlands and to bison on the prairie). Anthropologists Scott Hamilton and B. A . Nicholson have proposed that understanding wetlands as islands of familiarity may help to explain ancient migrations from the 8 As historian Sarah Carter has pointed out, to speak of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba as the prairie provinces reflects the orientation of the settler society that has moved in over the past 150 years more than the character of the regional environment. Sarah Carter, Aboriginal People and Colonizers of Western Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 19. 9 Matthew Boyd, "Changing Physical and Ecological Landscapes in Southwestern Manitoba in Relation to Folsom (11,000-10,000 BP) and McKean (4,000-3,000 BP) Site Distributions" in Changing Prairie Landscapes eds. Todd A. Radenbaugh and Patrick C. Douaud (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 2000), 21-38. For a good general discussion of the importance of archaeological attention to North American wetlands, see George P. Nicholas, "Wetlands and Hunter-Gatherer Land Use in North America," in Hidden Dimensions: The Cultural Significance of Wetland Archaeology, ed. Kathryn Bernick (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1998), 31-46. 26 boreal forest to the prairie region. The ecological change experienced in passing from one ecological zone to another may have been tempered for some groups by an affinity for wetlands. The Assiniboine and the Cree were the major Aboriginal groups in what is now southern Manitoba in the immediate pre-contact period.1 1 While the Assiniboine favoured south central areas and the Cree tended toward the north and the east, both moved through ecological zones as part of their seasonal round. The abilities of Aboriginal groups to exploit the boreal forest, the parkland, and the prairie ensured a measure of flexibility in their subsistence strategies, as abundance in one area might 12 compensate for shortfalls in another. Historical geographer Arthur Ray has made clear how, in relation to the Aboriginal experience, the concepts of stability and change must be treated with care. Geographical movement across zones and adaptation to dynamic environments within zones were the very foundation of stability, as both helped ensure adequate subsistence year-round. Change was a constant in Aboriginal lives and security was ensured through ready adjustment. With the available historical sources, it is difficult to be certain about late 18 t h century drivers of population change. Both the Cree and the Assiniboine were heavily involved in the fur trade. Efforts to maximize opportunities at a time of declining furbearer 1 0 Scott Hamilton and B. A. Nicholson, "Ecological Islands and Vickers Focus Adaptive Transitions in the Pre-Contact Plains of Southwestern Manitoba," Plains Anthropologist 44, no. 167 (1999): 5-25. 1 1 Arthur Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade: Their Role as Trappers, Hunters, and Middlemen in the Lands Southwest of Hudson Bay, 1660-1870 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), 3-5. 1 2 Ibid., 29-30,46-48. 27 populations may have been a major factor in group movement, but the fur trade was not the sole element conditioning Aboriginal decision-making.13 Further, as historian John Milloy has illustrated in his discussion of the cultural significance of the bison, declining animal numbers were important in a variety of ways, not only in relation to the utility of furs as trade goods.14 Aboriginal people adapted by shifting emphasis from trapping in the boreal forest to hunting on the prairie grasslands and by moving westward into less exploited regions. Westward migration was neither total nor sudden. Indeed, there is evidence of significant interaction between the Cree and the Assiniboine and the western Ojibwa, as the group that was becoming increasingly prominent in the Red River area has been called. 1 5 Historian Laura Peers extends Ray's emphasis on the importance of both continuity and change within Aboriginal groups in this period, finding a "creative, dynamic" tension at the heart of the western Ojibwa communities she studied.16 Though patterns of movement can also be difficult to pin down, it appears that, having earlier moved west into what is now north western Ontario, the Ojibwa were extending into the Red River region in substantial numbers by the late 18 t h century. This move created new opportunities to profit from the fur trade, but was conceived and executed in relation to 1 3 Ibid., 116-121. 1 4 John Milloy, "Our Country: The Significance of the Buffalo Resource for a Plains Cree Sense of Territory," Aboriginal Resource Use in Canada: Historical and Legal Aspects, eds. Kerry Abel and Jean Friesen (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1991), 51-70. 1 5 Laura Peers, The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 1780-1870 (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1994), 5, 18-19. 1 6 Ibid., ix-xiii. 28 a broad array of factors, including relations with other Aboriginal groups and the ravages of epidemic disease.17 In the 19 t h century the Ojibwa were the dominant Aboriginal group in what is now I o southern Manitoba. They settled in various locations, with some heading to more remote areas and some establishing strong ties to Netley Marsh, a lacustrine wetland complex in the Red River delta that became an important provisioning node (see Map 2.1). George Van Der Goes Ladd, a minister who authored a history of the community he served, described Netley Marsh as "ideally suited" to the needs of the Ojibwa: Between Netley Creek and Lake Winnipeg the river created its own all-encompassing world. The delta area was a labyrinth of channels, lakes, islands and muskegs - a "wilderness" to white settlers, but a homeland for hunting, fishing, and gathering people who traveled by water.19 In places such as Netley Marsh, subsistence strategies attuned to the wetlands of north western Ontario were still useful. The Ojibwa, like the Cree and the Assiniboine, met a dynamic ecosystem with flexible use patterns. Van Der Goes Ladd's description suggests how wetlands were important for cultural as well as subsistence reasons, as sources of security and identity. 1 7 Ibid., 3-26. 1 8 Ray, Indians in the Fur Trade, 187. 1 9 George Van Der Goes Ladd, Shall We Gather at the River? (B.C.: Winnfield, 1986), 23. While Van Der Goes Ladd's text is more popular than academic, it is based on historical research and informed by postcolonial theory. 29 Map 2.1: The Red River Settlement and Important Wetlands Adapted from figure 6.3: Hay Lands of the Red and Assiniboine Valleys about 1870 in Barry Kaye, "The Historical Development of the Cultural Landscape of Manitoba to 1870" in The Geography of Manitoba: Its Land and Its People, eds. John Welsted, John Everitt, and Christoph Stadel (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1996), 79-89. Wild rice was an important crop for the Ojibwa of north western Ontario, and it provides a window into the relation between aboriginal people and wetland 20 environments. Traditionally, wild rice grew in an area centred on the Lake of the Woods region and extending east to Lake Superior, west toward southern Manitoba, and south to the American states of Wisconsin and Minnesota.21 In north western Ontario, Ojibwa families harvested substantial quantities, up to twenty-five barrels in some Corn and potatoes were also cultivated as conditions permitted. Peers, The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 134. 2 1 Claudia Notzke, Aboriginal Peoples and Natural Resources in Canada (North York: Captus University Publications, 1994), 25-27. 30 cases, much of which was stored for winter use or used in trading. Described by one commentator as "a perfect diet in itself," wild rice had an important place in Aboriginal 23 nutrition. It was also important for spiritual and social reasons, with the fall harvest allowing for community interaction. Geographer D. Wayne Moodie has analyzed techniques by which rice was cultivated. Tying growing stalks into bundles provided protection from pests and inclement weather, opened pathways through dense growth, and prevented early-ripening grains from falling into the water. The technique increased yields, but prevented passive reseeding. Ensuring a crop for the following year through deliberate seeding was an annual responsibility and a key means by which the Ojibwa modified Ontario wetlands. Manitoba's wetlands were far less rich in rice. Laura Peers has suggested that some adopted the practice of "commuting" back to harvesting grounds and returning with rice-filled canoes.24 The Ojibwa also sought to expand the crop's range, seeding it in more westerly areas. They were fairly successful in their efforts, taking significant harvests from new areas by the 1820s. The example of wild rice suggests how wetlands such as Netley Marsh became Ojibwa homelands in part because of how they were modified to suit indigenous peoples' needs. Peers, The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 24. 2 3 Amelia M . Paget, People of the Plains (Regina: University of Regina, 2004), 19. For a suggestive account of the importance of plant foods in the diets of prairie aboriginal groups, see Maureen K. Lux, Medicine that Walks: Disease, Medicine, and Canadian Plains Native People, 1880-1940 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), especially 3-19. 24 Peers, The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 29. 2 5 D. Wayne Moodie, "Manomin: Historical-Geographical Perspectives on the Ojibwa Production of Wild Rice," in Aboriginal Resource Use in Canada: Historical and Legal Aspects, eds. Kerry Abel and Jean Friesen (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1991), 71-79. 31 In the early 19 century, the Ojibwa followed their Aboriginal predecessors in both adapting to the dynamic nature of their environment and capitalizing on the region's wetlands. Due to declines in game, Manitoba wetlands may have been more significant to the 19 t h century Ojibwa, relative both to the importance of Ontario wetlands to earlier Ojibwa and to the importance of Manitoba wetlands to the Cree and the Assiniboine. The Ojibwa sought adequate sustenance by maintaining a diverse subsistence base, and their strategy was reasonably successful. 2.3 The Haying Economy of the Red River Settlement The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), an incorporated joint-stock venture developed to exploit the resources of North America, received British royal charter in 1670. It was granted exclusive trading rights in the territory drained by waterways flowing in to Hudson Bay, and established a vast network to satisfy European demand for fur. Thomas Douglas, the fifth earl of Selkirk, was a HBC shareholder with an interest in colonization. In 1811, he secured a grant of about 300,000 square kilometres (116,000 square miles) that included much of southern Manitoba and extended west into Saskatchewan and south into North Dakota and Minnesota. The area became known as the District of Assiniboia. The first of Selkirk's settlers established themselves at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in 1812, and the small community became known as the Red River settlement. On their arrival, settlers were buffeted by a harsh and unfamiliar environment. Only gradually, as newcomers adopted practices and developed institutions attuned to the 32 challenges of the region, was some measure of security achieved. Exploitation of the wild resources of the open prairie for food and other essential materials was fundamental to successful adaptation. Hunting and fishing were important, but the management of wild hay became especially significant for the stock-raisers of the Red 28 River settlement. Although hay grew abundantly in wet areas across the region, competition for the more accessible hay lands quickly became fierce. As Surveyor General Lindsay Russell explained in 1871, wetlands were almost as valuable as dry land because "they give without the least trouble of cultivation, extremely rich hay meadow." The property system that developed in the community was tailored to the management of the wild hay that wetlands produced. In the Red River settlement, river lots extended two miles back from the banks of the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers (see Map 2.1). Natural drainage dictated the location and size of buildings and fields, with houses erected along the rivers' well-drained 30 natural levees. River lot owners also had a claim to the two miles behind their lot, an H. Robert Baker, "Creating Order in the Wilderness: Transplanting the English Law to Rupert's Land, 1835-51," Law and History Review 17, no. 2 (Summer 1999). <http://www.historycooperative.org/ journals/lhr/17.2/baker.html> (9 May 2005). 2 7 Barry Kaye, '"The Settlers' Grand Difficulty': Haying in the Economy of the Red River Settlement," Prairie Forum 9 (1984): 1. 2 8 On the importance of hay to earlier settlers in other parts of Canada, see Matthew G. Hatvany, Marshlands: Four Centuries of Environmental Change on the Shores of the St. Lawrence (Sainte-Foy: Les Presses de L'Universite Laval, 2003), 58-60. For a brief discussion of haying in an Ontario context, see John C. McLaughlin, "Progress, Politics and the Role of Conservation: Wetland Drainage in Ontario" (Ph.D. diss., Queen's University, 1995), 103-105. 2 9 Library and Archives of Canada [hereafter LAC], Department of the Interior, RG 15, D-II-I, vol. 228, file 804, reel T-121177, Report on Topographic Surveys of 1871 by Lindsay Russell, 1872. 33 area that characteristically included lower, wetter lands. Known as the hay privilege or outer two miles, the arrangement was to ensure that all settlers had access to some of 31 the most conveniently situated wild hay. The hay privilege was formalized by the Council of Assiniboia, the district's governing body. Settlers had a right to the hay, not to the land itself, but others were precluded from using the area in any manner that interfered with the hay crop. Prized though the area was, the outer two miles did not always produce enough to satisfy settlers' needs. The problem was exacerbated in drier years, and became more severe as the settlement's population increased. As a result, the land beyond the four mile line was managed as a hay commons, with important wetlands becoming major haying areas. The Council of Assiniboia was instrumental in defining haying activity in this area as well by establishing a date when haying on the open prairie could commence. The dynamic nature of the regional environment was problematic for the stock-raisers of the Red River settlement in a way it was not for Ojibwa. Settlers could get their hay from different locations, within the bounds of what was reasonable given transport by cart, but they had to get their hay. By emphasizing the widespread hardship that attended years when environmental conditions were not conducive to the growth of sufficient hay in accessible locations, historical geographer Barry Kaye makes clear the Edgar Russenholt, The Heart of the Continent (Winnipeg: MacFarlane, 1968), 106; H. Alfred Hochbaum, "Contemporary Drainage Within True Prairie of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Basin," in Life, Land, and Water, ed. William J. Mayer-Oakes (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1967), 198. 3 1 LAC, RG 15, D-II-I, vol. 227, file 635, reel T-12176, G. McMicken, Agent of Dominion Lands, to J.C. Aikins, Secretary of State, 1872. 3 2 "Haymaking and Harvesting," Nor'wester, 28 July 1860. 34 general importance of the hay resource to Red River settlers. Haying was the settlers' "grand difficulty," the perennial challenge that concerned them all. Kaye coined the phrase 'haying economy' to refer to the practices that integrated the wild grasses of the prairie into local life ways. Haymaking brought people together as they negotiated how best to arrange, as far as possible, for mutual satisfaction of similar needs. A l l participants were obliged to cultivate relationships in order to reap the benefits of the un-worked fields. One of the most vivid illustrations of the social significance of the haying economy was provided by the journal of Red River settler Samuel Taylor. 3 4 He frequently mentioned activities such as cutting hay with James Irwin or borrowing William Pruden's oxen to haul hay home. Hay cut on the open prairie was not always hauled in immediately. Stacks were often left in the swamps, to be drawn on as necessary during the winter. This meant that even a settler with an ample supply in the field could be short on the farm. Life was easier i f it was possible to bridge such shortfalls by calling on a neighbour. As the years passed, Taylor's oldest son assumed responsibility for more of the labour associated with haymaking. Like his father, William Taylor both gave and received assistance. Other sources record how settlers who had suffered misfortunes resulting in the loss of their hay supply received substantial assistance from their 3 3 Barry Kaye, " 'The Settlers' Grand Difficulty': Haying in the Economy of the Red River Settlement,' Prairie Forum 9, no. 1 (1984): 1. 1 3 4 Archives of Manitoba (hereafter AM), Samuel Taylor Journal, MG 2 C13. 35 neighbours. Through all of this, as Taylor's diary makes clear, settlers were not only securing necessary resources, but also nurturing a community. The start of haying was an annual community event. High spirits prevailed as entire families established camps near the best hay swamps, in preparation for the first cut of the year. Desirable locations were identified in advance, and all people were anxious to make their claims by the accepted method of cutting a swath around the chosen area. Dry seasons clearly illustrated that haying involved competition as well as cooperation. In these years, when the swamps were not very productive, folks set out at the stroke of midnight to cut their swaths, sometimes even ignoring thunder raging overhead.36 The operation in tandem of the regulated beginning of hay cutting (established by the Council of Assiniboia) and the accepted method of claiming an area (a community convention apparently never codified by the local government) suggests that the distinction between legal and moral obligation was of little relevance in the field. Some defied the Council's regulations and cut in advance. Their actions became the talk of the settlement, which suggests that disobedience did matter.37 However, taken in sum, the evidence indicates that adhering to the arrangements - whether formal laws or community conventions - was less important than behaving in a manner that the settlers found appropriate. Though an area marked off by a swath was identified as the property 3 5 R. G. Macbeth, The Selkirk Settlers in Real Life (Toronto: W. Briggs, 1897). See also W. L. Morton, "Introduction," in London Correspondence from Eden Colville, 1849-1852, ed. E. E. Rich (London: Hudson'Bay Record Society, 1956). 3 6 Macbeth, The Selkirk Settlers in Real Life, 45-7. 3 7 A M , MG 2 C13, 1 August 1865. . 36 of an individual, anyone who "tried to circle the whole prairie for himself was at risk of having the claim disregarded.38 Ambition was tempered by the fact that inordinately large claims would not necessarily be respected. Both Council regulations and community conventions mattered, but only insofar as they bore on the ongoing configuration of a rough consensus on what constituted appropriate behaviour. The haying economy operated as a moral economy in which nearly all settlers were invested.39 The community consensus was always evolving because it was defined in relation to environmental conditions. In wetter years when hay was more abundant, larger cuts were tolerated. In years when the land dried more quickly, haying dates were disregarded. In July 1864, Samuel Taylor noted in his journal that "some people went down to Nettly [sic] Creek to cut hay on the 20 t h although it was settled there should be no hay cut on [until] the 27 t h. W. Taylor and T. Moar did the same ... O! What fine hay weather it is now." 4 0 Settlers were aware of the date set by Council and recognized that early haying constituted a violation. Yet Taylor was remarkably matter-of-fact about his son William's actions. Illegal haymaking was neither a source of shame nor a mark of courage: it simply made sense. It seemed less important to obey regulations than to capitalize on "fine hay weather." As suggested by the example of an ambitious 3 5 Macbeth, The Selkirk Settlers in Real Life, 46. 3 9 O'Riordan draws on the concept of the moral economy in "Straddling the 'Great Transformation.'" For a particularly successful use of the concept by a Canadian historian, see Sean Cadigan, "Moral Economy of the Commons: Ecology and Equity in the Newfoundland Cod Fishery, 1815-1855," Labour/Le Travail 43 (Spring 1999): 9-42. 4 0 A M , MG 2 CI3, July 1864. 37 haymaker who might mark off an inappropriately large area, the community could enforce its own judgments by exacting penalties.41 Yet Taylor expressed no fear that his son's actions would bring reprisals. His journal entries reflected his confidence that the community consensus, derived partly from assessments of environmental conditions, would trump the formal regulations governing hay cutting. Through his journal, Samuel Taylor reminds us of the significance of environmental conditions in determining what constituted a legitimate property claim on the open prairie. While haymaking was governed by law and custom, both might be set aside in favour of practices more attuned to prevailing conditions. Ultimately, the moral economy in operation on the commons helped settlers to secure the hay that was so important to their survival on their privately-held river lots. For many years, in the community of Red River, different ways of managing land complemented each other. The private property of the river lot, the privileged access of the outer two miles, and the commons on the open prairie coexisted because they made sense in relation to the local environment. People lived with complex notions of property and contributed to a community capable of determining how these should be applied in particular instances. Competition and cooperation both figured in this process. And both contributed to the development of a settlement remarkable for its resilience and resourcefulness.42 4 1 There is record of only one court case relating specifically to hay cutting. Even within the relative formality of the settlement court, the judgement was tempered because of an unspecified set of "circumstances." The involvement of the court did little to disrupt the arrangements that governed haymaking. Indeed, insofar as a judgement was rendered that seems to have been as contingent as those of the community, it may have bolstered the legitimacy of informal means of regulation. A M , District of Assiniboia Court Records, MG2 B4, reel M-389, Hudson's Bay Company v. James Cook et al, 19 August 1847. 38 William Taylor's haying in the Ojibwa homeland of Netley Creek does not seem to have provoked any discontent, likely because the Ojibwa had little call for large stores of hay. Land was more fraught. By the Selkirk Treaty of 1817, the Ojibwa, Cree, and Assiniboine acknowledged the right of the colonists to settle on the lands within two miles of the banks of the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers in exchange for an annuity of 100 pounds of tobacco to each of the three groups.43 Over subsequent years, some individual settlers made private arrangements with Aboriginal leaders to use lands outside the two mile line. 4 4 There was, however, no general arrangement whereby settlers had a right to land beyond the two miles closest to the rivers. The nature of the hay privilege as a right to the hay, not the land, was probably an attempt to work around the unresolved matter of Aboriginal title. Despite the motley, provisional nature of the Red River property system, regional resources were apportioned without undue controversy from the 1830s.45 The situation would not last. Some settlers had taken to cultivating the lands where they had at best a right to the hay. This brought to a head the inconsistencies between the 4 2 My argument shares elements with the notion of social capital. Many of the weaknesses of the theory stem from its application in an ahistorical manner, without reference to the patterns of difference and inequality that persist, even in the most cohesive community. As the aboriginal experience is a key theme in this chapter, I hope to avoid some of the difficulties inherent to insufficiently critical applications of the social capital idea. For a review of the social capital literature, see John Field, Social Capital (New York: Routledge, 2003). See also Jonathan Grix, "Social Capital as a Concept in the Social Sciences: The Current State of the Debate," Democratization 8, no. 3 (2001): 189-210. 4 3 Peers, The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 92. 4 4 Ibid., 159. 4 5 Jean Friesen, "Grant Me Wherewith to Make My Living," in Aboriginal Resource Use in Canada: Historical and Legal Aspects, eds. Kerry Abel and Jean Friesen (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1991), 144. 39 complex notions of property in operation in the Red River settlement and the perspectives of nearby Aboriginal groups..In the late 1850s and early 1860s, Peguis, an important leader of the local Ojibwa groups, began to protest settler encroachment on Aboriginal territory. The Nor'Wester, a newspaper produced in the Red River settlement, published a manifesto issued by Aboriginal leaders on 16 January 1861. The document made clear that cultivation outside the two-mile line was tantamount to trespass. As Peguis and five other Aboriginal leaders explained, cultivators "shall be secured in the enjoyment of the said land ... on the annual payment of one bushel of wheat for every five bushels of seed sown on the aforesaid lands, and for barley and potatoes the same rate." This annuity was intended, they explained, "as an acknowledgement of our property in the said lands."47 The 1861 manifesto not only represented the assertion of an Aboriginal property claim previously in abeyance, but also presaged a new era of general concern over land rights in the region.4 8 The great transformation from common to private property was well underway, and all in the region were becoming increasingly concerned about how local land use arrangements would align with imported concepts of private property rights. Peers, The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 198. Nor'wester, 15 April 1861. Peers, The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 198. 40 2.4 The Great Transformation: Settler Experiences The Province of Manitoba was created by the Manitoba Act of 1870.49 This was made possible through a complicated arrangement transferring the prairie region to the Canadian government, involving both the Hudson's Bay Company and Britain. But the diplomatic complexities that preceded 1870 were dwarfed by the administrative difficulties that came after. Sorting out landholding in the province was a significant challenge for the new bureaucracy. While the Manitoba Act provided that Crown lands and other natural resources would be administered by the Dominion government, it also included some acknowledgement of local land-use practices. However, the government did not immediately fulfill its commitments and some Red River settlers perceived a need to buttress their claims. Long accustomed to adapting to environmental variability, residents were quick to address the changing political context. Meetings were organized to address land rights. To judge from reports published in local newspapers, these were lively and intense. They brought together representatives from the various parishes, the local administration unit of the Red River settlement (see Map 2.1). Through references to established farms and grazing areas in the outer two miles, parish leaders made clear that the hay privilege was now used in a variety of ways. Over time, settlers had come to regard it as their own property and to use it as they saw fit. A dry period may have For information and documents relating to the Manitoba Act, see William Morton, ed. Manitoba: The Birth of a Province (Altona: D. W. Friesen & Sons Ltd., 1965). 41 contributed to a change in land-use patterns. Dominion Lands Agent McMicken explained in 1872 that "many parts of the country that formerly were of a marshy character are now quite dry." This was the case on many hay privilege lands, with the result, said McMicken, that "settlers now generally go many miles off to cut their supply of Hay" and used the outer two miles in other ways. 5 0 There is no reason to believe that what McMicken described as a drying trend was anything other than another variation of a dynamic environment, but its coincidence with a key moment in the great transformation made it particularly significant. Settlers would need to convince the Dominion that, despite the unconventional origins of the hay privilege and the fact that the land was often now used in ways inconsistent with the original grant, their claim to the area was legitimate. Toward the end of a particularly volatile meeting, the President of the Council of Assiniboia asserted that, in relation to land matters, "the whole settlement is united -and we are glad to be united; but at the same time our circumstances are not the same all over."51 A l l settlers were concerned about land rights and many river lot owners relied on the hay privilege in some way, but all recognized that usage varied. The president suggested that each parish should prepare a petition detailing local demands with regard to the hay privilege and requesting government assurance that these would be met. A significant number of parishes joined in the coordinated effort to petition the authorities. Some submissions, such as those from St. Charles and Headingly, were relatively brief, M LAC, RG 15, vol. 227, file 635, reel T-12176, G. McMicken to J.C. Aikins, 1872. 51 The New Nation, 6 May 1870. 42 ' urging the government to "adjust the two mile hay privilege and the right of 52 common." In French, the refrain was no less persistent, with petitioners from St. Norbert and St. Francois-Xavier Est seeking recognition of "un droit indeniable a ce privilege de foin et a ces communes."53 Notwithstanding nuances of phrasing and argument, these petitions made similar claims to the outer two miles. Local leaders described as "a perfect success" the passage by many parishes of "the same resolutions or resolutions to the same effect."54 The community of Red River, working together despite the cultural and environmental factors that divided the parishes, was deliberately orchestrating its interaction with the Dominion government. The ways land use was presented in the petitions had as much to do with new political developments as with established practices. This is apparent in the submission from the Parish of Kildonan. Like the others, it demanded attention to the "rights of common and of cutting hay." It then went further, making clear that definitive title to the outer two miles was the objective.55 The commons in question was not the open prairie that was so important to Samuel Taylor and his neighbours, but the commons that had developed in hay privilege lands used for grazing rather than haying. Invoking "the hay privilege and the right of common" in claiming the outer two miles was a political A M , Alexander Morris Fonds, MG 12 BI, item 55, Minutes of a meeting held in St. Charles, 11 January 1873; item 47, Minutes of a meeting held at Pleadingly, 7 January 1873. 5 3 A M , MG 12 BI, item 59, Minutes of a meeting held in St. Norbert, 13 January 1873; item 57, Minutes of a meeting held in St. Frangois-Xavier Est, 12 January 1873. 5 4 A M , John C. Schultz Fonds, MG 12 E l , item 7153, Letter from John Gunn to John Schultz, 28 December 1872. 5 5 A M , MG 12 BI, item 1978, Petition submitted to Alexander Morris by the Parish of Kildonan, n.d. 43 strategy. By phrasing their demands in this way, petitioners ensured that differences in how the area was used would not weaken a claim that derived its strength from its collective character. The right to cut hay on the open prairie went unaddressed in the Kildonan submission. In March 1874 Alexander Morris, Manitoba's new Lieutenant Governor, explained to the Minister of the Interior that matters on the open prairie were quite different from those in the hay privilege, and asserted that settlers were not pressing claims to the open prairie.5 6 Although a few did seek the right to cut hay on the open prairie,5 7 the hay privilege became a rallying point in a way that the open prairie did not. Morris' interpretation of the matter was consistent with the arguments put forth by the parish petitions: the hay privilege should be regarded as equivalent to land ownership. The comments of Dominion Land Agent McMicken made clear that residents had not abandoned their reliance on the wild hay of the open prairie. But Red River settlers fought for what they thought they could get, rather than for what they actually used. Dominion officials were convinced by the energetic campaign of Red River settlers. The government accepted that river lot owners had a legitimate claim to the outer two miles, and in 1874 the survey began that would allow for the granting of title.5 8 In the Red River settlement, the great transformation sparked residents to work together to A M , Alexander Morris Fonds (Ketcheson Collection), MG 12 B2, item 105, Letter to Minister of the Interior from Alexander Morris, 18 March 1874. 5 7 A M , MG 12 BI, item 1042, Petition submitted to Alexander Morris from the Parish of St. James, 13 July 1873; item 59, Minutes of a meeting held at St. Norbert, 13 January 1873. 5 8 A M , William Pearce Fonds, MG 9 A40, William Pearce Manuscript (rev. from original by J.A. Jaffary, Edmonton, Nov. 7, 1925), 21. 44 respond to changing political conditions. Their ability to do so was enhanced by a capacity for strategic cooperation at the community level generated by the haying economy. To appeal for recognition of "the hay privilege and the right of common" was to derive from complex property arrangements a clear and persuasive justification for local land ownership. Anthropologist James Scott has documented an association between the establishment of an administrative bureaucracy and the simplification of sophisticated environmental management practices.59 In his rendering, it is the state that sifts out the detail, in order to facilitate administration from afar. In Red River, residents undertook such simplification for themselves. Through a community effort, Red River settlers sought to characterize local land use practices in a manner consistent with Dominion notions of land ownership. Why are these developments significant in a story of wetland use? Historians and geographers who have studied wetlands have repeatedly made the point that one of the challenges of these environments is that they are often incompatible with private property. In the words of Ann Viliesis, there is always a "commons component" to wetlands.60 In paying attention to the establishment of private property in Manitoba, and in particular to the displacement of more environmentally-attuned management systems, we trace a move away from a land management system aligned with the province's wet prairie geography and the establishment of a private-property regime. Ironically, the settlers of Red River employed a community capacity for collective action derived in 5 9 James Scott, Seeing Like a State: Why Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998). 6 0 Vileisis, Discovering the Unknown Landscape, 6. 45 part from their experience with the commons to ensure they fared as well as possible through the transition to a private property system. Changing conceptions of the outer two miles not only affected the relation between settlers and their environment, but also between individuals and their neighbours. The growing Red River settlement population required more food and houses, and some parts of the outer two miles seemed suitable for these purposes. As a result, a number of "park lots" - so-called fenced areas that were usually cultivated - were established in the hay privilege lands. There was not necessarily any formal arrangement between the holder of the hay privilege and those who established park lots. In much the same way that Aboriginal people, with no need for large quantities of hay, had tolerated the establishment of the hay privilege, river lot owners who had no need for their hay privilege tolerated the creation of park lots. But as everyone in the region became more attentive to their land rights, tolerance began to seem like risky behaviour. For those looking to establish park lots, the better-drained lands in the outer two miles of the parishes north of the Assiniboine along the Red River were especially appealing. St. Paul was one such parish. In 1863 or 1864, Celestin Thomas established a park lot in the outer two miles of St. Paul. In 1871, he sold it to John and James Harrower, immigrants from Britain who had spent a number of years in Ontario before coming to Manitoba. Over subsequent years, the Harrowers put a lot of work into improving their park lot: a substantial house and other structures were built; a garden and agricultural 46 fields were established. Understandably, they were keen to ensure that their investment of time and effort was protected. For the Dominion officials responsible for administering the distribution of the hay privilege, the existence of park lots was one of the many difficulties highlighted by the ongoing work of the surveyors tasked with measuring individuals' holdings and resolving outstanding disputes.61 In May 1874, Dominion Land Surveyor J.W. Harris began work in the outer two miles of the parish of St. Paul. Understanding that not all residents would welcome such interference, Harris proceeded with care. Like other surveyors in similar positions, he sought to cultivate positive relationships as a means of easing his task. He seems to have developed a particularly strong connection with the Harrower brothers, as he camped in their yard and dined at their table on several 62 occasions. Nevertheless, personal relationships do not seem to have swayed Harris' professional judgment. In 1874, he gave the Harrowers a document that was probably an early draft of his report to the Dominion Government. The Harrowers immediately wrote to the government: ... a surveyor has been running lines and posting up stakes and [we] have been unofically informed that the amt of land awarded to us lies within the aforesaid lines. We cannot believe that the Gov intend to do us so foul A Rong nor yet be gilty of so arbitrary an act [sic].... 6 3 6 1 A M , Dominion Land Surveyors' Notebooks, GR 1601, Notebook # 687, Surveyor J. W. Harris. 6 2 A M , John Walter Harris Fonds, MG 14 C74. 6 3 LAC, RG 15, vol. 143, file 428, Letter from James and John Harrower to David Mills. 14 December 1876. 47 The Harrowers later clarified what they objected to so strongly. Harris had given them a little more than 170 acres. They protested "because it give us less than we should have ... [and] because the arrangement of the surveyor puts us into the swamp."64 Surveyor Harris' notebook provides no evidence that he considered the significance of a swamp close to the Harrowers' claim. As there is abundant evidence that Harris was extremely careful in his work, inattention seems an unlikely explanation.65 So far as possible, even when dealing with settled areas, surveyors were instructed to impose a grid on the land. An existing body of water was noteworthy,66 but adjusting property lines to accommodate the sort of intermittent wetlands that covered much of southern Manitoba does not seem to have been common practice. No amount of social courtesy could blunt the sharp divide between what was significant to residents and what was recorded by surveyors. The survey conducted by the Dominion Government did not accommodate the environmental logic that had long conditioned life in the settlement. The Harrower brothers were incensed at Harris' report. They felt that altering their lot in the proposed manner was hardly the "encouragement which as emigrants we have a right to expect at the Hands of the Government."67 While it was the surveyor's recommendation that their holdings be repositioned and reduced that caused the brothers to protest, their correspondence with the government also brought to light their 6 4 LAC, RG 15, vol. 143, file 428, Undated transcript. 6 5 Diligence is evident not only in Harris' professional diaries but also in the personal log he kept. A M , MG 14 C74. 6 6 John Warkentin and Richard Ruggles, The Historical Atlas'of Manitoba, 1612-1969 (Manitoba Historical Society, 1970), 235. 6 7 LAC, RG 15, vol. 143, file 428, Letter from James and John Harrower to David Laird, 2 May 1874. 48 conflict with Jemima Bunn. In the late 1870s, Bunn began vigorously asserting her claim to the entire two miles behind the river lot that she occupied. Her hay privilege and the Harrowers' park lot overlapped. Though relative newcomers to the Red River settlement, John and James Harrower had readily adapted to the practice of arranging landholding according to community consensus and environmental conditions. When they arrived in the early 1870s, no doubt these practices seemed both appropriate and entrenched. There was no need for the Harrowers to come to terms with the potential consequences of taking up land on the hay privilege, because the area in question was not used for haying and was suitable for other purposes. In reply to a question regarding the overlap between their lot and the hay privilege, they voiced their frustration at the manner in which matters seemed likely to be resolved: "We get nothing instead of what is taken away and the part we do not get is proposed to be given in reconsideration of the hay privilege."6 8 Pressed further as to whether they had ever been in conflict with the holders of the hay privilege, their response was direct and definitive: "No. Never." 6 9 As we have seen, the outer two miles, a precisely defined area of land subject only to a hay claim, was used in a variety of ways. River lot owners used their outer two miles as they saw fit, for hay cutting, summer pasture, or cultivated crops. Some used their land as private property, while others cooperated with neighbours to manage multiple lots as LAC, RG 15, vol. 143, file 428, Transcript, n.d. 49 a commons. The establishment of park lots depended on the willingness of river lot owners to tolerate incursions. The effect of all of this on the right of river lot owners to the hay privilege was the crux of the disagreement between Jemima Bunn and the Harrowers. The brothers were convinced that, whatever hay privilege claim may once have existed to the lands in question, "it had already been disposed of by the fact of our actual settlement thereon." 7 0 But Bunn did not agree that tolerating park lots extinguished her right. Jemima Bunn was a widow living with her children on a river lot in the Parish of St. Paul. She was anxious to preserve the hay privilege not for her own use, but on behalf of her young son. In an effort to bolster their cases, both Bunn and the Harrowers sought support from John Norquay, an eminent local politician.7 1 It is clear which party he favoured. Jemima Bunn had recently returned to Manitoba after more than a decade in the northwest. Her story was certainly one to inspire sympathy, as her husband's death had left her with three children. The youngest was William Robert, born in 1872. However, Norquay did not use Bunn's personal tragedy to appeal to Ottawa; instead, he asserted the value to the Bunns of the specific piece of land in contention. An equivalent amount of land elsewhere in substitute, proposed at one point as a possible means to resolve conflicts of this sort, "would be no equivalent for the loss the family LAC, RG 15, vol. 143, file 428, Letter from James and John Harrower to John A. Macdonald, 12 February 1881. 7 1 A M , Premier's Office Files, Norquay Administration, GR 553, item A - l 127, A. Russell to J. Norquay, 27 April 1882. 50 would sustain i f not confirmed in the possession of that portion of the lot." To Norquay, it seemed entirely reasonable for river lot owners to plan their family's future on the hay privilege, even i f some parts were currently occupied by others. While the Harrowers were convinced that definitive right should be extrapolated from current usage, John Norquay interpreted matters differently. He saw in the Harrowers' claim something akin to a circle cut on the open prairie. A land claim was made, but it was not of the sort that would endure indefinitely. It was such logic that underpinned Jemima Bunn's adamant assertion that "Mr. Harrower has no right whatever to the land - his only claim being that he has built a house upon the adjoining lot and improved some of the land around it." 7 3 A home and a farm: these are precisely the elements that the Harrowers felt fully justified their claim to ownership. But to Norquay and Bunn, these were utterly insufficient to do away with the standing right of river lot owners to the hay privilege. At the time that Bunn was so confidently refuting the Harrowers' claim, her only surviving son was still too young to fulfill her dream of a family farm on the hay privilege. There is no evidence of any immediate need for the land in question. She could have continued to tolerate the Harrowers' incursion without immediate personal hardship, but the political context for land ownership had changed and this affected how residents interacted with each other. Through her actions, Jemima Bunn was responding to and participating in the alteration of the context in which landholding LAC, RG 15, vol. 142. file 361, J. Norquay to L. Russell, 12 April 1881. LAC, RG 15, vol. 142. file 361, J. Bunn to Minister of the Interior, 4 April 1882. 51 was arranged. Through this process, settlers changed how they related to their neighbours. 2.5 The Great Transformation: Aboriginal Experiences If the great transformation altered settlers' relations to Manitoba lands and to each other, it spelled even greater changes for Aboriginal populations. Until 1870, Aboriginal people retained title to the lands of the province, with the possible exception of some lands along the rivers and a small number of privately-negotiated arrangements affecting small parcels of land. 7 5 For the Dominion government, Aboriginal title was a pressing concern, due to fears it would retard large-scale migration from Ontario and Europe. For their part, Aboriginal people recognized the importance of securing their rights in advance of an influx of immigrants, and were proactive in their efforts to negotiate with the government.77 There has been solid scholarly analysis of the treaty process on the Canadian prairies, with recent investigators attending to cultural questions such as how each party understood the process and how oral as well as written commitments played a 78 fundamental role. An environmental perspective has the potential to further explain / 4 Those who work within the theory of social capital might describe these events as a significant expenditure of social capital. 7 5 Peers, The Ojibwa of Western Canada, 198. 7 6 Friesen, "Grant Me Wherewith to Make My Living," 141-143. 7 7 Ibid., 141. 52 important aspects of Aboriginal experiences in the late 19 t h and early 20 t h centuries. The wetlands that Aboriginal people used as provisioning nodes were of less interest to the new authorities, because the government was preoccupied with the lands best suited for agriculture. As Indian Commissioner Simpson explained in his initial address to Aboriginal treaty negotiators, in securing the cession of "rocky swampy" land within the Province of Manitoba, the government was in fact "giving them presents - not purchasing from them land of great value."7 9 While this was certainly rhetoric designed to assert the Government's generosity, it also suggests how situating land along a continuum from most to least desirable figured in the treaty process. In Manitoba, paying attention to what happened in wetlands - areas governments and newcomers often dismissed as wastelands - leads to a better understanding of dispossession's finer grain. The first treaty between the Canadian government and the Aboriginal people of the prairies region was signed in August 1871. There was some uncertainty regarding the area covered by what became known as Treaty 1 or the Stone Fort Treaty, because of geographical imprecision and lack of participation by affected indigenous groups.80 A l l the same, the document provided the basis for Aboriginal dispossession throughout much of what is now south central Manitoba. In a speech that opened treaty negotiations, Manitoba Lieutenant Governor Adams Archibald explained the reserve 7 8 Arthur J. Ray, Jim Miller and Frank J. Tough, Bounty and Benevolence: A History of Saskatchewan Treaties (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000); Treaty 7 Elders and Tribal Council, with Walter Hildebrandt, Sarah Carter, and Dorothy First Rider, The True Spirit and Original Intent of Treaty 7 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1996). 7 9 Ray, Miller and Tough, Bounty and Benevolence, 16-17. 8 0 Ibid., 65. 53 concept. These were to be parcels of land set aside for exclusive Aboriginal use, of 81 sufficient size for agriculture. He sought to rein in expectations by suggesting that reserves would not encompass extensive hay lands. Nevertheless, reserve size became a key point of contention, with Aboriginal people at one point indicating they wished 2/3 of the province to be set aside for their use as hunting grounds.82 Aboriginal negotiators eventually came to accept smaller reserves, based in part on the understanding that they would maintain the right to exploit ceded land. 8 3 For government negotiators, continued hunting on ceded land was acceptable as it was assumed that Aboriginal people would primarily exploit the "rocky swampy" areas, which were lands not immediately targeted for agricultural settlement. Aboriginal people have remained adamant that, as explained by historian Jean Friesen, "their right to fish and hunt as before had been verbally confirmed by the treaties of 1871 ," 8 4 While the written treaty included no mention of hunting rights on ceded land, the locations of or reserves were precisely laid out. There would be one at St. Peter's Parish, one near the mouth of the Roseau River, one along the Winnipeg River, and one in central Manitoba south of the Assiniboine River. Each would contain enough land to allow 160 acres to a family of five. Treaty 1 was a remaking of the geography of south-central Manitoba, one anchored by the reserves it identified. But there were fundamentalidifferences 8 1 Alexander Morris, The Treaties of Canada (Toronto: Belfords, Clarke & Co., 1880), 28-29. 8 2 Ibid., 34. 8 3 Ray, Miller and Tough, Bounty and Benevolence, 11. 8 4 Friesen, "Grant Me Wherewith to Make My Living," 152. 8 5 Ray, Miller, Tough, Bounty and Benevolence, 60. 5 4 between the geographies each party envisioned, based in part on different interpretations of the treaty-making process. Some of these differences came to the fore because of declining populations of game animals. Under subsection 16 of section 92 of the British North America Act, game legislation was deemed a provincial responsibility.86 The Manitoba government was concerned about declines and sought to restrict Aboriginal hunting and fishing on ceded but unsettled land. At first, the Dominion government protested that Aboriginal people had an unassailable treaty right to hunt. However, as declines became more pronounced, Ottawa became concerned that unregulated Aboriginal hunting would 00 contribute to resource depletion. If this were to occur, the government feared it would be obliged to assume the expense of providing sufficient provisions to more Aboriginal people over the longer term. The Dominion government began to participate in the regulation of Aboriginal hunting and fishing. Consensus among governments about the need for regulation did not make game laws 89 easy to enforce. Difficulties may have been compounded on wetlands where transportation and communication were hampered by water and insects made the area unpleasant to patrol. In her analysis of government repression of cultural practices 8 6 Friesen, "Grant Me Wherewith to Make My Living," 145; Colpitts, Game in the Garden, 96. 8 7 Colpitts, Game in the Garden, 101. For a discussion of game management in a later period, see Loo, "Making a Modern Wilderness," 92-121. 8 8 Colpitts, Game in the Garden, 93-102. 8 9 Friesen, "Grant Me Wherewith to Make My Living," 147. 55 among prairie Aboriginal groups, anthropologist Kathryn Pettipas suggests that repression was strongest on lands valued by the colonizers.90 Conversely, it may have been less vigorous in areas such as wetlands that the government found less desirable, even though water served to attract game and waterfowl. The areas that government agents least liked to patrol may have been the same areas that Aboriginals best liked to exploit. This may have gone some distance toward tempering conflict. While proximity to agricultural settlement was a key determinant of the extent of regulation to which any land, wet or dry, would be subject, wetlands may have been subject to less stringent regulation than the drier lands they abutted.91 Treaty-makers had anticipated increasing Aboriginal interest in stock-raising, and commitments had been made for the supply of animals, tools, and sufficient hay. 9 2 In the years after 1871, however, Aboriginal people found they were not always able to get the animals they wanted. For those who received animals, effective husbandry was J complicated by the inadequacy of their tools. Historian Sarah Carter has considered how, in the immediate post-treaty period, lack of tools such as scythes impeded Aboriginal efforts to cut sufficient hay for winter use. In later years, as more effective Kathryn Pettipas, Severing the Ties that Bind: Government Repression of Indigenous Religious Ceremonies on the Prairies (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1994), 157. 9 1 For a general discussion of challenges with policy enforcement, see J. R. Miller, "Owen Glendower, Hotspur, and Canadian Indian Policy," in Reflections on Native-Newcomer Relations: Selected Essays (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004): 107-139. 9 2 Sarah Carter, Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990), 55-56. 56 tools became available to non-Aboriginal farmers, some Aboriginal groups were given access only to the old models.93 Especially in drier years, the hay lands of some reserves proved insufficient to supply domesticated animals.94 As a result, Aboriginal people were drawn into the haying economy. The success of on-reserve stock-raising often depended on off-reserve haying. 9 5 For instance, the Indians of Fort Alexander, the reserve along the Winnipeg River, coped with "the scarcity and inferior quality of hay on the reserve" through "supplementing their supply by cutting hay on Dominion vacant lands in the vicinity of the Reserve."96 Only by such means were they able to procure sufficient fodder to winter their stock. Aboriginal people took proactive measures to safeguard their supply. In 1898, those at Fort Alexander learned that the vacant Dominion land where they cut hay had been identified for transfer to Manitoba as part of a broader programme designed in part to appease provincial discontent over Dominion ownership of lands and resources. Fearing that their access to hay would be compromised, Aboriginal leaders expressed their concerns to the relevant officials.9 8 On-reserve agricultural activities J i Ibid., 65, 96-98,213-224. 9 4 See Carter's discussion of hay. While some reserves have abundant hay and sell it, scarcity seems to have been more typical, especially in dry years. Carter, Lost Harvests, 163. 9 5 Carter explores how hunting, fishing and gathering over a larger area prevented starvation on reserves. Carter, Lost Harvests, 100. 9 6 LAC, Department of Indian Affairs, RG 10, vol. 3570, file 102, pt. 28, reel C-10101, Clandeboye Agency - Hay Lands (Indian Commissioner for Manitoba and Northwest Territories) 1898-1899. 9 7 The land had been identified as swamp and was eligible for transfer under the swamp lands arrangement. For more information on this matter, see chapter four. 57 depended on off-reserve provisioning, and thus could be threatened by actions that did not conflict with any treaty-defined Aboriginal right. Aboriginal people did what they could to maintain access to non-reserve lands they saw as essential to their well-being, with hay swamps as of particular concern. When hay supplies on reserve were insufficient and off-reserve sources were compromised, Aboriginal people had little choice but to dispose of stock. As a sympathetic Indian commissioner explained, when "the only chance the Indians have to obtain hay for their cattle is from the sloughs," an inability to procure sufficient supplies meant they were "prevented from keeping as many head as they wish." 9 9 Aboriginal people were criticized for selling stock instead of building up larger herds. In 1885, this was the reasoning behind the decision not to supply the St. Peter's Band with more cattle.1 0 0 In some instances, selling was an effort to capitalize on a resource that would otherwise, in the absence of sufficient feed, literally waste away. Aboriginals who disposed of their stock at what government observers judged to be inopportune moments may have been obliged to do so by an immediate or anticipated hay shortage. In years when supplies were diminished by dryness or prairie fires, competition for hay could be especially fierce. From 1872 the Dominion government maintained a leasing system to govern access to the hay resource, but often failed to punish those who 9 8 LAC, RG 10, vol. 3570, file 102, pt. 28, reel C-10101, Clandeboye Agency-Hay Lands (Indian Commissioner for Manitoba and Northwest Territories) 1898-1899. 9 9 LAC, RG 10, vol. 6615, file 7125-4, reel C-8018, Memorandum for Deputy Minister by D. Laird, Indian Commissioner, 7 February 1911. 1 0 0 LAC, RG 10, vol. 7592, file 7125-6 pt. 1, reel C-l 1564, Indian Agent Muckle to McColl, 12 June 1885. 58 violated the regulations. Although a moral economy had been replaced by a formalized permit system, in practice the resolution of hay conflicts continued to stem from local interaction. In some instances, the hay needs of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people came into conflict. The Dominion Government was unwilling to become involved in any dispute over hay, whether the proponents were Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal. But race was not insignificant to settlers who perceived Aboriginal hay cutting as a threat to their own supply. In 1899, Leo Schauns appealed for government intervention in the management of the hay lands at Jack Fish Creek. Claiming to speak on behalf of the local settlers, Schauns explained that there were no other suitable haying locations in the vicinity. He went on to say that the government should make sure that settler needs are met before allowing Aboriginal access "because we are Canadian subjects, who have a word to say at the ballot box...." Schauns sought not government management of a limited resource, but government exclusion of Aboriginal hay cutters. The appropriate way to manage shortages was through Aboriginal exclusion, rather than enforcement of regulations on all hay cutters. In Schauns' view, the haying economy should be racially exclusive. The history of Aboriginal wetland use in the treaty era suggests that colonialism may have played out differently on different sorts of terrain. Even as conservationist I U 1 A M , MG 9 A40, William Pearce Manuscript, 47-48; LAC, RG 15, D-V- l , vol. 1192, file 67428, Lyndwode Pereira, Assistant Secretary, Department of Interior to Deputy Minister of Justice Newcombe, 9 January 1899. 1 0 2 Carter, Lost Harvests, 185-187. 1 0 3 LAC, RG 10, vol. 3570, file 102, pt. 28, reel C-10101, Clandeboye Agency- Hay Lands (Indian Commissioner for Manitoba and Northwest Territories) 1898-1899. 59 concerns led to restrictions on hunting, wetlands may have gone unpatrolled for longer than comparably situated dry lands. Less desirable for agricultural settlement, wetlands operated as venues where constraints on Aboriginal access were not imposed as quickly or as thoroughly as elsewhere. As stock-raising by Aboriginal people increased, wetlands gained new significance for them as sources of hay. The success of on-reserve agriculture became fundamentally linked to access to off-reserve lands. The issue of race came to the fore as some non-Aboriginal settlers argued for the restriction of Aboriginal hay cutting as a means of reducing competition for a scarce resource. As hay shortages became more acute, Aboriginal people considered other means to ensure a steady supply. Hay grew best in moderately inundated areas, with excess water diminishing the crop. Draining wet areas was a means of increasing the amount of hay produced on reserves. Aboriginal people explained their desire to drain to Indian Agents, who conveyed this to government/Officials expressed no objections to the idea of drainage, but were concerned about funding. It was made clear that bands would be obliged to pay for all the associated costs, including surveys, materials, labour, and . engineering services. If the band lacked the necessary funds, the project would not go ahead.104 Some Aboriginal communities did manage to begin construction of drainage works in spite of the significant financial barrier. Aboriginal labour was employed and the results 1 0 4 LAC, RG 10, vol. 6615, file 7125-5, reel C-8018, H. D. Latulippe, Indian Agent to Secretary, Dept of Indian Affairs, 22 June 1920; LAC, RG 10, vol. 6615, file 7125-4, reel C-8018, Memorandum for Deputy Minister by D. Laird, Indian Commissioner, 7 February 1911. 60 impressed the government inspectors. For example, in 1886, Indian Agent McColl claimed that in all my travels throughout the province of Manitoba, I did not see anywhere such a perfect system of drainage as that performed by the Indians of the St. Peters Band. . . 1 0 5 Unfortunately, those who did the work were unlikely to ever see the full benefit of their labours. As McColl explained, the resources of the reserve had proven insufficient and work had been "abandoned before completion for want of funds."106 Even with such a promising start, no government assistance was forthcoming. Partially-constructed drainage works not only failed to provide the anticipated benefits, but could also alter hydrological circumstances so as to exacerbate flooding. On the St. Peter's reserve, the Dominion government not only refused to help continue the improvements, but also was willing to leave the Aboriginal community vulnerable to risks derived from incomplete construction. Despite unresolved problems with flooding, the lands of the St. Peter's reserve were desirable because of their location immediately north of the City of Winnipeg. In the early years of the twentieth century, the Laurier administration spearheaded legislation that facilitated the surrender of Aboriginal reserves.107 Amidst much controversy, the Aboriginal residents of St. Peter's were relocated to a new reserve on the eastern shore 1 0 5 LAC, RG 10, vol. 7592, file 7125-6 pt. 1, reel C-l 1564, McColl to Inspector General of Indian Affairs, 4 July 1886. 1 0 6 Ibid. 1 0 7 Carter, Lost Harvests, 244. 61 of Lake Winnipeg in 1907. In their new location, inadequate drainage was also a problem. The new reserve included "much flat land that is not sufficiently drained," and the Chief and Councilors appealed for government support for ditch construction. Despite the initiative the community had shown and aside from concerns about how to pay for construction, government agents doubted the value of undertaking such work. While drainage "would no doubt enhance the value of the land and make it possible for more extensive farming operations," it was felt that there was "no guarantee that the improvement of the lands would be appreciated or made use of." 1 0 9 Here, drain construction was forestalled principally by doubts about the capacity of those it would serve. Historian Sarah Carter has documented how government officials denied agricultural implements to progressive Aboriginal farmers.110 In a manner consistent with her interpretation, drainage was one more tool that Dominion officials were reluctant to make available.111 Aboriginal difficulties in gaining assistance with drainage were in part a product of the jurisdictional confusion and dispute between Ottawa and Winnipeg. Under the British North America Act, drainage was a provincial responsibility while Aboriginal matters T. C. B. Boon, "St. Peter's Dynevor, The Original Indian Settlement of Western Canada," Manitoba Historical Society Transactions 3 (1952-53): 16-32; Canada, "Peguis First Nation Inquiry Treaty Land Entitlement Claim," in Indian Claims Commission Proceedings (Ottawa, 2001); Van Der Goes Ladd, Shall We Gather at the River? 1 0 9 LAC, RG 10, vol. 10303, file 501/8-4-11, reel T-7579, Report from Indian Agent, Fisher River Agency to Assistant Deputy and Secretary, Department of Indian Affairs. 22 January 1914. 1 1 0 Carter, Lost Harvests, 209-236. 1 1 1 See also Leo G. Waisberg and Tim E. Holzkamm, "A Tendency to Discourage Them from Cultivating: Ojibwa Agriculture and Indian Affairs Administration in Northwestern Ontario," Ethnohistory 40, no. 2 (1993): 175-211. 62 were a Dominion responsibility. Continuing controversy over Dominion ownership of Manitoba lands, an arrangement that ran counter to the precedent set in 1867 when the original provinces of Confederation retained authority over their own lands, established a context in which both governments kept a close eye on jurisdictional matters. By the late 1870s, the provincial government was undertaking some drainage projects and offering both grants and loans to settlers and municipalities interested in drainage. For its part, the Dominion government was careful not to become involved in anything like a drainage project. Aboriginal people who sought help with drainage were asking for something that the provincial government made available to their non-Aboriginal neighbours, but that the Dominion government was unlike to grant for reasons beyond the validity of any particular request or even the racial identity of the petitioners. In their relationship with the federal government, Aboriginal people were enmeshed in a bureaucracy that lacked the right or responsibility to undertake drainage works. However, race was not irrelevant. The Dominion government was more likely to risk transgressing jurisdictional boundaries when the welfare of non-Aboriginal settlers was at stake. For instance, the Municipality of Franklin, one of the parties involved in a provincial drainage project that crossed the Roseau River reserve in south eastern Manitoba, appealed to Ottawa for financial assistance with their part of the undertaking. The Dominion government responded with a contribution of funds, despite the fact that it had refused to help with the cost of draining the reserve. Dominion reticence to undertake on-reserve drainage was consistent with a pattern of stinginess and 1 1 2 LAC, RG 10, vol. 6615, file 7125-15, reel C-8018, 19 April 1929. 63 exacerbated by racist presumptions about the capacities of Aboriginal agriculturalists and persistent preoccupation with federal-provincial jurisdictional boundaries. The result was that large-scale drainage was rarely undertaken on Aboriginal reserves. Wetlands could become sites of confrontation between Aboriginal persistence and colonial power. In this regard, it is useful to consider closely an example of how unsanctioned use of wetlands by Aboriginal people flared up into a protest addressing the broader questions of domination and dispossession. The Ojibwa who had been relocated from the St. Peter's reserve to the Peguis reserve on the eastern shores of Lake Winnipeg were unsatisfied with their new lands. In the absence of Government assistance with drainage, the area remained "low and swampy" and so "unsuitable for the growing of grains and vegetables." As explained in a letter to the Minister of Indian Affairs, the reserve was simply "not suitable for the needs of Indians." But it was not drainage that these petitioners sought. Rather, they wanted to return to an area near their old reserve. A n appropriate mixture of dry land and wet land was part of what made the St. Peter's area attractive. As petitioners explained, the area consisted "in part of high land, which would be cultivated and afford proper ground for homes the year around, and in part of hay land, which would be valuable to the Indians, both to provide feed for cattle and for sale."1 1 3 Some residents of the Peguis Reserve joined those who, in defiance of government efforts at removal, had remained in the area when the St. Peter's reserve was 1 1 3 LAC, RG 10, vol. 4060, file 394,068-lC, reel C-10181, Peguis Band to T. G. Murphy, Minister of Indian Affairs, 14 October 1933. 64 surrendered. The Government responded by rounding up and imprisoning some of the protesters. Aboriginal leaders were keen to make clear that such confrontations did not suit their purposes. "Your signers do not want to make trouble, or go to Gaol," it was carefully explained, "butdo want that consideration which had been promised to them...." 1 1 4 The point of reference for the protestors was the terms of Treaty 1, as one leader explained in a separate submission to Government officials: we are requesting the Dominion government to give us our reserve back, even i f we could get the hay marsh, and half of the reserve, we would all be satisfied. My people has been waiting too long to get their rights. The St. Peter's Reserve is still our reserve, because we have been told, when the Treaty was made in 1871, that as long as the sun shines, and the waters flow, and the grass grow, it shall be our own. The sun is still shining, the water flows, and the grass grows. The promise that has been made in 1871 has to stand.115 In their correspondence with government officials, the Aboriginal people lodged a broader protest against an accumulation of broken or unfulfilled promises. In other submissions, they paired their request for the return of their reserve with protests against "unreasonable restraint on the manner in which we should conduct our lives and dispose of our possessions."116 Through conflict over a particularly piece of land, valued in part for its useful wetlands, Aboriginal people articulated broader objections to what they saw as government disregard of treaty commitments. 1 1 5 LAC, RG 10, vol. 4060, file 394,068-lC, reel C-10181, Peter Harper to Secretary of Indian Affairs, 23 December 1933. 1 1 5 LAC, RG 10, vol. 4060, file 394,068-lC, reel C-10181, Peguis Band to T. G. Murphy, Minister of Indian Affairs, 14 October 1933. 65 The situation near the former St. Peter's reserve came to a head in the early winter of 1933. Starvation became a problem among protestors. Government officials refused to provide food, even for women and children, for as long as the protest continued. It was thought that, for Aboriginals, the "suffering which they have brought upon themselves is perhaps the only thing that will bring them to a realization of the uselessness and folly of such trespass and defiance."117 Eventually, by the summer of 1934, after more than two years of active defiance, with leaders in jail and mass starvation threatening people and horses alike, the protest was broken up. Those not taken into custody either took up residence elsewhere in the area or agreed to return to the Peguis Reserve in order to obtain access to the food, clothing, and money that was dangled before them. Once the protest was broken up, the Dominion government quickly arranged for the disposal of the lands the Indians had occupied. If the area was private property or under hay lease, it would be up to the owner or permit holder to prosecute Aboriginal 118 trespassers. Aboriginal encroachment would no longer be a Government problem. Hay leases and land sales were employed as a means to consolidate Aboriginal dispossession. Evidence of confrontations between local landowners and Aboriginal people in the late 1930s suggests that, even in the face of all of this, the area remained attractive to the Aboriginal people who had lived there in the past.1 1 9 1 1 7 LAC, RG 10, vol. 4060, file 394,068-lC, reel C-10181, Deputy Superintendent General to A. G. Hamilton, Inspector of Indian Agencies, 28 November 1933. 1 1 8 LAC, RG 15, D-V- l , vol. 1192, file 67428, Lyndwode Pereira, Assistant Secretary, Department of Interior to Deputy Minister of Justice Newcombe, 9 January 1899. 66 Native and newcomer patterns of wetland use were never entirely in alignment. Over time, the experiences of these groups became increasingly divergent. Early in the 19 t h century, hunting and gathering in wetlands helped ensure adequate subsistence for Aboriginal groups. Only after the heyday of the haying economy in the mid 19 t h century did Aboriginal people became involved in stock-raising to an extent that obliged them to gather large quantities of hay. Still later, drainage proved less available to Aboriginal people, with jurisdictional questions and racial prejudice complicating requests for government assistance. The dispute over the surrendered St. Peter's reserve, particularly in its denouement with the Dominion government seeking to dispose of the marsh as a means of consolidating dispossession, makes clear how access to wetlands differed between natives and non-natives. The events at St. Peter's also make clear how Manitoba wetlands figured in what historian Gerald Friesen has seen as a tradition of Aboriginal protest articulated through relationships to specific parcels of land. 1 2 0 2.6 Conclusion This chapter tracks a number of stories, all related by their association with wetlands. Attention to wetlands is not, however, the only unifying thread. Equally significant is the theme of adaptation. The presence of wetlands facilitated adjustment to new locations and compelled the development of land management systems attuned to their dynamic nature. In turn, wetlands were modified by both Aboriginal and non-1 1 9 LAC, RG 10, vol. 4061, file 394,068, C-10182, E. McPherson, Indian Agent to Secretary, Indian Affairs, 3 April 1939. 1 2 0 Gerald Friesen, Citizens and Nation: An Essay on History, Communication, and Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 47-54. 67 Aboriginal users. Examining environmental relations in the wet prairie contributes to a more nuanced understanding of how a transition in property regimes played out in 121 southern Manitoba. For those who remained at the Red River settlement through the late nineteenth century, adaptive capacity developed in relation to environmental factors facilitated adjustment to political and social change. As the establishment of a private property system associated with liberal capitalism helped transform the Canadian northwest, interactions between people and wetlands changed. Increasingly, the experiences of Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals diverged.1 2 2 But even as the constraints imposed on Aboriginal people were unfamiliar, the process of adapting to change was not new. Paying attention to wetlands clarifies how, in the face of continuous conflict with the colonial institutions established in the wake of the great transformation, Aboriginal people in Manitoba adapted to prevailing conditions and made the best of difficult circumstances. In this context, Aboriginal drainage was a technique of adaptation and continued wetland use was both a subsistence strategy and a means of protest. The great transformation was a dramatic turn with consequences that were significant for all, even as they favoured some at the expense of others. But there was also continuity in the history of the region, evident in the ongoing process of adaptation to dynamic political, social, and environmental contexts. 1 2 1 Environmental historians have recognized the importance of property systems and of the connection between private property, colonialism, and capitalism. See chapter four, "Bounding the Land," in William Crorion, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England (New York: Hill and Wang, 1983). In a recent review, Dan Flores has emphasized the continued utility of this important early work. See Dan Flores, "Twenty Years on: Thoughts on Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England;' Agricultural History 78, no. 4 (2004): 493-496. 1 2 2 Spry, "The Great Transformation," 21-45. 68 3 MAKING MANITOBA: DRAINAGE BEFORE THE 1895 LAND DRAINAGE ACT 3.1 Introduction In his influential Manitoba: A History, historian W. L. Morton argued that "the shaping of the new landscape was accompanied by the shaping of a new provincial consciousness."1 Morton took a broad view of the 'shaping' processes to which he referred, describing road construction along with land breaking and local Sunday school meetings along with the formation of political parties. In a recent article on the creation of Canada as a liberal nation, historian Ian McKay emphasized how apparently-unrelated activities helped establish and confirm cultural norms.2 Taking inspiration from both Morton and McKay, this chapter examines how grappling with the perceived problem of flooding contributed to the formation of a political culture in the Province of Manitoba. This use of 'culture' draws on the work of historian Thomas Hughes, who employed the term to refer to the collection of organizations and expertise involved in electricity delivery. By pairing it with 'political,' I suggest the involvement of non-experts who contributed to debates over drainage, as well as the connection between drainage and party politics. 1 W. L. Morton, Manitoba: A History, 2 n d ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967), 224. 2 Ian McKay, "The Liberal Order Framework: A Prospectus for a Reconnaissance of Canadian History," Canadian Historical Review 81, no. 4 (2000): 617-645. 3 Thomas Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983), 15. 69 What scholarship there is on Manitoba drainage accords little importance to activities prior to the 1895 passage of The Land Drainage Act. While historical geographers John Warkentin and William Carlyle acknowledge some earlier undertakings, their analyses of the early period are relatively superficial.4 This may reflect an understandable preoccupation with the material outcomes of projects intended to alter the physical environment. During the first two decades after the formation of the province, the Manitoba government gradually undertook a growing number of projects, at first to deal with flooding of land that had been dry at the time of settlement and then to drain substantial wetlands. These began processes of environmental transformation that would, in aggregate, remake the landscape of the southern portion of the province. But change took time. Drainage before 1895 did not dramatically transform the wet prairie, and for this reason may seem less significant than later efforts. Still, early drainage had important consequences for how Manitobans engaged with each other and their government. In ways consistent with widespread notions of agricultural progress as well as for reasons specific to Manitoba, drainage was expected to alter the land permanently. Anger, frustration, and disillusionment often resulted when it failed to do so. Local governments were established partly to increase local control over drainage. But municipal incorporation was often no more straightforward than land drainage, and snags in,each process affected the other. Disputes were shaped 4 Carlyle, "Agricultural Drainage in Manitoba," and "Water in the Red River Valley of the North;" Warkentin, "Human History of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Region in the 19th Century," and "Water and Adaptive Strategies in Settling the Canadian West." See also William Elliot, "Artificial Land Drainage in Manitoba: History - Administration - Law" (M.R.M. Thesis, University of Manitoba, 1978); Robert Graham, The Surface Waters of Winnipeg: Rivers, Streams, Ponds, and Wetlands, 1874-1984: The Cyclical History of Urban Land Drainage (M.L.A. Practicum, University of Manitoba, 1984); H. Albert Hochbaum, "Contemporary Drainage Within the True Prairie of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Basin." 70 and amplified through a difficult period in Manitoba history, when farm failure was a real risk for many settlers and provincial prosperity was far from assured. Drainage became increasingly political, as settlers sought the assistance they needed and politicians tried to appease discontent. Cultural groups situated throughout the province faced similar surface water problems and encountered similar political frustrations. They worked together on solutions to shared challenges, often with the support of the provincial government. Coping with surface water created a political culture defined by a pragmatic inclusiveness on the one hand and a pervasive contentiousness on the other. 3.2 Early Drainage Early ditches were as small in size as they were few in number. In his 1976 doctoral thesis, geographer Barry Kaye noted a few examples of ditches dug at the Red River settlement in the 1820s to improve drainage.5 John Warkentin refers to some minor drainage work in the 1840s, as part of an effort to cope with "the back swamps behind the natural levees of the Red River." 6 The environmental changes attributable to these undertakings were no more significant than those resulting from other local projects, such as water mills. For residents preoccupied with wresting a living from a challenging landscape, other ways of interacting with Manitoba's wetlands - through gathering hay or hunting waterfowl, for instance - were of greater consequence. 5 Barry Kaye, "The Historical Geography of Agriculture and Agricultural Settlement in the Canadian Northwest, 1774- ca. 1830" (Ph.D. diss., University of London, 1976), 379, 394-395. 6 Warkentin, "Water and Adaptive Strategies in Settling the Canadian West," 59-73. 7 Barry Kaye, "Flour Milling at Red River: Wind, Water and Steam," Manitoba History 2 (1981): 12-20. 71 Drainage for agriculture was not a very important activity in the Red River settlement, whether assessed environmentally, politically, or socially. Henry Youle Hind, a geologist who assessed the lands of the Northwest on behalf of the Canadian government, was among the first to see drainage as an undertaking potentially of particular significance in Manitoba. Hind's work has been seen by historians Suzanne Zeller and Douglas Owram as fundamental to an optimistic reassessment of the Q potential of the northwest. Heading westward from the southwest shore of Lake Manitoba in the late 1850s, he traversed some of the most pronounced ridge and swale topography of the province. He described how tiresome it was to "wade through marshes and bogs, separated by low ridges." In fact, Hind wrote, the land "may be said to be made up of marsh, bog, ridge, marsh, bog, ridge in most wearisome succession." This did not dampen his optimism. Drainage, he asserted, could transform the region: "I know of no other enterprise of the kind which could be executed with so little cost and labour and promise at the same time such wide spread beneficial results."9 Hind's assessment was matched by some early local calls for more extensive efforts at drainage. On 1 August 1861, an editorial in the Nor 'wester advocated drainage to allow farmers at the Red River settlement to expand their operations and to increase the hay crop.1 0 Nevertheless, early historian J.J. Hargrave, writing in 1871, claimed that no Douglas Owram, Promise ofEden: The Canadian Expansionist Movement and the Idea of the West, 1856-1900 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980); Suzanne Zeller, Inventing Canada: Early Victorian Science and the Idea of a Transcontinental Nation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987). 9 Canada, Provincial Secretary's Office, Papers Relative to the Exploration of the Country Between Lake Superior and the Red River Settlement (London: H. M . Stationary, 1859), 27. 72 significant drainage work had been undertaken within the newly-established province of Manitoba." Frustrated at what he saw as a lack of agricultural ambition among his compatriots, Hargrave failed to note drainage undertaken in conjunction with transportation improvements. In the Red River settlement, overland travellers favoured well-used routes along the natural levees of the Red and Assiniboine rivers.1 2 Away from the banks, early trails followed ridges and bypassed low areas.13 These routes were "the best natural roads" of the region and became part of the shared resources of the community.14 Efficient travel usually meant taking the driest - rather than the most direct - line between two places. The Public Works Committee of the Council of Assiniboia, the region's governing authority throughout the middle decades of the 19 t h century, arranged for road construction and maintenance on a contract basis.15 Local residents would tender for work on a particular section, and the successful bidder would complete it under the supervision of a Council-appointed overseer. Relatively little work was necessary on trails that followed elevated ridges. But as Dominion government employee William Pearce noted in a review of public works projects before 1 0 Warkentin, "Human History of the Glacial Lake Agassiz Region in the 19th Century," 332. " J. J. Hargrave, Red River (Montreal: Lovel, 1871), 177. 1 2 Gerald Friesen (co-written with Jean Friesen), "River Road," in River Road: Essays on Manitoba and Prairie History (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1996), 3-12. I 3 A M , M G 9 A40, 156. 1 4 A M , Department of Public Works, Minister's Office Files, GR 1607, G 7972, item 115, J. A. Macdonell to the Minister of Public Works, 25 January 1894. 1 5 E. H. Oliver, The Canadian North-West: Its Early Development and Legislative Records (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1914), 84. 73 1870, highways were sometimes constructed "where by reason of intersecting streams, timber marsh and flooded land, conditions were unfavourable for good roads."16 The nature of the work in these areas has gone largely unrecorded, though strategies such as the construction of corduroy roads and digging of roadside drains likely were used to facilitate passage through low areas.17 Distance has often been seen as a key factor in Canadian history. Technologies designed to conquer it (such as the railway) have been connected to the achievement of significant political goals (such as Confederation).18 Some regions of the country, the Rocky Mountains and the Precambrian Shield in particular, have been identified as geographical challenges to the creation of a political union. In comparison, Manitoba's wetlands did not even register as a significant impediment among railway builders: the challenge of constructing mountain passes dwarfed the inconvenience of digging culverts.19 Nevertheless, wetlands were to prove a significant trial for provincial administrators charged with establishing local networks of transportation and communication. Throughout the region in early days, and well into the twentieth l 6 A M , M G 9 A40, 153. 1 7 Journals of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, 1874. 1 8 On the significance of railway building in British North America, see Douglas McCalla, "Railways and the Development of Canada West, 1850-1870," in Colonial Leviathan: State Formation in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Canada, eds. Allan Greer and Ian Radforth (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 192-229. See also Norman Ball, ed. Building Canada: A History of Public Works (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988). 1 9 This is not to say that culvert construction was not a significant undertaking. See J. A. Griffiths, The History and Organization of Surface Drainage in Manitoba (Winnipeg Branch, Engineering Institute of Canada, 20 March 1952), 2. 74 century in the more remote reaches of Manitoba, settlers were separated by the presence of swamps as much as by sheer distance.20 Manitoba's Department of Agriculture and Public Works was established in 1871 in part to undertake the work needed to facilitate transportation and communication. The Department operated as a joint ministry until 1874, when it was divided into two separate departments. The responsibilities of the Department of Public Works were defined by statute in 1876. The legislation provided for the hiring of expert staff (surveyors and engineers) and experienced administrators (often surveyors and engineers who, in addition to their practical training, had management experience) to plan, design, budget for, and administer the works that fell within its three main branches: Road and Bridges; Ferries; and Public Buildings. While drainage was not identified in the organizational structure of the Department, it was an implicit part of road construction. Wet areas posed significant problem for road builders. "In many cases," government officials explained, "extensive marshes peculiar of the geographical character of the country prevent altogether the construction and maintenance of public roads except at very great cost and with very temporary results."21 The solution was drainage. Road grading and drain building were often part of the same project, with road grades being formed with the material excavated from a ditch. 2 2 Even when drains For good examples, see Samuel Matheson, "Floods at Red River," in A Thousand Miles of Prairie: The Manitoba Historical Society and the History of Western Canada, ed. Jim Blanchard (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2002), 239-254; Frederick Phillip Grove, Over Prairie Trails (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1923). 2 1 A M , Executive Council, Minutes, GR 1659, OC # 6, 21 February 1879. 75 did not seem essential, excavations usually tracked alongside a road because this was an easy means of accessing material necessary to form the grade. Employees of the Department of Public Works understood that their task was to facilitate transportation and communication. Engineer H . A. Bowman expressed his desire to assist "women going or returning from market who had to hold their clothes up round their waist when wading the muskegs."23 As he explained to a new Minister, he took satisfaction in providing immediate relief along severely flooded routes, even i f "it is not possible in many districts to take the water to an outlet, which in numerous cases is many miles away." 2 4 As a key component of the process of establishing connections between settlements and homesteaders, drainage in the form of what Bowman called "immediate relief for troubled travellers was an important undertaking in the new province. Yet travelling residents did not always see drains as improvements. Roads built by the Provincial government followed the survey, which did not correspond to established routes any more than it accommodated established landholding arrangements. In fact, road construction often ran against the grain of the landscape. In the 1940s, Engineer F. E. Umphrey, a long-time employee of the Department of Public Works, mused in a 2 2 William John Carlyle, "The Relationships between Settlement and the physical environment in part of the west lake area of Manitoba from 1878 to 1963" (M.A. thesis, University of Manitoba, 1965). For a discussion of the relation between road-building and drainage in Ontario, see McLaughlin, "Progress, Politics and the Role of Conservation: Wetland Drainage in Ontario," 128-130. 2 3 A M , GR 1610, reel M 951, H. A. Bowman, Assistant Deputy Minister, to W. H. Montague, Minister of Public Works, 13 December 1913. 76 letter to an associate that i f environmental conditions had been the primary determinant in early road building, "we would probably find many of our roads leaving the right angled section line location for angular location following the sand ridges and higher land, and our drains following the lower lands where they should be, i f required at 25 all." Especially early on, settlers often preferred to stick to longstanding trails, which even employees of the Department of Public Works recognized as "the best natural 26 roads." Drains that cut across established routes could act as barriers. Indeed, drains were seen by some as more inconvenient than swamps. Wet areas could be waded, inconvenient and uncomfortable as that was, but deep, steep-sided drains could not be traversed in this way. Only in winter were travellers not obliged to plan their route to take into account the locations of bridges across drains.27 Further, drains were not just an inconvenience. They were also a hazard. Both children and livestock were at risk of falling into these deeper waterways.28 Correspondence to the Department of Public Works suggests that settlers complained as much about the drains that had been built as about those that had not. The earliest drainage projects by the Department of Public Works in southern Manitoba resulted in relatively thorough drainage of transportation and communication routes that Z i A M , GR 1617, G 5324, F. E. Umphrey to Harry Christopherson, 14 March 1947. 2 6 A M , GR 1607, G 7972, item 115, J. A. Macdonell to Minister of Public Works, 25 January 1894. 2 7 See also William Meyer, Americans and their Weather (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Donald Worster, "Climate and History: Lessons from the Great Plains," \n Earth, Air, Fire Water: Humanistic Studies of the Environment, eds. Jill Ker Conway, Kenneth Keniston, and Leo Marx (Amherst: University of Massechusetts Press, 1999), 51-77. 2 8 A M , GR 1607, G 7961, J. O. Smith to T. A. Wade, 10 Nov 1886. 77 followed the survey, but demand for drainage of another sort was growing. By careful plotting of settlement patterns, scholars of Manitoba have documented how drier sites 29 were occupied more quickly. Nevertheless, proximity to wet areas had its own attractions. Indeed, some regions marketed themselves by emphasizing advantages derived from their wetter character, such as easy access to hay and water.30 But locations that appeared wise choices in dry years might seem quite the opposite in wet 31 periods, as access to hay became vulnerability to flooding. One significant environmental reversal occurred in 1882, when excessive precipitation and a sudden thaw led to widespread flooding along the relatively densely-settled Assiniboine River and lakeshore regions. The Province appealed to the Dominion government for assistance, claiming that even i f the water subsided quickly, there would be "much suffering and poverty, where a few weeks ago there was comparative plenty."32 The events of 1882 were particularly well-documented because of the extent of the flooding and the large number of people affected, but similar smaller environmental reversals occurred nearly every year. The settler dismay and government concern that resulted did not always lead to appeals to the Dominion, but they did change the sort of work Friesen, "Expansion of Settlement in Manitoba," 120-130; Warkentin, "Water and Adaptive Strategies in Settling the Canadian West," 59-73. 3 0 "Draining Lands," The Emigrant, 1 July 1886, 34. For a later illustration of this, see "Towns, Cities, Villages and Rural Municipalities of the Great West," The Western Municipal News, October 1906, 219. 3 1 Ellis, The Soils of Manitoba, 27-29. While experts may be able to distinguish wetland from dry land soils even in dry periods, most settlers likely lacked such expertise. 3 2 A M , Executive Council, Orders-in-Council, GR 1530, OC # 697, Provincial Treasurer John Norquay to Executive Council, 4 May 1882. 3 3 A. S. Morton argues that the 1882 flooding along the Assiniboine River had a great effect on the settlement geography of the province. A. S. Morton, History of Prairie Settlement (Toronto: Macmillan, 1938), 58. 78 undertaken by the Department of Public Works. Many areas settled in dry years needed drainage in wet years, and government resources were increasingly directed at the new problem of agricultural flooding. Before 1895, many Manitobans regarded drainage as a means of safeguarding agricultural improvement from environmental assault.34 Later government officials would recognize how drainage problems derived in large part from settlement patterns. In 1929, after substantial government investment in drainage infrastructure, H. A . Bowman, who had become Chief Engineer of the Department of Public Works, was asked to summarize the history of drainage in the province. Contrary to Hind's early expectation, drainage in Manitoba had proven neither cheap nor easy. In Bowman's opinion, this was largely due to the fact that settlers had occupied land which "should never have been put under the plough." Settlers broke the land in dry cycles and "when the wet cycles recur, there is an immediate cry for help...." 3 5 While drainage was in keeping with notions of agricultural progress, much early drainage in Manitoba was understood in a more defensive vein. Many drainage projects were efforts to cope with unforeseen changes in water levels derived from variations in climatic patterns. My interpretation of these events is inspired in part by Alan Taylor, "Wasty Ways: Stories of American Settlement," Environmental History 3 (July 1998): 291-310. For another discussion of how short-term weather fluctuations affected settlement patterns, see John Opie, The Law of the Land: Two Hundred Years of American Farmland Policy (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987), 97-104. 3 5 A M , Public Works Department, Deputy Minister's Office Files, GR 1611, G 8062, file: Reclamation Branch, Chief Engineer Bowman to D. G. McKenzie, Acting Minister of Public Works, 12 April 1929. See also A M , GR 1609, G 8046, file: Union of Municipal Drainage Maintenance Districts, Text of an Address delivered at annual meeting of Union of Municipal Drainage Districts, 27 November 1945. In this speech, F. E. Umphrey explained how ".. .during the dry years land that was broken up for cultivation, was not, however, returned to meadow or pasture when the wet seasons returned, but instead, the drainage system was extended, thus laying the foundation for the complex problem we have on our hands today." 79 Unexpected flooding of this nature resulted from a conjunction of local factors, with high rates of precipitation over a number of years and a quick spring thaw as factors frequently associated with the sudden flooding of what settlers had taken for dry land. Prairie historians have attended to environmental variability, largely through a focus on the consequences of climatic shifts for agricultural production. Patterns of drought and their consequences for the regional economy and the farm family have been much studied. But this is only part of the story of environmental fluctuation in the wet prairie. The dynamic nature of the provincial hydroclimate both spurred drainage and affected how Manitobans conceived of efforts to transform their environment. 3.3 D r a i n a g e a s P e r m a n e n t To understand how Manitobans responded to variations in water levels, it is necessary to investigate how drainage was understood. Drainage was seen as the solution to the problem of flooding. The presumption was that once drains were in place, floods would not recur. No more would there be water in the wrong quantities in the wrong places at the wrong times. What we now understand as the variability of the Manitoba environment was perceived as a problem that could be solved permanently by drains that would keep water low and land dry. This view of drainage was consistent with A recent example of the focus on drought (exacerbated in this case by concern with a particularly dry area) is Barry Potyondi, In Palliser's Triangle: Living in the Grasslands, 1850-1930 (Saskatoon: Punch Publishing, 1995). The tendency to employ the hardship engendered by drought as the signal of environmental maladjustment on the Canadian prairies is evident even in works that accord more limited attention to environmental matters, such as Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies and Vernon Fowke, National Policy and the Wheat Economy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957). A similar tendency is also evident in the more recent Bill Waiser, Saskatchewan: A New History (Calgary: Fifth House Ltd., 2005). 8 0 optimistic assessments of the agricultural potential of the northwest that emerged in the late-19th century, such as that offered by Hind. Optimism was amplified by the boosterism that Douglas Owram detected among many prominent government officials and private citizens interested in provincial development.37 Scholars such as Hugh Prince, John Thompson and Ann Viliesis have made clear that settlers and governments across North America saw drainage as a means to create an agricultural landscape that would support long-term prosperity.38 The intellectual context of the late 19 t h century was conducive to a view of flooding as a problem to be addressed and resolved. But there are more specific explanations for the widespread association between drainage and permanence in Manitoba. In 1880, Manitoba passed The Drainage Act. As explained in the minutes of an earlier Executive Council meeting, the legislation was designed to address a worrisome situation. Because of flooding, "immigrants were either deterred from entering the province, or were forced to pass through it and settle on the drier plains beyond." 3 9 While the effect of flooding on the networks of transportation and communication was still a paramount concern of the Department of Public Works, the legislation marked a shift toward drainage projects on a larger scale. The Drainage Act changed the sort of drainage projects the Department of Public Works would undertake. It authorized the department to drain nine large wetland complexes in southern Manitoba by the 3 7 Owram, Promise of Eden, 101-124 3 8 Prince, Wetlands of the American Midwest, 1-25; Thompson, Wetlands Drainage, River Modification, and Sectoral Conflict in the Lower Illinois Valley, 16-20; Vileisis, Discovering the Unknown Landscape, 29-50. 3 9 A M , GR 1659, Order-in-Council # 6, Minutes of the Executive Council, 21 February 1877. 81 construction of nearly 200 miles of drain. These wetlands were: the St. Andrews Marsh, the Seine River Marsh, the Springfield Marsh, the Boyne River Marsh, the Westbourne Marsh, the Big Grass Marsh, the Woodlands Marsh, the Tobacco Creek Marsh, and the marshes south west of Rat River in Provencher and the vicinity. 4 1 Thoroughly drained, these areas would attract rather than deter settlement. The Drainage Act was drafted amid ongoing political negotiations between the Province and the Dominion. In this context, Manitoba politicians had reasons to emphasize the permanent character of drainage works beyond the desire to reassure potential settlers. As a permanent improvement, drains could be bankrolled from funds set aside by the Dominion government to support capital projects in Manitoba. Under the terms of Confederation in 1867, the Dominion government assumed some of the debt accumulated by the Canadas, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick in the construction of essential public works. 4 2 When Manitoba entered the union a few years later, some means of extending equally generous terms to the new province had to be found. As no substantial infrastructure had been built in the Red River settlement, there was no debt for the Dominion to assume. Consequently, the Dominion government made available funds for capital improvements in Manitoba. 4 0 A M , GR 1530, Order-in-Council # 619, Report of the Minister of Public Works on Lands [illegible] Drainage, 14 January 1882. 4 1 A M , GR 1530, Order-in-Council # 213, Re Drainage of Wet Lands Report sent to Sec. State, 28 May 1880. 4 2 Journals of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, 27 May 1888, p. 143. 82 In a letter dated 24 March 1879 to the Receiver General of Canada, Manitoba Premier and Treasurer John Norquay sought access to this money: By the 'Drainage Act' contemplated by the Government of Manitoba provision is made that certain districts be surveyed and laid off by competent engineers and estimates of the probable costs submitted to the Department of Public Works, and the process of draining proceeded with under the auspices of the Local [provincial] Government. ... It will be seen that it is necessary that a sum of money for immediate use in this connection be placed at the disposal of the Government in order that the work may be proceeded with, with as little delay as possible. For these purposes, Manitoba wanted the substantial sum of $100,000.00.43 According to Norquay, the drainage works that had become "a matter of necessity for the welfare of the settlement of the Province" could not be charged "to current expenditures." As they were of "a permanent character," he explained, they were rightly a charge against the capital account of the province.44 In this view, drainage was unique, not only in its significance to the province, but also in its nature as a public investment: while roads and railroads will wear out, bridges will be swept away, and buildings wear out and deteriorate, the ditches i f properly located and made in soil such as that of which Manitoba is chiefly composed, will continue to enlarge from year to year.45 4 3 A M , Natural Resources Department, Miscellaneous Land Files, GR 7721, reel M 1690, file 5, Extract of a Report of a Committee of the Privy Council, 8 April 1880. See also the Journals of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, 3 r d Session, 4 t h Legislature, 44 Victoria 1881, Appendix B. 4 4 Manitoba, Annual Report of the Manitoba Department of Public Works, 1880, Extract from letter from J. Norquay to A. Campbell (Receiver General, Ottawa), 24 March 1879. 83 Bridges and public buildings were necessary to provincial progress, but only drains were resistant to deterioration, even likely to improve through time. The widespread understanding of drainage works as effecting a permanent improvement to the landscape was consolidated in Manitoba as part of an effort to secure funding from the Dominion government. Sandwiched between widespread optimism and political strategizing, engineers in the Department of Public Works found themselves in a difficult position. Their rhetoric suggests that they sought a balance between what their advanced training suggested about drains and what they realized was expected of them. In his early days with the Department, still some time before he rose to the position of Chief Engineer, H. A . Bowman explained the principle that governed his actions in relation to drainage. He sought to: Get good value for the money expended, to do as much work as possible with a definite plan in view, so that the work may be a permanent asset to the neighborhood and settlers at large.46 At one level this sentence is a straightforward expression of policy! At another, it is an attempt to reconcile professional expertise to the predominant social and political context. Bowman's comment suggests he understood the significance of the association between drainage and permanence, but he tempered his phrasing by valuing drainage as an asset to the community rather than an instrument of landscape change. A drain that constitutes a permanent asset is not the same as a landscape that is permanently 4 5 Journals of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, 1881, Appendix B. 4 6 A M , GR 1610, reel M 953, p. 728, H. A. Bowman to N . Windebank, 5 April 1914. 84 changed. When discussing drainage, engineers typically employed the notion of permanence but in a more guarded manner than politicians. The link between careful planning and successful construction that Bowman established in this passage is notable in light of the state of the engineering profession in Manitoba. Until 1922, Manitoba engineers did not have legal standing. Despite the increasing significance of their technical expertise and unlike those practicing medicine or law, engineers "could neither control their professional lives nor protect themselves from competition" because there was no effective means to prevent the unqualified from claiming engineering expertise.47 Late in the 19 t h and early in the 20 t h century, the work of engineers and surveyors often overlapped. After Manitoba surveyors organized themselves into a closed profession in 1874, engineers were excluded from surveying but surveyors could work as engineers. Engineers who felt vulnerable in their professional role may have been less likely, to challenge prevailing notions of drainage as a permanent improvement. Without casting aspersions on the motivations of professional engineers, many of whom operated in the public interest, it should be recognized that engineers were ill-positioned to challenge the erroneous assumptions J. Rodney Millard, The Master Spirit of the Age: Canadian Engineers and the Politics of Professionalism, 1887-1922 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), 9. See also Bruce Sinclair, Norman R. Ball, and James O. Petersen, eds., Let us be Honest and Modest: Technology and Society in Canadian History (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1974), 221-223. 4 8 Sinclair, Ball and Petersen, eds., Let us be Honest and Modest, 233-241. See also Robert Perruci and Jel GerstI, eds., The Engineers and the Social System, (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1969). For a suggestion of the local consequences of this, see A M , Premier's Office Files (Greenway Administration), GR 1662, G 524, item 11973, T. A. Wade to the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, 14 May 1888. This letter is an example of the dismissal of an engineer and his reference to the value of his professional knowledge in an effort to protect his job. See also C. S. Landon "A Short History of the Association of Professional Engineers of the Province of Manitoba, 1920-1945," in 25'h Anniversary Year Book Association of Professional Engineers of the Province of Manitoba, 1920-1945 (Manitoba, 1945). 85 made by members of government or the public at large. Furthermore, some may have thought they stood to gain by associating higher quality works that they cautiously termed permanent with their own expertise.49 Regardless of engineers' contributions, variations in rates of precipitation and spring thaw patterns could wreak as much havoc in the drained as in the undrained landscape. Just as a wise location for a homestead in dry years could seem utterly foolhardy in wet, so ditches that were entirely adequate in some years seemed like colossal failures in others. This was inconsistent with the expectation of permanence. Early drainage changed the landscape in relatively moderate but nevertheless significant ways, but failed to resolve the basic fact of environmental variability. Significantly, variability acquired other connotations when it played out over a landscape recognized as the product of human action as well as of nonhuman forces. When people were responsible, at least in part, for the state of the landscape, the possibilities for laying blame expanded. Manitoba drainage became a political issue. 3.4 Drainage and Political Culture Before considering drainage as a political issue, it is important to examine how it figured in the formation of political institutions in Manitoba. Municipalities are corporations created by provinces for the purposes of local administration.50 Generally, Compare my interpretation to Christopher F. Meindl, Derek H. Alderman, and Peter Waylen, "On the Importance of Environmental Claims-Making: The Role of James O. Wright in Promoting the Drainage of Florida's Everglades in the Early Twentieth Century," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 92, no. 4 (2002): 682-701. Meindl et al. associated engineering expertise with facilitating the social and political aspects of a drainage project. 86 their powers include the capacity to carry debts, to levy and collect assessments, and to undertake public works of local significance. According to Engin F. Isin, the concept of municipal government was the subject of contentious debate over a long period in British North America. As an administrative mechanism less reliant on punitive, negative law than on institutional and enabling authority, municipal government arose as part of a broader pattern of social change. After a long gestation, it was established in the Canadas during the 1830s and 1840s in part to diffuse tensions between local autonomy and central authority in the period following the rebellions of 1837 and 1838.51 In the northwest at about the same time, the Council of Assiniboia was reshaped in response to factors not wholly dissimilar to those at play further east: the need to provide a locally-responsive administrative body in a region managed from afar by the Hudson's Bay Company. Membership on the Council was still by appointment, as it had been under Selkirk and his heirs before the District of Assiniboia was transferred back to the Company, but local desires were increasingly taken into account in making appointments. The Council was responsible for an array of locally significant tasks, such as roads, bridges, and poor relief. Its role in the management of the haying economy suggests its operating norms, with settlers respecting the Council's dictums 52 when it suited them. 5 0 This definition is adapted from Engin F. Isin, "The Origins of Canadian Municipal Government," in Canadian Metropolitics: Governing Our Cities, ed. James Lightbody (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1995), 51. 5 1 See also Allan Greer and Ian Radforth, "Introduction," in Colonial Leviathan: State Formation in Mid-Nineteenth Century Canada, eds. Allan Greer and Ian Radforth (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 3-16. 87 Under the British North America Act, the provinces had jurisdiction over municipal governments. Despite urgings from the Dominion government, Manitoba officials saw little immediate need to create a municipal system.53 With a provincial population of approximately 12,000 people, less than 1/6 of whom were entirely European or Canadian in origin, 5 4 many believed that the establishment of another level of government would be premature. As Attorney General H . J . Clarke explained, it was more appropriate that the Provincial government "provide for roads, bridges, registry and other offices, safes, etc."55 Largely under the auspices of the Department of Public Works and in part through reliance on the system of parishes that existed in the Red River settlement, the Province took on tasks that had been the responsibility of the Council of Assiniboia and that would later be defined as municipal. 5 6 But municipal legislation was not long in coming. In 1873, The Municipal Act was proclaimed. This provided a mechanism whereby local resources could be pooled, augmented by contributions from the Province, and directed toward common ends according to local will . While the statute gave the Province authority to incorporate 5 2 Scholars have argued that the Council of Assiniboia should be understood as the first municipal government in the Northwest. The best source on the activities of the Council is E. H. Oliver, The Canadian North-West: Its Early Development and Legislative Records (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1914), 88. See also E. H. Oliver "The Institutionalizing of the Prairies," Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada 3, vol. 24 (May 1930), 1-21. 5 3 Alfred Thomas Phillips, "Development of Municipal Institutions in Manitoba to 1886," (M.A. thesis, University of Manitoba, 1948), 35. 5 4 Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984), 201. 5 5 Phillips, "Development of Municipal Institutions in Manitoba to 1886," 28. 5 6 Ibid., 27. See also M . S. Donnelly, The Government of Manitoba (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963), 135. 88 municipalities at the request of local residents, it provided no mechanism by which the Province could foist municipal institutions on unwilling or ambivalent settlers. Extension of the municipal system in Manitoba depended on the interest of both settlers and provincial leaders because the legislation was enabling, not obligatory. For settlers concerned with satisfying the needs of daily life, there were advantages in municipal development. Settlers had an interest in expanding social networks as well as in cultivating agricultural fields, and the two concerns came together on projects that were necessary for settler success but impossible to achieve through individual labour or small-scale cooperation. The municipal system provided a framework for the administration of moderate-scale projects necessary for local development.57 In Manitoba's first decades, the offering of bonuses to attract railway builders was especially important. In many places, and especially after wet seasons, drainage was also a significant community undertaking. Although the Department of Public Works was responsible for early drainage in Manitoba, the large range of tasks and the substantial geographic area for which the Department was responsible meant that those who sought quick action on local problems often met delay and disappointment. In face of this, the capacity to act locally was a significant impetus to municipal incorporation. But local control came with a price tag. Provincial works were funded out of consolidated revenue. The cost of municipal works was assessed against municipal residents, with some supplemental Morton, Manitoba: A History, 187-188. 89 grants from the Province. Local administration drove home the financial cost of drainage. At a time when many settlers were still struggling to establish themselves, some suffered a severe case of sticker shock. Municipalities that had favoured incorporation as a means of taking control over local works began to see financial advantages in continued reliance on the Province. Focusing on developments in Springfield-Sunnyside, which in 1873 became Manitoba's first incorporated municipality, illustrates the jurisdictional dynamic that developed. Springfield-Sunnyside, situated northeast of the City of Winnipeg, was described in promotional literature as a landscape "generally pleasing to newcomers."58 But according to Provincial Engineer C. E. Blanchard, the area was not always suitable for agricultural settlement. This district, he declared, was "one of the worst drained by nature," sometimes "quite impassible for man or beast" because of flooding.5 9 The mud of the municipality was said to be "the friendliest in the world" - it collected on wagon wheels, eventually making further progress impossible.60 Addressing the drainage needs of the area was a major impetus for municipal incorporation. But by 1875, only two years after incorporation, the Council was already having trouble balancing the need for drainage against the need to keep municipal assessments low. 6 1 In 1881, Springfield-"Municipality of Springfield, East of the Red River," (1889). Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions no. 39858. The location is indicated on map 5.2, as the Municipality of Springfield. The name was shortened. 5 9 Public Works, Annual Report, 1883. 6 0 Dugald Women's Institute History Committee, Springfield: Is' Rural Municipality in Manitoba, 1873-1973 (Dugald: Dugald Women's Institute, 1974), 77. 90 Sunnyside delegates met to discuss drainage with C P . Brown, who was both the unofficial steward for legislation pertaining to municipalities and the Minister of Public Works. The precise nature of their exchange remains unclear, but it is evident that municipal officials were disappointed by the province's refusal to take responsibility for a more substantial share of the necessary drainage. "Under the circumstances," they later explained to the rest of the Municipal Council, "we found ... we could do no better."62 Though Springfield-Sunnyside delegates had not succeeding in winning over C. P. Brown, their actions suggest how municipalities reconciled the desire for local control with the need for provincial funding. Municipal governments operated in part as lobbies to seek assistance from the Province. The provincial government remained susceptible to municipal lobbying in part because it was concerned to ensure that incorporation remained an attractive option in unorganized areas. Over time, the province became more determined to hasten incorporation and began to curtail its moderate-scale undertakings in areas it believed should become municipalities.63 If settlers would not be enticed into municipal incorporation, they would be shoehorned into it: necessary improvements remained in abeyance until a local government was created to address them. Throughout the province for many years, the back and forth over municipal formation in unincorporated 6 1 A M , Rural Municipality of Springfield and Sunnyside, Records, GR 1670, G 7379, Minutes, 24 October 1873. See also the petition, 10 April 1875. 6 2 A M , GR 1670, G 7379, Minutes, 13 August 1881. 6 3 A M , GR 1610, reel M 863, p. 829-830, J. A. Smart to James Fisher, 18 June 1890; A M , Sessional Papers, GR 174, G 8167, file 1, Sessional Paper no. 14, Morris Bridge, Jas. A. Smart to A. F. Martin, 21 May 1889. 91 areas and over provincial funding in incorporated municipalities remained the key dynamic bearing on local public works. The provincial government often ended up pulling its punches. The period between 1870 and the end of the century was a difficult period in Manitoba history. Despite a significant boom in the land market in the early 1880s, recovery from the subsequent bust was slow and rates of growth did not fulfill expectations. For much of this period, emigration outpaced immigration. This was a significant concern for the provincial government. For some Manitobans, decisions to stay or go hinged on local improvements. For instance, Engineer Blanchard made clear that residents of Springfield would have been forced from their homes, i f early drainage projects had not been undertaken.64 In a period of such generalized difficulty and discontent, the Province felt it necessary to deal generously with both organized and unorganized areas because of the risk that works left in abeyance would lead to emigration. As Department officials explained, the government thought it prudent to reserve "the right to expend the money in performing local works which may appear to be necessary."65 The precarious nature of settlement in the province meant that the government was reluctant to extricate itself entirely from the business of local public works. In this way, drainage figured in the halting extension of municipal government in Manitoba. Immediately following the creation of Manitoba, the Provincial government 6 4 Public Works, Annual Report, 1883. 6 5 A M , GR 1610, reel M 863, p. 728-729, J. A. Smart, Minister of Public Works to John Renton, Reeve of Deloraine, 5 June 1890. 92 assumed responsibility for a range of tasks generally seen as municipal in nature. Even after the creation of a municipal system, organized municipalities and unorganized regions continued to coexist in the province. While more municipalities were created as the years passed, some municipalities lapsed into disorganization due to financial insolvency. The Provincial government both cooperated with municipal leaders and addressed the needs of regions without local government. This resulted in the establishment of a pattern of jurisdictional ambiguity that characterized early municipal development in Manitoba. As we will see in coming chapters, even as the passage of the 1895 Land Drainage Act changed the administrative context, jurisdictional ambiguity remained one of the key problems in Manitoba drainage. Drainage contributed to the process of municipality-building and also obliged Manitobans to look beyond the boundaries of local communities defined in linguistic, ethnic, or religious terms. The techno-ecological commons of surface water spurred cooperation among groups who might otherwise have found few shared interests.66 The Mennonites in Manitoba provide a good example of how participating in public discourse on drainage contributed to the construction of a pragmatically-inclusive political culture that operated alongside other cultural frameworks. Federal legislation provided for the establishment of two Mennonite settlement blocks in Manitoba, one to 6 6 The concept of the 'ecological commons' is from Mark Fiege, Irrigated Eden: The Marking of an Agricultural Landscape in the American West (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), 60-62. In what follows, I employ both 'ecological commons' and 'techno-ecological commons,' using the latter in contexts when the human role in environmental processes merits special emphasis. Thomas P. Hughes provides a useful discussion of "ecotechnological systems" in Human Build World: How To Think About Technology and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 156-161. On the relation between environmental processes and human labour, see Richard White, The Organic Machine (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995). 93 the east and one to the west of the Red River. For the Dominion, the arrangement increased settlement at a time when rates of immigration did not meet expectations; for the Mennonites, it allowed for cultural concentration amenable to the preservation of distinct lifestyles, including collective land management. As both reserves were situated in areas subject to inundation, drainage was fundamental to agricultural success, particularly as growing populations necessitated more intensive land use. With agricultural viability necessary to keep people together on the reserves, cultural continuity depended on adapting to local environmental conditions. Even while resisting what seemed to them the materialism and godlessness of the larger prairie community, Mennonites became invested in the administrative structures designed to facilitate drainage.67 Manitoba administrative structures were not culturally neutral. Rather, they reflected their origins in Anglo-Ontario society, and their establishment in Manitoba was part of what Ian McKay has termed the expansion of the politico-economic logic of liberalism. It is not a coincidence that many of the earliest-formed municipalities were in regions dominated by Anglo-Ontarians.69 The connection between Manitoba's flood problem (which afflicted many throughout the province, without regard for cultural origins) and the solutions generated by the provincial government (which were Friesen, The Canadian Prairies, 267-269. 6 8 McKay, "The Liberal Order Framework," 620. 6 9 For a discussion of the formation of one such municipality with some attention to flooding and drainage, see Margaret Morton Fahrni and W. L. Morton, Third Crossing (Winnipeg: Advocate Printers Limited, 1946). This is a history of the Municipality of Westbourne. The location of the municipality is indicated on map 5.2. 94 articulated through the liberal assumptions of the dominant culture) meant that there were practical reasons for those who saw themselves as culturally distinct, such as the Mennonites, to act within liberal structures in engagements with the government. Given the need to address surface water problems that extended across the geographical lines defining cultural (ethnic, linguistic, religious) and political (municipal) communities, those who were invested in the liberal project had reason to reach out to, even 7ft accommodate, their aliberal neighbours. This showed itself in a variety of ways, such as the use of translators by the Department of Public Works. The need to coordinate public projects within an ecological commons created a pragmatic inclusiveness within the discourse on drainage. As early as 1883, Mennonites were undertaking drainage projects in cooperation with the Department of Public Works. 7 1 During the same period, the Mennonite settlers of the West Reserve harmonized community governance with the provincial system of local government and the Municipality of Rhineland was created.72 While this led some to abandon the reserve, others saw it as necessary, even positive.73 There were practical advantages to working with the provincial government through the municipal system, In some ways my interpretation builds on Ruth Sandwell's attention to what she calls "the limits of liberalism." Ruth Sandwell, "The Limits of Liberalism: The Liberal Reconnaissance and the History of the Family in Canada," Canadian Historical Review 81, no. 4 (2000): 423-450. 7 1 Public Works, Annual Report, 1883, p. 8. 7 2 Esther, Epp-Tiessen, Altona: The Story of a Prairie Town (Altona: D. W. Friesen & Sons Ltd., 1982), 40-43. The location of Rhineland is indicated on map 5.2. The Mennonite East Reserve became the Municipality of Hanover, also indicated on map 5.2. 7 3 Epp-Tiessen, Altona, 43. John Warkentin has argued that towns were "the bridgeheads for the assimilation of Mennonites into prairie society." John Warkentin, The Mennonite Settlements of Southern Manitoba (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1960), 147. 95 particularly for those concerned that provincial money be expended on projects favoured by the local community. Drainage was necessary on the lands they occupied, making it difficult for Manitoba Mennonites to stand aside from provincial programmes without risking community prosperity. As those who resisted the formation of a municipality suspected, pragmatic collaboration might speed cultural assimilation. But the processes should be distinguished. Engagement with liberal governments and neighbours often seemed the best solution to the problem of flooding, even to those who resisted cultural assimilation. The passage of the 1895 Land Drainage Act confirmed the practical advantages of collaborating with the provincial government. It also created conditions for closer working relationships between cultural groups who had established themselves in particular geographical locations. Beginning in 1902, residents of the Municipality of Rhineland cooperated on a substantial drainage project with their neighbours in the substantially non-Mennonite Municipalities of Montcalm and Morris. 7 4 The Mennonite community, in a manner perhaps suggestive of other cultural groups, was engaged with its neighbours and its government in efforts to address the challenges particular to the Manitoba environment. As historical geographer John Warkentin has made clear, the 7 4 Manitoba, Land Drainage Arrangement Commission, Report of the Land Drainage Arrangement Commission respecting municipalities containing land subject to review under "the Land Drainage Act" (Manitoba: King's Printer, 1936), 39. For locations of Montcalm and Morris, see Map 5.2. 7 5 For a discussion of the ethnic experience in the rural west, see Royden Loewen, Ethnic Farm Culture in Western Canada (Canadian Historical Association, Canada's Ethnic Group Series Booklet no. 29, 2002). For more on the Mennonite experience, see Royden Loewen, Family, Church and Market: A Mennonite Community in the Old and the New Worlds, 1850-1930 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993); William Carlyle, "Mennonite Agriculture in Manitoba" Canadian Ethnic Studies 2, no. 81 (1981); John 96 drains which were "of great importance in the settlement geography of both Reserves" were also "part of the larger works carried out in the Red River Lowland." 7 6 Group settlement in Manitoba, whether formalized through legislation as in the Mennonite reserves or whether resulting from the common practice of settling near those of similar background, worked to create a cultural patchwork across the province. But cultural patterns and flood problems did not always line up. It was necessary to cooperate with other groups and the provincial government to deal with flooding. Because of this, and even for those like the Mennonites who placed a high value on their distinctiveness, a political culture derived from Manitoba's drainage problems became meaningful. 3.5 The Politics of Drainage Few Manitobans blamed the Provincial government for flooding, but many held it responsible for luring settlers into flood zones. Typically, petitioners from the Municipality of Lansdowne felt it was "owing to the energetic immigration policy of our Provincial government" that they had taken up land during dry periods which was 77 flooded in wet. For those who thought along such lines, there was reason to approach the government directly, even in incorporated municipalities. But drain construction did not necessarily quiet the appeals. Indeed, the connection between government action and settler suffering seemed more concrete in drained areas. If individuals create property by mixing labour with nature, the Manitoba government created liability by Lehr and Yossi Katz "Ethnicity, Institutions, and the Cultural Landscapes of the Canadian Prairie West," Canadian Ethnic Studies 26, no. 2 (1994): 70-88. 7 6 Warketin, The Mennonite Settlement of Southern Manitoba, 189. 7 7 AM, GR 1607, G 7970, item 17 'A, Petition ie Muncipality of Lansdowne, Grassy River Drain. The location of Lansdowne is indicated on map 5.2. 97 investing public funds in environmental transformation. In landscapes recognized as the products of both human actions and nonhuman forces, flooding was readily attributed to inappropriate or ineffective drain construction. Where flooding was seen as a problem to be solved permanently, the provincial government seemed negligent every time the waters rose. In drained landscapes, general discontent prevailed as expectations - some reasonable, some unreasonable - went unmet. The bias of many newcomers toward government in the liberal model meant that failed efforts at remaking the environment were seen to reflect the short-comings of particular politicians and administrators, rather than of the liberal project itself. The political culture of drainage and party politics in Manitoba intersected in important ways. In the Manitoba Lowlands, the component parts of the natural drainage network were not well-articulated. Waterways with defined channels in areas of moderate slope dissolved into marshland as the land flattened out. Many early drainage projects were designed to connect abbreviated streams to more substantial creeks or rivers (see Map 3.1). Good surface drainage, whether natural or artificial, has been described as a dendritic network of interconnected channels.79 Extending the tree metaphor helps explain the Manitoba situation. Picture how water is drawn up a tree trunk, distributed first among branches and then among twigs and leaves before being dispersed into the atmosphere through transpiration. Effective flow depends on two things. First, the 7 8 Despite concern over liability, there is slight evidence that the courts were extensively involved in Manitoba drainage. There is little mention of litigation in archival records, and the precedents set through occasional court cases were far less significant than statutory law. On the legal regime governing drainage in Manitoba, see David R. Percy, Wetlands and the Law in the Prairie Provinces of Canada (Edmonton: Environmental Law Centre, 1993). 7 9 Luna B. Leopold, Water: A Primer (San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1974), 63. 98 uninterrupted connection from trunk through to twig. Second, the gradation of size among pathways, from largest to smallest in the tree example. Now imagine a tree laid flat and put in reverse. The smallest drains either collect runoff or draw in standing water, conveying it to larger channels. Receiving inflow from a number of small conduits, mid-sized drains shepherd the water to more substantial waterways. Flow is eventually concentrated in a trunk drain, which sees it through to an outlet in a stream, river or lake. Map 3.1: Manitoba Rivers, Creeks, and Drains, 1882 Adapted from AM, Manitoba Department of Public Works, A Section from the Map of the Province of Manitoba by Robert D. Richardson, Winnipeg, 1882. Financial limitations and provincial-municipal dynamics stood in the way of the coordinated design necessary for the creation of an effective drainage infrastructure. 99 Between 1870 and 1895, Manitoba drainers dug a scattering of twig drains (largely under municipal auspices, with provincial assistance) and some more substantial trunks (largely as provincial efforts to capitalize on arrangements with the Dominion government). Settlers faced with flooding often did not wait on government assistance, whether municipal or provincial. Many did what they could to redeem their own lands, through undertaking their own drainage works or altering those constructed by authorities, and the efforts of various individuals were not always in sync. Some projects compounded the problem of fractured channels, even as others were intended to resolve it. This did not go unrecognized. When William Pearce undertook an inspection of provincial drainage works on behalf of the Dominion government in 1883, o t he noted that they lacked systematization. This was, in his opinion, the key defect. An article by W. J. Morris in The Emigrant in 1887 emphasized that most drainage work had "not been carried out on a scale commensurate with the great benefits that would surely be the result, i f done under a properly organized system." As the need for coordinated drainage became more widely understood, and particularly as patterns of inundation were altered by ineffective drainage, settlers became increasingly fervent in their appeals for government assistance. Petitioners looked for 8 0 A M , GR 1610, reel M 902, p. 50, Geo. A. Simpson, Chief Clerk to Attorney General, 16 April 1901; A M , GR 1610, reel M 886, p. 253-254, J. A. Macdonell to Attorney General, 2 December 1898.1 have noted particularly telling examples of the patterns I describe, even when they occurred after the passage of the 1895 Land Drainage Act. While the Act provided new options to drainers, it did not immediately remake the predominant social discourse. Examples from the first few years after 1895 are representative of the 1870-1895 correspondence. 8 1 A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, file 4834, William Pearce to A. Walsh, 8 October 1883. 8 2 W. J. Morris, "Land Drainage," The Emigrant (July 1887), 21. 100 some means of drawing government attention to their needs. Quickly they learned to frame their requests and express their frustration through reference to party politics. Settlers felt environmentally besieged, but not politically disempowered. Many fashioned political leverage out of what might have been seen as personal or local misfortune. The records of the Department of Public Works are replete with letters from settlers warning that inaction in flooded fields would have consequences at the polls. One particularly telling example came from farmer Oswald Berire. Although he had "voted grit for 40 years," Berire threatened that i f a government ditch in his area were not finished that fall "I will turn my coat & there is some more of my neighbours like 83 me." Governments were evaluated according to their success at transforming the local environment. The expectations of Manitobans were concrete and the consequences of these not being met were plain, as another settler Alf. Douglas made clear: ... there are a great many people in this district who are not married to any party and can easily be influenced to vote for the party who does more for them and i f the government does something to help us out we will have something to talk about as many people must see with their eyes in order to believe.8 4 As Douglas explained, it was "visible action of the government" that had the potential to swing votes. Requests for local projects often included not only descriptions of the A M , GR 1607, G 7986, item 1434, Oswald Berire to R. Watson, 3 September 1898. A M , GR 1609, G 8011, item 521, Alf. Douglas to Mr. Hastings, 23 January 1903. 101 unsatisfactory situation and the improvement expected, but also references to the political ramifications of ignoring the demand. Even settlers who "would rather chop a cord of wood than write a letter" took the time to put pen to paper. In many of their letters, prospects of electoral success were seen to hinge on the completion of public ' works in the vicinity. Settlers politicized drainage because the threat of voter discontent provided leverage in their efforts to get the drainage that only public bodies could coordinate effectively. Politicians were well aware that unsuccessful public works were visible and enduring reminders to local residents of their dissatisfaction with the government. A . Begg, a Member of the Legislative Assembly, made this clear when he wrote to the Minister of Public Works in 1889, voicing his fear that his constituents would ensure that their on displeasure was "fully exposed through the Public Print...." Begg went on to make a case for the completion of drainage projects in his area. As he told it, the region was in need of drainage; the water on the land inhibited agricultural progress. Furthermore, locals were in need of work. Finally, in its current state, he explained, the unfinished D O drain was "a standing monument against our government." In addition to the environmental justification for drainage work, Begg invoked both social and political reasons to undertake drainage. This set of justifications, representative of the range of 8 6 A M , GR 1609, G 8011, item 521, R. Morrison, Reeve, Municipality of Ochre River to R. Rogers, Minister of Public Works, 23. May 1903. 8 7 A M , GR 1607, G 7965, A. Begg to Minister of Public Works, 6 April 1889. 102 factors often considered in evaluations of potential undertakings, is worthy of further analysis. As we have seen, Manitoba's first decades were challenging. Floods were but one of many hardships that beset newcomers and residents alike. The Council of Assiniboia had established a precedent for the provision of relief to those in need, and this was one of the tasks the Province inherited in 1870.89 Often, it sought to fulfill this responsibility by ensuring that locals found work on government projects. The government would even pay higher rates i f the contractor would commit to using local labour9 0 and would tolerate higher costs as a result of using unskilled workers.91 Certain projects were undertaken to provide employment rather than in response to a genuine need for the 09 infrastructure. This was true across the wide range of activities undertaken by the Department of Public Works, including drainage. While the government desire to relieve the suffering of Manitobans was well-intentioned, there was a seamier side to decision-making about public works. Public works projects were a favoured device of political parties eager to improve their election chances.93 Generally, most provincial politicians took advantage of the A M , Red River Settlement Minute Book, Executive Relief Committee, MG 2 B6 - 1. 9 0 A M , GR 174, G8213, Return to an Order-in-Council, re: DD3, 1901. 9 1 A M , GR 1607, G 7970, Department of Public Works Annual Report, January 1893. 9 2 A M , GR 1610, reel M 951, p. 765, H. A. Bowman to Minister of Public Works, 13 December 1913. 9 3 On the question of patronage in a Canadian context with a chapter focusing on Manitoba, see Jeffrey Simpson, Spoils of Power: The Politics of Patronage (Don Mills: Collins Publishers, 1988). 103 opportunity to cultivate local goodwill when they were in power and denounced the practice when they were in opposition. Over the years there were a number of investigations into the role of patronage in Manitoba politics, many of which considered contracting for drainage.94 The extent to which particular administrations awarded contracts to supporters matters little to a history of drainage in Manitoba, but it is important to appreciate that decisions about where, when, and how to build drains were affected by political considerations. Drainage projects were not only undertaken in response to environmental imperatives, but also to appease, relieve, or woo Manitobans. This seems to have remained relatively consistent throughout the period under analysis, despite changes in government. Under both John Norquay (1878-1887) and Thomas Greenway (1888-1900), with no evidence of deviation through the brief administrations of David Harrison (1887-1888) and Hugh John Macdonald (1900), provincial governments intervened in local public works whenever it seemed advisable, for political and social reasons as well as in response to environmental conditions. Nor did practices change under R.P. Roblin (1900-1915), whose administration is particularly notorious for patronage.95 In this way, the functioning of the Department of Public Works remained Documents pertaining to such investigations can be found in various sessional papers, including A M , GR 174, G 8180, file 25; G 8351, files 3 and 11; G 8373, files 3 and 4. There are also detailed accounts in the local newspapers. 9 5 There is evidence that the Roblin administration engaged in inappropriate spending of a large amount of money. The most notorious example was in the construction of the provincial parliament buildings. On this matter, see Marilyn Baker, Symbol in Stone: The Art and Politics of a Public Building (Winnipeg: Hyperion Press, 1986.) Notably, Manitobans saw a parallel between the construction of the parliament buildings and mismanagement of land drainage. See A M , GR 1609, G 8019, file: Drainage Commission for a 29 January 1917 letter in which a settler writes: "There is a lot of us people around here think this 104 remarkably consistent through successive administrations, despite substantial political differences on other policy questions. Different governments played drainage politics in similar ways. This was attributable in part to the nature of drainage work. Newly-elected politicians recognized that they were obliged to complete projects already underway in order to prevent them from becoming hazardous in their incomplete state. When the new Greenway administration adopted a policy of fiscal retrenchment, the only drainage works undertaken in the first year were "in instances whereby contracts have been let by the government or whereby drains [had] been partly constructed and which would in case of floods be a damage in their unfinished state.. . " 9 6 When politicians tarried in taking up the drainage tasks begun by their predecessors, they, were held to account. In 1888, future premier R. P. Roblin, then sitting in the Legislative Assembly as an independent, appealed to J. A . Smart, Minister of Public Works, to complete work begun by the previous administration. Roblin did not mince words: If the Department should neglect or refuse to carry out the intention or promise of their predecessors, not only would there be breach of faith, but also complete loss of all public monies expended, as well as great damage and loss to settlers in the section of country the drains are calculated to serve.97 drainage scheme has been a fraud like the Govt Buildings only on a smaller scale." On irregularities in provincial finance that lasted until the second decade of the twentieth century, see M . S. Donnelly, The Government of Manitoba, 94. / 9 6 A M , GR 1610, reel M 860, pp. 754-756, J. A. S. Smart, Minister of Public Works to A. Begg, 10 January 1889. 9 7 A M , GR 1607, G 7964, R. P. Roblin to J. A. S. Smart, 11 September 1888. 105 Roblin's list of factors helps us to distinguish drainage from other public undertakings. The first two factors would apply to any abandoned construction project: settler disenchantment and waste of public money already spent. However, the third applied particularly to drainage: incomplete drains could alter drainage patterns in deleterious ways. While an unfinished public building might not be useful, a half-constructed drain was likely to do harm by causing significant changes to flood patterns. If privately-owned lands were affected, the government might be obliged to pay compensation. And perhaps more importantly, settlers' propensity to blame the government for flooding might be exacerbated. Despite recognition of the necessity of systematic drainage, governments continued to undertake drainage in response to settler hardship or political circumstances. There was a disconnect in drainage policy, just as there was within the drainage infrastructure itself. By 1895, small drains were scattered across the landscape and trunk drains reached back from streams and rivers. The result was what historical geographer John Warkentin has seen as the "piecemeal efforts" that characterized pre-1895 drainage in 98 Manitoba. The collection of fragments did not amount to effective systematic drainage. Relief and patronage offered very different rationales for public works. But both resulted in the construction of drains for reasons that were not strictly derived from environmental conditions. Drains built in response to social or political factors were the 9 8 Warkentin, "Water and Adaptive Strategies in Settling the Canadian West," 60. As Warkentin explains: "In the 1870s a few surface drains were dug, usually in connection with road or railroad building. In 1880, the Manitoba Department of Public Works started the attempt to drain the land between the Escarpment and the Red, by constructing a few ditches through the marshes. Accomplishments were limited, because comprehensive draining schemes extending over large areas and including many miles of lateral ditches were what was needed, not piecemeal efforts." 106 antithesis of systematie drainage. Projects devised in response to social or political imperatives may have been more likely to have adverse environmental consequences. Ultimately, this may well have served to compound the difficulty and discontent that many drainage projects were intended to redress. 3.6 C o n c l u s i o n The passage of The Land Drainage Act in 1895 was a turning point in Manitoba drainage. It provided an administrative mechanism that was conducive to larger, more comprehensive projects more likely to respond to environmental than social or political imperatives." However, the new legislation did not eliminate patterns established in the period between 1870 and 1895. The Public Works Department continued to carry out some drainage projects under its own auspices, for purposes of road building, relief, and patronage. The passage of The Land Drainage Act compounded the jurisdictional ambiguity between the Province and the municipality by creating another administrative entity - the drainage district - without clarifying the division of powers. Most significantly, the political culture of pragmatic inclusiveness and persistent contentiousness provided the starting point from which later debates over drainage developed. The enlarged scale of drainage around the turn of the century may be due not only to the new possibilities contained within the 1895 Act, but also to demographic factors. While provincial spending generally increased from year to year after the passage of the Land Drainage Act, it shot up in an unprecedented manner in 1903. In this early year, spending reached levels that would be surpassed on only three other occasions before drainage financing was substantially altered in the mid-1930s. It seems likely that the early spike in spending was driven by the immigration boom of the early 20 t h century. An influx of settlers and the concomitant expansion of agriculture transformed western Canada and, in Manitoba, necessitated drainage on a far larger scale. See Appendix I for relevant figures. 107 Drainage in Manitoba emerged largely out of efforts to facilitate transportation and communication, and took on additional significance as newly-ploughed fields were flooded unexpectedly. The need to cope with flooding helped to generate demand for the social and political structures, such as municipalities, that made drainage possible. As people sought after, negotiated for, and worked together on publicly-sponsored drainage projects, they became invested in the structures of authority that facilitated the work they so desperately wanted. Cooperation between those who embraced liberalism and those who merely consented to work within its administrative structures was basic to drainage. As Ian McKay has argued, the challenges to agricultural settlement across Canada provided justification for a new regime of expertise and authority and a new division of rights and responsibilities - one that would facilitate the, undertaking of public works but that also bore on the cultural landscape.100 In Manitoba, the provincial government undertook drainage for social and political as well as environmental reasons, with effects on both flood patterns and the public sphere. Flood problems were not easily resolved, leading many to doubt the efficacy of their political representatives. This may well have been particularly disheartening for those, like the Mennonites, whose embrace of liberal political structures was not unqualified. The optimism that accompanied the grand project of making Manitoba was balanced by pessimism generated through the small but accumulating failures of local drainage projects. In terminology reminiscent of W. L. Morton's: the processes of becoming McKay, "The Liberal Order Framework," 617-645. For a similar argument made in relation to railway infrastructure, see A.A. den Otter, The Philosophy of Railways: The Transcontinental Railway Idea in British North America (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 1997). 108 Manitoban and remaking the physical landscape of Manitoba were in many ways intertwined. Both were complex processes involving contention and cooperation. 109 4 JURISDICTIONAL QUAGMIRES: DOMINION AUTHORITY AND PRAIRIE WETLANDS, 1870-1930 4.1 Introduction Until the 1970s, wetlands were often dismissed as places of little value by those committed to agricultural intensification.1 Before then, in many parts of the western world as in the Province of Manitoba, these were places to avoid or eliminate. Yet in the late 19 t h century, Manitoba and the Dominion government fought over what they termed the "waste lands" of the Province. To explain this, it is necessary to wade from the wet prairie into the equally-murky terrain of federal-provincial relations. The main argument of this chapter is that the prairie environment helped shape jurisdictional conflict. Further, examining the interplay between landscape and politics suggests the importance of disaggregating the prairie region. Both geographical differences within the prairies and change in environmental policy over time bore on federal-provincial relations. Water management was different in Manitoba than in Alberta and Saskatchewan because of legislative context as well as relative abundance. Under the terms of the 1867 British North America Act, the Dominion government had jurisdiction over large 1 Mitsch and Gosselink, Wetlands, 3-23, 649. 2 For southern Manitoba, the mean annual total rainfall ranges from 301-600 mm (12-24 inches). In most parts of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, it ranges from 200-300 mm (8-12 inches). Aly M . Shady, ed. Irrigation, Drainage, and Flood Control in Canada (Ottawa: Irrigation Sector, Canadian International Development Agency, 1989), 9. The importance of the distinction between semi-arid and sub-humid lands is discussed in Kenneth H. Norrie, "The National Policy and the Rate of Prairie Settlement: A Review," in The Prairie West: Historical Readings, eds. R. Douglas Francis and Howard Palmer (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1992), 248-249. 110 navigable waterways while the provinces administered smaller non-navigable streams. In 1870, this division of powers was applied to the new Province of Manitoba and the North-West Territories. In 1894 the Northwest Irrigation Act reserved from any future grant of Crown land the beds and shores of all bodies of water - navigable and non - in the areas that later became Saskatchewan, Alberta, and northern Manitoba.3 According to C. S. Burchill, this Act represented a "radical" expansion of Dominion authority and "a reform almost equal in importance to the socialization of land."4 On the prairies, only the small, southerly rectangle that was then the Province of Manitoba was unaffected (see Map 4.1). To extend the comparison that Burchill, writing in the early post-World War II years, used to underline his point about the significance of the legislation, few commentators have explored the significance of the iron curtain of policy that was pulled along the Manitoba border, or situated it within the context of Dominion-provincial relations.5 The Northwest Irrigation Act was designed to provide greater Dominion authority over water in areas where irrigation was necessary, which suggests that a rough environmental logic underpinned the exclusion of the wet prairie. However, the Act applied even to the wetter northern reaches of the later Province of Manitoba, but not to the dry corner of the provincial southwest, which is environmentally comparable to 3 David Percy, Wetlands and the Law in the Prairie Provinces of Canada (Edmonton: Environmental Law Centre, 1993), 24. 4 C. S. Burchill, "The Origins of Canadian Irrigation Law," Canadian Historical Review 2, no. 9 (1948): 362. 5 In contrast to Burchill, my use of language derived from economic systems is entirely metaphoric. The work of American historian Kate Brown suggests that the state, whether capitalist or socialist, can produce comparable landscapes. "Gridded Lives: Why Kazakhstan and Montana Are Nearly the Same Place," American Historical Review 106, no. 1 (2001): 17-48. I l l southeastern Saskatchewan. This suggests that the boundaries of the Northwest Irrigation Act may have been influenced by authorities' desire to avoid the enduring dispute surrounding Manitoba's provincial rights. Had the Dominion government attempted to claim non-navigable waters in Manitoba, it would have been obliged to annul an authority granted nearly 25 years earlier to a province with which jurisdictional relations remained highly contentious. Map 4.1: The Prairie Region in 18946 Adapted from Friesen, The Canadian Prairies, 90-91. Yet the problems posed by the dynamism of the wet prairie were not so easily sidestepped. Many of the challenges faced by federal and provincial administrators derive from how wetlands vary through time and are hard to demarcate at any particular moment. Wetland boundaries are notoriously difficult to delineate and controversial to maintain. The most basic difficulty derives from the fact that wetlands typically change size and shape in response to the amount of water in the surrounding ecosystem. Indeed, an ongoing cycle from wetter to drier and back again is understood as fundamental for 6 For the region's contemporary political boundaries, see the inset to Map 1.1. 7 G. Mulamoottil, B. G. Warner and E. A. McBean, "Introduction," in Wetlands: Environmental Gradients, Boundaries, and Buffers, eds. George Mulamoottil, Barry G. Warner and Edward A. McBean (Boca Raton: Lewis Publishers, 1996), 5. 112 continued ecosystem vitality. Another layer of complexity derives from the fact that wetlands are not often bordered by a significant environmental discontinuity such as a river bank or a lake shore.9 The changes in soil and vegetation that mark wetlands can be gradual, and materials and energy flow readily across the environmental gradients.1 The history of drainage across the prairies between 1880 and 1930 is in part the story of how governments addressed the difficult question of wetland identification, first in sub-humid Manitoba and later in the semi-arid western region, with substantially different outcomes. Dominion-provincial relations were bound up in human-environment interaction, with consequences for the people and landscapes of the region. The boundaries of the political sphere were no more stable or clear than those of prairie wetlands. 4.2 Contexts and Precedents Well before the Confederation debates, future Prime Minister John A. Macdonald envisioned that provincial governments would have little more authority than municipal van der Valk and Davis, "The Role of Seed Banks in the Vegetation Dynamics of Prairie Glacial Marshes," 322-335; Goldsborough and Robinson, "Pattern in Wetlands," 77-117; Edward Schiappa, "Towards a Pragmatic Approach to Definition: 'Wetlands' and the politics of meaning," in Environmental Pragmatism, eds. Andrew Light and Eric Katz (London: Routledge, 1996), 209-230. 9 V. Carter, "Environmental Gradients, Boundaries, and Buffers: An Overview," in Wetlands: Environmental Gradients, Boundaries, and Buffers, eds. George Mulamoottil, Barry G. Warner and Edward A. McBean (Boca Raton: Lewis Publishers, 1996), 11. 1 0 Carter, "Environmental Gradients, Boundaries, and Buffers," 9. Part of the difficulty of distinguishing wetlands from the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems that they abut derives from the fact that they are zones of transition. But as historical geographer Michael Williams has made clear, seeing wetlands as little more than the margins of other ecosystems "is one of the reasons why wetlands have been so . neglected and their distinctive features and commonalities have not been appreciated." Michael Williams, "Understanding Wetlands," in Wetlands: A Forgotten Landscape, ed. Michael Williams (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 9. 113 administrations. Nevertheless, the colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick vigorously defended their powers. Under the 1867 British North American Act, they retained control over all unalienated lands within their borders.11 Revenues from the sale and lease of Crown lands were to allow the eastern provinces to fulfill their substantial responsibilities. Manitoba joined Confederation under different terms. Under the Manitoba Act of 1870, the Dominion government reserved the right to establish land, immigration, and railway policies to best serve national purposes. This was contrary to the desires of many who " lived in and around the Red River settlement, most notably the Metis. It was also contrary to what local leaders thought was best for the region.1 3 Historians have interpreted these events in several ways. Chester Martin took the view that Manitoba had been unfairly treated and even participated in the Province's effort to secure a more generous settlement.14 Gerald Friesen has suggested that prairie residents took pride in the national purposes to which regional lands had been put.15 Recently, Jim Mochoruk has emphasized the colonial nature of the relation between Manitoba and the Dominion government.16 " Jim Mochoruk, Formidable Heritage: Manitoba's North and the Cost of Development 1870 to 1930 (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2004), 106. 1 2 W. L. Morton, "Introduction," in Manitoba: The Birth of a Province, xxiv-xxv. 1 3 N . E. A. Ronaghan, The Archibald Administration in Manitoba, 1870-1872 (Ph.D. diss., University of Manitoba, 1987). 1 4 Mochoruk, Formidable Heritage, 232-233. 1 5 Friesen, The Canadian Prairies, 162-194. 1 6 Mochoruk, Formidable Heritage, 105-151. 114 Among contemporaries no less than among historians, Dominion ownership of Manitoba's Crown lands was a persistent matter of concern. Manitoba politicians argued that, without a land base, they lacked a major source of revenue. There is indeed abundant evidence that the activities of the provincial government were constrained by financial limitations. For instance, the Province switched from a bicameral to a unicameral political system in part to trim costs.17 Had Crown lands been under provincial jurisdiction, Manitoba politicians would have had the option of managing them to generate revenue. Provincial politicians were quick to recognize this and blamed their financial woes on the Dominion government. They lobbied persistently for the transfer of Crown lands to the Province. A significant quantity of Crown land in Manitoba was wetland.18 For those concerned with the success of settlement in the province, surface water was a key barrier to agricultural development. Though the Dominion government retained ultimate authority over Crown land, the Provincial government was responsible for undertaking public works projects, such as road improvement and land drainage, which would make agricultural settlement possible in wet areas. The British North America Act made drainage a Provincial responsibility, and the Government of Canada was adamant about this jurisdictional distinction. In the words of one Dominion official many years later: "We have never ... felt that we could step into a problem [drainage] which is the 1 7Ibid., 111. 1 8 Carlyle, "Water in the Red River Valley of the North," 331-358. 115 responsibility of the Province."1 9 In effect, the Province was responsible for dealing with the water that interfered with the development of land over which it had no authority. The difficult situation was exacerbated by the provisions for settlement established by the Dominion government. In October 1870, Adams Archibald, Manitoba's first Lieutenant Governor, assigned Legislative Clerk Molyheux St. John to investigate factors bearing on land settlement in the Province. His report, returned three months later, is a remarkable document because it is one of the few government efforts to afford local environmental conditions a key role in Manitoba settlement. One section explained how a land claim, "which in one part of the Province would be inordinately large, would in another part be only sufficient for a reasonable sized farm." The matter turned on "the number of muskegs or swamps which are found in several parts of the Province." It was reasonable, St. John concluded, "to assume that the value of a claim and the quantity of land which a settler should be entitled to take up must in some measure depend on the nature of the country..." 2 0 Yet the Dominion Lands Act of 1872 confirmed the Dominion Land Survey that eventually resulted in the division of much of northwestern North America into evenly-distributed and equally-sized lots, regardless of what St. John called "the nature of the 1 9 A M , Natural Resources Department, Miscellaneous Land Files, GR 7700, reel M 1639, Drainage Districts General File, James A. Gardiner to R. S. Moore, 26 February 1949. 2 0 A M , Adams Archibald Fonds, MG 12 A l , reel M 3, item 164A, Molyneux St. John to Adams Archibald, 3 January 1871. 116 country." Across the northwest, surveyors at work on the township survey noted environmental conditions, but laid out their lines without accommodating local variation. According to sociologist Rod Bantjes, the result was the creation of "a space without particulars, a map drawn up before consulting the terrain, and making no reference to rivers, lakes, hills, or other tangible things."21 This was a remarkable project of environmental simplification, one far larger in scope than that undertaken by the Red River settlers in the late 1860s and early 1870s in their bid to secure the outer two miles. Nevertheless, it is important not to attribute too much more power to the grid survey. Wisely or unwisely, individuals selected their own lands. No one was forced to occupy undesirable areas. Yet it is also important to acknowledge that dividing the land into square plots facilitated the administration of settlement without helping settlers make good choices. The grid survey speeded land alienation, but did nothing to aid environmental adjustment. Both the Dominion and the Provincial governments wanted to encourage settlement, but their interests were not identical. While the Dominion government derived benefit from sale and settlement of lands, processes that were relatively easy to administer once the land had been surveyed, it was the Province that was responsible for the public works necessary to make agricultural settlement viable within the survey grid laid over Manitoba's irregular and dynamic landscape. These included a variety of projects such as road building, bridge construction, and drainage. Because of the increased demand for public works, Manitoba officials realized at an early date that rapid settlement "was 2 1 Rod Bantjes, Improved Earth: Prairie Space as Modern Artefact (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), 119. 117 a most serious problem for the provincial treasury." In the late 1940s, engineer and former deputy minister of the Department of Public Works M . A . Lyons described the history of an area south of Lake Manitoba. He recalled how "almost immediately" after the Dominion government opened these lands to settlers, "the provincial government was besieged with requests for drainage." Construction of roads and bridges varied in difficulty and expense depending on environmental conditions, and drainage was necessary in some places but not in others. Had the Dominion government done more to dissuade settlers from occupying unsuitable lands, had more emphasis been placed on "the nature of the country," the work of the Province may have been substantially reduced. Consequently, Lyons felt that Dominion land settlement policy had left "the provincial government holding the bag." 2 3 Dominion control of provincial resources meant that Manitoba did not reap the benefit of its improvements to public lands. Though unique in Canada, Manitoba's position was not without precedent. Decades earlier, some American states had been in a similar position. Early in the 19 t h century, extensive wetlands in the Mississippi valley remained under federal authority. States lacked a financial incentive to undertake drainage and it was unlikely that settlers would purchase lands that they were unable to farm. Large scale flooding in the 1840s generated greater interest in land drainage and A M , GR 174, G 8303, Return to an Order (no. 56) re Correspondence re Transfer of Natural Resources from the Dominion to Provincial Government. See also A M , Premier's Office Files (Norquay Administration) GR 553, Letterbook D, pp. 35-39, J. Norquay to Charles Brodie, 14 July 1883. In this letter, Norquay explains that Manitoba has "taken no active part in trying to induce immigration, for the very reason that immigration increases our expenses, without contributing anything to our revenue...." 2 3 A M , GR 1609, G 8046, file: Special Drainage Survey Conducted by MA Lyons, Lyons to Errick F. Willis, Minister of Public Works, 6 May 1948. 118 flood protection. In 1849, representatives from Louisiana and Missouri took the matter to the United States Congress. They proposed that ownership of wetlands be transferred to the states. These lands could then be sold and the proceeds used to fund the drainage works necessary to make them suitable for agriculture.24 Similar provisions were later applied to California and several midwestern states. In the Midwest, the 1849 Swamp Lands Act encouraged drainage, but over time the Act became associated with corruption and abuse. This forestalled drainage in most areas.25 Indiana spent the proceeds of swamp lands sales on projects not directly related to land reclamation and was unable to complete projected drainage works. Illinois sold large parcels of wetland to speculators, many of whom failed to provide adequate drainage. The American Swamp Lands Act was a creative attempt to promote land drainage, but its many failures reflected the substantial obstacles to successful implementation of such a policy. 2 6 Despite its manifold shortcomings, Canadian officials took inspiration from the 27 American legislation. In April 1880, the Dominion government undertook to transfer federal lands to Manitoba in return for drainage through what became known as the drainage lands arrangement. The Province would be granted title to the available even-numbered sections (thereby excluding lands reserved for the Hudson's Bay Company 2 4 Vilesis, Discovering the Unknown Landscape, 72. 2 5 Michael Williams, "Agricultural Impacts in Temperate Wetlands," 205. 2 6 Margaret Beattie Bogue, "The Swamp Land Act and Wet Land Utilization in Illinois, 1850-1890," Agricultural History 25, no. 4 (October 1951): 169-180; Prince, Wetlands of the American Midwest, 140-148; Michael Williams "Agricultural Impacts in Temperate Wetlands," 204-205. 2 7 Not only is there evidence that Canadian politicians were aware of the American precedent, but it is also clear that they used the American legislation as a model. LAC, RG 15, vol. 1207, file 142200 # 1, H. H. Smith to A. M . Burgess, 19 August 1889. 119 and the school endowment) in the areas that it improved. It was to take advantage of this arrangement that the Provincial government initiated drainage in nine marshes, as discussed in the previous chapter. The Department of Public Works contracted with private individuals and companies to undertake the necessary projects.30 Among the latter was Harris, Bayne, and Young, a firm that included J. W. Harris as one of its principals. After taking on various projects as a Dominion Land Surveyor, including the survey of the Parish of St. Paul in the 1870s, Harris had established himself in the region. While the Province arranged construction, the Dominion kept an eye on things. Dominion experts inspected some of the land in question and undertook cursory reviews of the Province's plans for drainage. In June 1880, Dominion surveyor Lindsay Russell emphasized the preliminary nature of the planned work and the challenge of draining areas so "thickly covered by the heavy growth of prairie grasses, and reeds or rushes." He suspected that the results of drainage might be disappointing and cautioned that transfer of title should not be hastily made: "it would be well that the cession to the Province ... should follow the fairly demonstrated success of the drainage."31 Within two years, having arranged for the construction of 188 miles of drain,3 2 the Province A M , GR 7700, reel M 1640, Swamp Lands, vol. 1, Copy of a report of a Committee of the Privy Council, 21 April 1884. 2 9 A M , GR 1530, Order-in-Council #213, Re Drainage Wet Lands, 28 May 1880. 3 0 A M , GR 1530, Order-in-Council # 220, Tenders for Drainage, 2 June 1880. 3 1 A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, file 4834, Lindsay Russell to J. S. Dennis, 24 June 1880. 120 asked the Dominion to transfer just shy of half the 391,280 acres of land served by the 33 construction. However, complications arose when Surveyor J. W. Harris submitted reports of his inspection in 1882 and 1883. Harris made clear that the marshes "cannot of course be said to be thoroughly and completely drained by the expenditure already made," but allowed that "a very decided improvement.. .on the condition of the land" had been effected. The work to date had been sufficient "to induce the taking up of unappropriated sections for homestead in portions of the marsh which were formerly considered of no value."3 4 According to Harris, the Province had done enough to merit transfer, even i f further work was necessary. Harris had not made claims out of keeping with the conclusions of Lindsay Russell in 1880. The reports were moderate in tone. There was no talk of a dramatic change from wet to dry, no overnight transformation from an utterly wasted to a magnificently productive landscape. Nevertheless, Harris' reports were dismissed by Dominion officials as too laudatory to be believed and too general to be of use. 3 5 Ultimately, the trouble in completing the transfer derived more from the difficulty of specifying precisely what area had been drained than from the question of whether the drainage was sufficient. Since much of the land in question lay in townships that had not yet been subdivided, it was difficult to provide precise legal descriptions of the drained land. 3 6 3 2 A M , GR 1530, Order-in-Council # 619, Report of the Minister of Public Works on Lands Reclaimed by Drainage, 14 January 1882. 3 3 A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, file 5, Memorandum from the Minister of the Interior, 25 June 1880. 3 4 A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, file 4834, J. W. Harris to Aquila Walsh, 15 January 1883. 3 5 A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, file 4834, Unsigned Draft of a Letter to C. P. Brown, 15 November 1882. 121 Even in surveyed areas, wet lands - places inconvenient for surveyors to measure and evaluate - were often left beyond the grid. Dominion Lands Surveyors simply classified several larger marsh areas as lakes, making it impossible to separate even-numbered sections from odd. As the Order-in-Council authorized only the transfer of the even sections, the imprecision interfered with the transfer. Notwithstanding its eagerness to secure land, the provincial government found it difficult to provide the sort of report that would satisfy the Dominion. Given the relatively small amount of land in question, why was the Dominion so exacting? The intensity of the dispute makes sense when it is understood that land acreage and quality was of secondary importance. Land mattered, but more because of the larger political context in which it was embedded than as an object in its own right. By dealing in wetlands, the governments addressed one of the environmental constraints on farming in Manitoba. But the focus on wetlands also provided a nonpolitical means of transferring some land to the Province. Both parties wanted to avoid precedents. The Dominion did not want to transfer all Manitoba's lands, and the Province was loath to signal acceptance of Dominion land ownership.38 By invoking an environmental logic, the Dominion could make a transfer and the Province could accept it without either side compromising its principled position. The Dominion's insistence that the Province meet 3 6 A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, file 4834, E. Deville, Chief Inspector of Surveys, to A. M . Burgess, Deputy Minister of the Department of the Interior, 25 August 1884. 3 7 A M , GR 174, G8128, Return to an Order re: Transactions of reclaimed lands, 1886. See also A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, file 4834, Memo [not signed or dated]. This latter document cites Big Grass Marsh and St. Andrew's Marsh as examples of areas traversed as lakes by Dominion Land Surveyors. 3 8 Journals of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, 1884. 122 the terms of the drainage lands arrangement was intended to maintain the jurisdictional status quo by which Crown lands remained Dominion property. Yet because Dominion demands were extremely difficult to meet, no mutually satisfactory solution was found. The situation degenerated, and both Dominion suspicion and Provincial exasperation increased as correspondence flew back and forth in late 1882 arid throughout 1883. Eventually, the Province marked on a map the acres that it had rendered fit for sale, Harris certified the map, and in March 1884, the Dominion accepted the claim. 3 9 The Province received about 62,810 acres (25,438 hectares) near Winnipeg and about 48,310 acres (19,566 hectares) in areas southwest of Lake Manitoba.4 0 This anticlimax begs the question why both governments were suddenly willing to find a solution? While some government officials argued over the transfer of lands under the drainage lands arrangement, others fought about the rest of the lands of the province. Manitoba's wetlands had become a political instrument. As the political context changed, so did the importance of the drainage lands. By 1884, both governments were anticipating further negotiations concerning Manitoba's place in Confederation. Given the potential scope of these discussions, with the Province asserting its right to the entire 94,888,467 acres (38,400,000 hectares) within the Provincial boundaries of the day, the approximately 112,000 acres (45,324 hectares) affected by the drainage arrangement were put in perspective.41 As it became apparent i J A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, file 4834, Copy of a report of a Committee of the Privy Council, 21 April 1884. 4 0 A M , GR 174, G 8128, Return to an Order re: Transactions of reclaimed lands, 1886. 123 that the drainage lands arrangement had proven an insufficient panacea for Provincial discontent, officials concluded that it was more important to move on than to continue to wrangle over an arrangement that - to Manitoba's satisfaction - had put some lands at the Province's disposal but that - to the Dominion's frustration - had failed to achieve its political purpose. At the same time, Manitoba officials were becoming increasingly desperate. They were eager to capitalize the small base they claimed from the Dominion. Looking to dispose of land quickly, in large quantities and at a reasonable profit, the Provincial government had initiated negotiations with speculators.42 It arranged a number of sales even before the land had been formally transferred, at prices ranging from $2.00 to $2.85 per acre. Such haste became a problem when the transfer was delayed. Land speculators who had anticipated making a quick dollar became impatient. Some sought to cancel their purchases and claim damages, arguing that the delay had prevented them from selling the land profitably.43 Other speculators went ahead and sold their holdings, albeit often with little respect for truthful description of land conditions. Lands the Province sold on the promise of drainage were resold without full disclosure of their flooded condition.44 Many foreign owners were "misguided and ill-informed concerning the quality of their 4 1 John Langton Tyman, By Section, Township, and Range: Studies in Prairie Settlement (Brandon: Assiniboine Historical Society, 1972), 29. Langton asserts that 250,000 acres were reclaimed, resulting in a transfer of 112,146-acres. While these amounts do not correspond precisely to those cited elsewhere (for instance, see A M , GR 174, G 8128, Return to an Order re: Transactions of reclaimed lands, 1886), they are all fairly similar. 4 2 A M , GR 1610, reel M 850, G. P. Brown to Duncan MacArthur, 9 April 1883. See also Richard Wentz and Nicoletta Barrie, eds. Return to Big Grass (Illinois: Ducks Unlimited, Inc., 1986), 7-8. 4 3 A M , GR 174, G 8128, Return to an Order re: Transactions of reclaimed lands, 1886. 4 4 Ducks Unlimited, Manitoba Office, Office Files. A Brief History of Big Grass Marsh by B. W. Cartwright. Underlining in original. 124 lands, its agricultural possibilities and its actual value." Years later, when some sought to use their lands, they discovered drainage had not been undertaken or had been largely unsuccessful. An adequate evaluation of these developments demands a return to the broader question of the ethics of drainage. Some of the Province's eagerness to have the Dominion transfer lands originated with influential private citizens who were keen to buy the land for speculative purposes. A particularly well documented example stems from a later period, but illustrates factors at play earlier on. On 3 March 1909, the Manitoba Free Press reported that Thomas Guinan had offered to share profits with an individual in the Provincial government i f the land transfer were expedited. Guinan eventually purchased 16 000 acres from the Province at $3 to $3.25 per acre and sold it within months for about $5 per acre,"realizing a profit of $30 000.00.46 The newspaper described the transaction as "but one of the many such deals, by which the Roblin Government, instead of disposing of the lands belonging to the people of Manitoba by public sale... disposes of them by private arrangements."47 Speculation on wetlands was one of many opportunities to profit from ethically-questionable land deals available to well-positioned Manitobans in the Province's early years, and some took advantage.48 In the context of the times, however, this made drainage more typical than exceptional. While, 4 5 Robert Murchie, The Unused Lands of Manitoba: Report of Survey Conducted by R. W. Murchie and H. C. Grant (Winnipeg: Department of Agriculture and Immigration, 1926), 12. 4 6 Manitoba Free Press, 6 March 1909, p. 4. See also Manitoba Free Press, 13 March 1909, p. 4. 4 7 Manitoba Free Press, 5 March 1909, p. 3. For more on this matter, see A M , GR 174, G 8180, file 1, Committee Records 1909, Testimony Before Committee on Public Accounts. 4 8 A M , GR 1609, G 8019, "Drainage Commission," Wm. R. Wood to T. H. Johnson, 4 September 1916. 125 as disgruntled Manitobans claimed, "there is good reason to believe that in the Drainage system they were exploited to fully as large an extent as in any other instance," there is little evidence that they were more severely exploited in drainage matters than in any . . 49 other instance. 4.3 The Swamp Lands Arrangement, 1885-1912 Negotiations between Winnipeg and Ottawa culminated in an 1885 agreement that redefined Manitoba's position within Confederation. Premier John Norquay seemed well-pleased with the Better Terms Agreement, which included an increase in financial support from the Dominion. The agreement also provided for the transfer to the Province of all Crown lands in need of reclamation, estimated at between seven and ten million acres.50 Manitoba would be able to generate revenue by draining and selling or leasing these lands. This provision was elaborated and formalized by the passage of the Swamp Lands Act later in 1885. Norquay saw the swamp lands provision as a "main feature" of the arrangement and optimistically predicted that the 1885 agreement might "finally dispose of the land grievance question."51 Under the earlier drainage lands arrangement, lands were to be transferred after they had been drained. Now, under the Swamp Lands Act, lands were to be transferred as 4 9 A M , GR 1609, G 8019, "Drainage Commission," Attachment titled "The Drainage Problem" included with letter from Wm. R. Wood to T. H. Johnson, 4 September 1916. 5 0 A M , G R 7721, reel M 1690, Swamp Lands File, vol. 16, Copy of a Report of a Committee of the Executive Council, 20 September 1906. In the same file, see also the Memorial to the Governor General of Canada in Council from Premier R.P. Roblin, 5 November 1906. In the latter document the amount of swamp land is estimated at between eight and ten million acres. 5 1 A M , G R 553, Letterbook D, Norquay to unnamed correspondent, 7 February 1885. 126 soon as it was established that they required drainage. The work of inspection and the transfer that hinged on it, which the controversy surrounding Harris' report on the drainage lands made clear could be problematic, would precede drainage rather than follow it. While the drainage lands arrangement operated in relation to nine specified projects, the swamp lands arrangement pertained to all wetlands in the newly-enlarged Manitoba. The entire province would have to be inspected. By the late 1880s, Swamp Lands Commissioners were appointed and assigned the enormous task of identifying all the swamp land in Manitoba.5 2 Quickly it became apparent that this was a complicated and time-consuming endeavour. The province was large and wet regions were far-flung. Even the most diligent Commissioners could travel only so fast by horse and carriage over rough terrain. The regulations governing their work, drawn up by politicians and bureaucrats, did not always suit conditions in the field. For instance, Commissioners had to petition Ottawa for approval to inspect particularly wet areas while the ground was frozen and thus more easily traversed.53 Interactions with local residents were protracted. And Commissioners had to appeal again and again for adequate funds and basic supplies, while Ottawa and Winnipeg bickered over who should pay the bills. 5 4 The nature of the 3 2 A M , GR 7721, Swamp Lands File, vol. 16, reel M 1690, Order of the Privy Council, PC 1037, 19 June 1886. 5 3 A M , GR 7700, reel M 1640, Swamp Lands File, vol. 1, Swamp Lands Commissioners Wagner and Crawford to the Provincial Lands Commissioner, 11 October 1895. 5 4 A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, Swamp Lands File, vol. 16, Burgess to Lariviere and Harrison, 9 December 1887 and Copy of a Report of a Committee of the Executive Council, 20 September 1906; A M , GR 7700, reel M 1640, Swamp Lands File, vol. 1, William Crawford, Swamp Lands Commissioner, to James A. Smart, Manitoba Minister of Public Works and Commissioner of Lands, 21 March 1892. 127 task and the many logistical problems meant that it took a long time to determine what lands should be transferred to the Province under the Better Terms Agreement. Indeed, th inspections continued well into the 20 century. Premier Norquay had not foreseen this when he expressed satisfaction with the 1885 agreement. In effect, Manitoba was left waiting for its better terms. Deliberate delay by Dominion officials was partly to blame. As the land remained the property of the Dominion until it was formally transferred by Order-in-Council, the government in Ottawa continued to derive revenue from timber and grazing leases.55 Moreover, the Dominion was trying to dispose surreptitiously of whatever swamp it could, while it still had right to the revenues.56 Provincial officials were incensed by this. Not only were they waiting for their better terms, but as the years passed the better terms became less good. Manitoba recognized that not all the blame could be laid at the Dominion's door. Nonanthropogenic (not caused by humans) environmental change was complicating matters. While the drainage lands arrangement indicated the difficulty of establishing A M , GR 7700, reel M 1640, Swamp Lands File, vol. 1, M . A. Ferries, Provincial Lands Inspector to the Provincial Lands Commissioner, 22 November 1895; A M , GR 174, G 8241, Report of the Provincial Lands Department for 1905; LAC, Canada, Department of Justice, RG 13, vol. 2321, file 928/1904, Secretary of the Department.of the Interior to the Deputy Minister of Justice, 16 November 1904. 5 6 LAC, RG 15, vol. 1207, file 142200 # 1. This file contains two letters from H. H. Smith, Commissioner of Dominion Lands, to A. M . Burgess, Deputy Minister of the Interior. One is official and the other is unofficial. Both dated 6 August 1889. In the two letters, Smith argues the Dominion should sell the land it now administers under hay lease, due to the trouble and expense of managing the leasing system. The unofficial letter then continues: "There is a reason for selling these lands now which I cannot very well advance officially. It is altogether likely a good many of them may, before long, be selected by the Swamp Lands Commissioners and we shall lose them entirely. We had better, therefore, make what we can out of them while we have the chance." 128 boundaries in a wetland landscape at a particular moment in time, the swamp lands arrangement made clear that the temporally-dynamic nature of the wetland landscape was equally problematic. As wetland ecologists G. Mulamoottil, B. G. Warner, and E. A . McBean have explained, "even small changes in surface and ground water hydrology may result in significant changes to the wetland."57 With land ownership hinging on land condition, ongoing environmental processes were invested with political significance. From 1880 onward, the region trended toward dryness, even as intermittent wet years increased demand for drainage. Manitoba officials recognized that the lands of the province were "becoming dry and changing in character."58 While drier land improved agricultural prospects in some areas, an outcome that pleased all with an interest in the development of the Canadian west, the Provincial government saw a downside. Land that dried naturally prior to inspection by the Swamp Lands Commissioners remained the property of the Dominion; land that had to be drained became Provincial property. Thus, natural environmental improvement meant a territorial and, ultimately, a financial loss to the Manitoba government. Manitoba officials also found themselves in an awkward position in relation to artificial drainage. Since drainage was a Provincial responsibility, politicians had to respond to settlers' demands or face voter dissatisfaction. Particularly in light of difficulties with 5 7 Mulamoottil, Warner and McBean, "Introduction," 2. 5 8 A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, Swamp Lands File, vol. 16, Memorial to the Governor General of Canada in Council from Premier R. P. Roblin, 5 November 1906. 129 attracting and retaining settlers in Manitoba during the 1880s and early 1890s, ditch construction could not wait until the Swamp Lands Commissioners finally completed their inspections. But artificial drainage, supported by Provincial money and policy, decreased the amount of land that qualified as swamp and thereby was eligible for transfer to Manitoba. 5 9 The Province tried to make the best of the situation by taking steps such as assigning an inspector to accompany the Swamp Lands Commissioners. The inspector was to draw the Commissioners' attention to any land that had been swamp in 1885 but which had since been drained through local efforts.60 Nevertheless, Provincial officials remained uneasy, fearing both Dominion cunning and environmental change. The annual reports of the Department of Provincial Lands, established in 1888, reveal Manitoba's mounting frustration. "Great loss and injury is being sustained by the province by the failure of the Dominion government to carry out the arrangement entered into in 1885," warned the Provincial Lands Commissioner in 1906.61 Hoping to spur more rapid transfer, the Province used the question of natural resources ownership as leverage. In 1890, Commissioner Joseph Martin railed that: It has always been contended by the Dominion Government that one great reason that they insist upon administering the lands is that they are able to do it so much better than a local government. This Department has no hesitation in 5 9 A M , GR 7700, reel M 1640, Swamp Lands File, vol. 1, Provincial Lands Commissioner to Minister of the Interior, 8 April 1908. 6 0 A M , GR 7700, reel M 1640, Swamp Lands File, vol. 1, J. Obed Smith, Chief Clerk, Manitoba Commissioner of Railways, to the Provincial Lands Commissioner, 17 August 1896. 6 1 A M , GR 174, G 8241, Report of the Provincial Lands Commissioner for 1906. 130 claiming that work of this kind could be done in one-fiftieth of the time that it takes your Department and we have only a staff of one man. 6 2 Designed to mitigate intergovernmental disputes over land ownership, the Swamp Lands Act compounded tension as it became itself a source of dispute. A n arrangement designed to appease Manitoba became ammunition for Provincial rights advocates. Dominion officials acknowledged that changes in wetland size and shape were problematic. Soon after the 1885 agreement, they decided that lands subject to flooding in an average year - rather than lands inundated in the year of inspection - would be transferred. From then on, Swamp Lands Commissioners were expected to make allowances for annual variation.63 When the trend toward a drier environment caused Manitoba to protest, the Dominion agreed that the amount of land to be transferred should jequal the amount that had been wetland in 1885.64 Coping with changing instructions and compensating for environmental dynamism further slowed the work of the Commissioners. The Swamp Lands Commissioners recognized the awkwardness of the swamp lands arrangement and communicated their concerns to the Dominion government. Fraud was A M , GR 174, G 8165, Return to an Order of the House Showing a Copy of all Correspondence with the Dominion Government Having Reference to Swamp Lands, 1891. 6 3 A M , GR 7700, reel M 1640, Swamp Lands File, vol. 1, A. M . Burgess, Deputy Minister of the Interior, to A. C. Lariviere and D. H. Harrison, 9 December 1887. 6 4 A M , GR 7721, reel M 1690, Swamp Lands File, vol. 16, Copy of a Report of a Committee of the Executive Council, 20 September 1906. 131 one of the possibilities that Commissioners William Wagner and William Crawford drew to the attention of their supervisors, warning that it was: in the power of the Government of Manitoba to create swamp lands at any point in the province where there are lands still at the disposal of the government of Canada which they wished to have handed over to the province.65 The Dominion also had to guard against settlers who denied the existence of swamps. The Canadian government made land available to newcomers at remarkably favourable terms, whereas the Province sought to manage its land for profit.6 6 After swamps had been transferred and drained, Wagner and Crawford warned, it was possible that settlers might claim that the land had always been dry and thus should have been Dominion land available as free homesteads, rather than Provincial land offered for sale.67 The worry was that i f such a situation were to arise, the only way to guard against both public outcry and provincial discontent would be for the Dominion to allow homesteading in these areas and to compensate the Province for the loss of lands already identified as suitable for transfer. Clearly, this was not a desirable outcome for a national government keen to minimize expenditures. In sum, both governments felt vulnerable in light of environmental change and the possibility that the other would gain the upper hand through more successful adaptation. 6 5 LAC, RG 13, vol. 80, file 143, A. M Burgess, Deputy Minister of the Interior, to Robert Sedgewick, Deputy Minister-of Justice, 4 February 1891. 6 6 Swamp Lands were administered under The Provincial Lands Act which came into force on July l s l , 1887. See John Langton Tyman, "Patterns of Western Land Settlement," Manitoba Historical Society Transactions 3 (1971-72): 117-135. 6 7 A M , GR 1607, G 7977, William Wagner and William Crawford, Swamp Lands Commissioners to Robert Watson, Minister of Public Works, 3 September 1895. 132 The environment was not the politically-neutral arbiter that politicians had taken it to be. The situation was conducive to the outbreak of small but intense political battles. The resulting anger and frustration undermined both the larger political purposes (the improvement of intergovernmental relations) and the original environmental aims (the production of land suitable for agriculture) of the Swamp Lands Act. The perversity of the situation was epitomized in an 1893 exchange between Manitoba and Canada. The Provincial government had produced a pamphlet extolling the virtues of Manitoba's lands and advertising those available for purchase. It read in part: What are known as 'swamp lands' are being conveyed by the Dominion Government to the Local [Provincial] Government. Many of these lands are not swamp lands at all, but are valuable for farming purposes. A Dominion official responded indignantly: You will observe that the paragraph contains the very important statement that many of these lands are not swamp land at all. Such being the case, I would be glad to have a list of these lands, and in view of the fact that the Manitoba Government are only entitled to the lands described as 'swamp lands,' i f any others were by oversight conveyed to the Province, no doubt it is only necessary to call our attention to the fact in order to have them re-conveyed to the Crown... . 6 8 Increased immigration and settlement were desired by both governments. But population growth imposed heavy responsibilities for infrastructure construction and service provision on the Province, even as it led to increased importation of goods, 6 8 A M , GR 7700, reel M 1640, Swamp Lands File, vol. 1, Secretary of the Department of the Interior to Clifford Sifton, Land Commissioner, 11 January 1893. Underlining in original. 133 which inflated the Dominion's tax revenues. The Dominion had the most to gain and the least to lose from immigration, but still quibbled with the claims of Provincial settlement boosters. Typically, officials got hung up on small details and lost sight of the larger goals of the swamp lands arrangement. The swamp lands arrangement was an aspect of the 1885 Better Terms Agreement, which was intended in part to solve the complicated political problem of the Crown lands in Manitoba. While disagreeing over which government had the better claim to Provincial resources, both concurred that Manitoba's lands could be divided into those fit for settlement and those in need of drainage. The basic division between the potentially settled and the frequently sodden acquired additional significance as it was incorporated into intergovernmental negotiations on land ownership. However, governments invested wetlands with political significance without adequately anticipating or effectively accommodating the environmental processes at work in these areas. As a result, their use of Manitoba's wetlands as a political vehicle drove them further into a political quagmire. As the marshes of Manitoba changed and were changed, trouble stretched on into the first decade of the 20 t h century. As part of the 1912 adjustment to the financial and jurisdictional arrangements between Ottawa and Winnipeg, unsold swamp lands were 6 9 A M , GR 7721, Swamp Lands File, vol. 16, Copy of a Report of a Committee of the Executive Council, 20 September 1906. For a discussion of the controversy surrounding taxes and duties in British Columbia that suggests what was at stake in an era before income tax, see Daniel P. Marshall, "An Early Rural Revolt: The Introduction of the Canadian System of Tariffs to British Columbia, 1871-74," in Beyond the City Limits: Rural History in British Columbia, ed. Ruth Sandwell, 47-61. (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1999). 134 returned to the Dominion. While some swamp lands had been sold at good prices, the majority were in the less fertile and more isolated northerly and easterly sections of the 70 province. Some 2,131,006 acres (863,057 hectares) had been transferred to the Province; some 1,164,412 (471,587 hectares) were returned.71 This was an appropriately political ending to a policy that had faltered largely because it had not adequately accommodated the dynamic nature of Manitoba's wetland landscape.72 / u A M , MG 9 A40, 40-45. 7 1 Tyman, By Section, Township, and Range, 29. 7 2 Striking connections can be made between controversy over boundary-making in the historical Manitoban and the contemporary American situations. In a collection of works of environmental philosophy, Edward Shiappa examines recent controversy in the United States over wetland delineation. He documents how overt conflict between those who would protect wetlands and those who favour development has been circumvented through political endorsement of a geographically-limited conception of wetland. While scientists emphasize that wetlands expand and contract in relation to the amount of water in the surrounding ecosystem and explain that such processes are fundamental to ecological functions, political and corporate interests have favoured definitions limited to permanently inundated areas, because these hive off riparian zones so as to make them available for development. As a result, the development of riparian areas has gone ahead without sophisticated public discussion of alternatives and consequences. Schiappa, "Towards a Pragmatic Approach to Definition," 209-230. For more on the matter, see James G. Gosselink and Edward Maltby, "Wetlands Losses and Gains," in Wetlands: A Threatened Landscape, ed. Michael Williams (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), 296-322. The parallel suggests how wetlands, though literally situated along the margins of valuable dry land and useful water networks, have been, for a lengthy period and in diverse locations, at the centre of many critical debates over environmental management. As wetlands can be conceived as transitional areas between land and water, so do they mark a particularly important intersection between political and environmental landscapes. For a discussion of how contemporary wetlands management differs in Canada and the United States, see John C. McLaughlin, "Progress, Politics and the Role of Conservation: Wetland Drainage in Ontario" (PhD diss., Queen's University, 1995), 290-291. The key point is that wetlands management is primarily a provincial concern in Canada and a federal concern in the United States. For general discussion of the value of comparing land management in Canada and the United States, see Donald Worster, "Two Faces West: The Development Myth in Canada and the United States," in Terra Pacifica: People and Place in the Northwest States and Western Canada, ed. Paul W. Hirt (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1998), 82-85; Paul W. Gates (with Lillian F. Gates), "Canadian and American Land Policy Decisions, 1930," in The Jeffersonian Dream: Studies in the History of American Land Policy and Development, eds. Allan G. and Margaret Beattie Bogue (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996), 148-165., 135 4.4 Reclamation on the Prairies Dominion interest in Manitoba drainage declined after the return of the swamp lands in 1912. At about the same time, the federal government became more involved with similar matters in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The reasons for this go back a decade or more before the creation of these provinces in 1905 and turn in part on the contributions of a particularly energetic and influential civil servant. William Pearce was one of two officials appointed to the Dominion Lands Board, which had "responsibility for making regulations, recommending legislation, formulating resource development policies, and supervising the exploitation of all land, timber, minerals, and water resources throughout the Northwest."73 As Inspector of Land Agencies, Pearce drew on his organizational talents and his surveying experience to organize and supervise land offices across the prairies.74 Described by one historian as the Dominion trouble-shooter, Pearce re-evaluated established practices and engaged in policy development.75 Like many Canadian officials, Pearce found inspiration in other nations as much as in the land before him. Key American figures such as Elwood Mead, territorial engineer for Wyoming, and John W. Powell of the United States Geological Survey caught 76 Pearce's attention. As noted by numerous environmental historians, Powell was an Roderick Irwinn Stutt, "Water Policy-Making in the Canadian Plains: Historical Factors that Influenced the Work of the Prairie Provinces Water Board.(1948-1969)" (PhD diss., University of Regina, 1995), 32. 7 4 E. Alyn Mitchner, "The Development of Western Waters, 1885-1930" (Unpublished manuscript, University of Alberta, 1973), 25. See also E. A. Mitchner, "William Pearce and Federal Government Activity in Western Canada, 1882-1904" (PhD diss., University of Alberta, 1971). 7 5 Stutt, "Water Policy-Making in the Canadian Plains," 32. 7 6 Mitchner, "The Development of Western Waters," 50. 136 early promoter of innovative environmental management. He believed that water in the arid American west should be apportioned to ensure the efficient and equitable use of a scarce resource. Powell took the drainage basin as the key management unit, with resource use to be determined in relation to basin geography. In his view, government management was necessary to ensure that water was administered in the public interest. While neither unprecedented nor uncontroversial, Powell brought such thinking to the American government and his contributions have influenced many, from managers and citizens to geographers and historians.77 By the early 1890s, William Pearce was convinced that the Canadian government should establish a legislative infrastructure appropriate to watershed management as 78 promoted by Powell. Despite government reluctance to take any action that acknowledged an actual or potential shortage of water on the prairies for fear that this would deter potential settlers, and particularly in the context of a series of dry years that even the government could not simply ignore, the weight of opinion gradually lined up While geographer James L. Wescoat identifies the work of George Perkins Marsh and Joseph Nicollet as early efforts to apply lessons learned through European environmental management efforts to North America, he sees Powell's contribution as seminal in American administration. James. L. Wescoat, " 'Watersheds' in Regional Planning," in The American Planning Tradition: Culture and Policy ed. Robert Fishman (Washington, D.C.: The Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2000), 147-171. On the history of watershed management, see also James L. Wescoat Jr. and Gilbert F. White, Water for Life: Water Management and Environmental Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), especially pp. 8-10, 26-46, 248-255. On debates among geographers over the utility of management by watershed, see James L. Wescoat, Integrated Water Development: Water Use and Conservation Practice in Western Colorado (University of Chicago Department of Geography Research Paper 20, 1984), 10-12. Geographer W. R. Derrick Sewell makes an explicit connection between innovative 19th century thinking typified by Powell and the later developments such as multipurpose watershed management, which will be discussed further in chapter seven. W. R. Derrick Sewell, Water Management and Floods in the 1 Fraser River Basin (The University of Chicago Department of Geography Research Paper no. 100, 1965), 1. 7 8 Mitchner, "The Development of Western Waters," 52. 137 behind Pearce's proposals. The result was the passage in 1894 of the Northwest Irrigation Act. Under this statute, all water not already acquired by Act of Parliament (as in the case of small irrigation companies operating under a federal charter) or reserved by prior appropriation (as in the case of riparian rights claimed by early on settlers) was declared to be the property of the Crown. A l l water in the North-West Territories, including both navigable and non-navigable rivers, could be accessed only through a permit system administered by the Dominion government. The provisions of the Act were not modified in 1905 when the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were created, and thus the Dominion government had more control over waterways in Alberta, Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba (which, as part of the North-West Territories in 1894, was subject to the legislation) than in southern Manitoba. Historical geographer Matthew Evenden sees irrigation in Canada as distinguished by the Dominion government's cancellation of riparian rights prior to extensive settlement 81 and its efforts to attract private investment rather than undertake development directly. This approach proved relatively effective at spurring development, but a division of powers appropriate for irrigation became problematic when it became evident that drainage was an essential component of successful reclamation. "In almost all large 7 9 Burchill, "The Origins of Canadian Irrigation Law," 358. 8 0 Mitchner, "The Development of Western Waters," 72. 8 1 Matthew Evenden, "Precarious Foundations: Irrigation, Environment, and Social Change in the Canadian Pacific Railway's Eastern Section, 1900-1930" Journal of Historical Geography 32, no. 1 (2006): 74-95. For another useful discussion of the Canadian situation in relation to American and Australian patterns, see David R. Percy, "Water Law of the Canadian West: Influences from the Western States," in Law for the Elephant, Law for the Beaver: Essays in the Legal History of the North American West, eds. John MacLaren, Hamar Foster, and Chet Orloff (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 1992), 274-291. 138 irrigation projects, particularly i f they have been in operation for some time," explained a memorandum circulated in 1913 in the Water Powers Branch of the Department of the Interior, the lower-lying lands, which when water was first delivered upon them were the most valuable lands within the tract, became after a time so water-logged as to be unfit for cultivation. In many cases such lands became actual marshes.... The problem was seepage. Clearly, from an agricultural perspective, too much water was as bad as too little. The writer concluded that drainage was "as necessary in connection with the successful operation of an irrigation tract as is the delivery of water...."82 Some farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, like some of their Manitoba counterparts, were hindered by water that pooled on or near their lands.83 But drainage advocates in the more westerly provinces faced legislative impediments that Manitobans did not. As with Manitoba in 1870, Alberta and Saskatchewan were granted jurisdiction over land drainage in 1905. In contrast with Manitoba, they lacked legislative authority to undertake or approve work that affected any stream, river, or lake. Since drained water had to be routed somewhere, Dominion control over all alterations to any water body under the 1894 Act effectively forestalled drainage initiatives by the provincial governments. 8 2 LAC, Canada, Water Resources Branch, RG 89, vol. 49, file 22: General Information - Drainage, Memorandum to Mr. Rothwell, 13 January 1913. 8 3 For a suggestive discussion of the problem of seepage, see Fiege, Irrigated Eden, 25-41. 139 This was very different from the situation in Manitoba, where the Provincial government had authority to alter non-navigable waterways. It could allow, prohibit, or ignore alterations to drainage patterns made by individual settlers, government agents, or private contractors as they sought to improve the lands of the province. Manitoba's control over non-navigable waterways was a rather circumscribed sphere of authority, but it was critical for drainage. The practical work of drainage in Manitoba was maintained on a relatively independent trajectory, and one that was substantially different from that in the two more westerly prairie provinces, largely because the Provincial government was responsible for the small waterways that most often figured in drainage works. The drainage and swamp lands arrangements with the Dominion government were important - i f problematic - incentives and supports, but the Province undertook a substantial amount of drainage entirely under its own auspices.84 While able to authorize alterations to non-navigable waterways in southern Manitoba because this area was not subject to the Northwest Irrigation Act, the Province of Manitoba was as constrained as Alberta and Saskatchewan when drainage required alterations to navigable waterways which in all three provinces were subject to Dominion authority under the British North America Act. Some of the most severe and chronic flooding in Manitoba occurred along the banks of the Assiniboine River. Despite the extreme variability of the river's flow, it was considered navigable. Manitoba was therefore not in a position to authorize alterations. As a result, efforts to address flooding along the river were.forestalled, even as drainage projects were underway in surrounding areas. The Province appealed to the Dominion, urging at first that the Dominion undertake the necessary work and later that the Province be granted permission to do it itself. See LAC, Canada, Department of Public Works, RG 11, vol. 4354, file 5816-1-A to file 5816-1-C and vol. 4355, file 5816-1-D to 5816-1-F. Drainage initiatives along the Red River do not seem to have been forestalled by its status as a navigable waterway. This may be attributable to the fact that many early drainage ditches dumped into small natural creeks or streams that ran a short distance back from the river, rather than directly into the river itself. This was the case even with major drains and floodways. For instance, the Shannon Creek Spillway, a large drain running through Drainage District No. 2 "emptied into the Morris River by way of the Moyer (Lewis) Coulee." This description of the Shannon Creek Spillway is from Lowe Farm Chamber of Commerce. Lowe Farm: 75th Anniversary, 1899-1974 (Altona: D. W. Friesen & Sons, 1974), 15. Historical Geographer John Warkentin asserts that provincially constructed drainage channels led into "the short tributaries leading into the Red river." Warkentin, "Water and Adaptive Strategies in Settling the Canadian West," 67. Map 3.1 illustrates how many (but not all) drainage channels led to small tributaries, instead of to the large navigable rivers. 140 As a report of the Reclamation Service of the Department of the Interior summarized, in Alberta and Saskatchewan "divided jurisdiction prevented any material development of drainage either by the Dominion or the Provincial Governments and invited controversy 85 between them." The Dominion was willing to concede that its absolute authority over bodies of water under the Northwest Irrigation Act was not always conducive to progress. Small marshes and shallow lakes might "serve no useful purpose as sources of water supply" and could pose "a serious detriment to the districts in which they 86 occur." Officials from these provinces and the Dominion realized they had a problem, but solutions were not obvious. The stage was set for intergovernmental negotiation. Through a series of conferences, meetings and correspondence that began in 1914, responsibility for drainage was divided between governments, based on project size and ' location. As outlined in the Journal of the Engineering Institute of Canada in March 1919, drainage was separated into four classes: small drainage projects, drainage in connection with road construction, drainage of Dominion land in organized drainage districts, and drainage work initiated by the Dominion government.87 Each class had a While draining into tributaries rather than the main stem of the Red River may have circumvented jurisdictional conflict in some cases, the complete lack of attention to the possibility of Manitoba infringement on Dominion authority in the documents examined to date suggests that Saskatchewan and Alberta may have been unnecessarily cautious about trespassing on Dominion jurisdiction through drainage work. Indeed, the Dominion was displeased with its role in flood mitigation works along the Assiniboine River and might have been willing to tolerate provincial incursions in order to prevent the development of similar situations. 8 5 LAC, RG 89, vol. 290, file 4222, Reclamation Service Report, 8 December 1920. 8 6 LAC, RG 89, vol. 49, file 22: General Information - Drainage, Unsigned memorandum to Mr. Roche, Minister of the Interior, 13 October 1913 141 distinct procedure through which funding and approvals were to be obtained. Together, these regulations provided an administrative infrastructure tailored to the drainage needs of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The federal regulations came into effect in the mid-1910s, just as a series of dry years began. By 1919, many water bodies in Alberta and Saskatchewan were much diminished or even dried completely. Dominion officials who examined the situation concluded that "the natural recession of lakes and sloughs in the west is influenced by two main factors." The first was "recession due to the fact that the cultivation of the land comprising the tributary drainage basin, has reduced or cut off the natural run-off into the lake or slough." As this change was seen as permanent, "the land so unwatered may be deemed to be dry land ... and may be dealt with in the same way as any other Dominion land." 8 8 The second factor was "periodic recession dependent upon the natural precipitation and run-off." As this change was not considered to be permanent, the land thereby exposed had to be managed with an eye to the possibility that it would again be flooded. Dominion officials recognized the dynamic nature of the wetland landscape. They were aware of the need to consider carefully changes in the environment and to accommodate the possibility of change in land management. With regard to much of the land newly-exposed after the dry period of the late 1910s, the Department felt that "it may safely be 8 7 LAC, RG 89, vol. 49, file 22: General Information - Drainage, extract of the Journal of the Engineering Institute of Canada, March 1919. 8 8 LAC, RG 89, vol. 49, file 22: General Information — Drainage, Memorandum for F.E. Drake, 11 July 1919. 142 assumed that the natural condition of the land is such as to be unfit for cultivation" and as such, "the Department would not be justified in dealing with it other than as a water-covered area not subject to disposition by patent until reclaimed." 8 9 Land that was only temporarily dry would soon return to its natural water-covered condition and its administration should not be altered by intermittent dry periods. While officials believed this was sound administrative strategy, they were aware that it could leave them vulnerable to criticism from land-seekers. A large number of patent applications for newly-exposed land were received. Dominion officials believed they understood prairie wetlands better than the average settler, and feared that they would be put in "a rather awkward position" by the failure of the public to differentiate between land that had become dry permanently and land that soon would be once more covered with water. They foresaw that settlers would "make every effort to secure the areas at present dry and will resent any action tending to interfere with their wishes in this respect." But at the same time, administrators were confident that i f they made the land available, it would be "only a question of a few years" until those who got the land would begin to protest "that the Department has sold them land which is either useless, or requires considerable expenditure for drainage to make it of use... . " 9 0 Officials in the Reclamation Branch recognized that only time would tell i f the lands were permanently dry. They recommended that newly exposed lands should be open for 89 Ibid. ' Ibid. 143 homesteading only i f there were evidence that they had been dry for at least three years. If observers could not attest to this, it was likely that the land would become wet again and consequently should not be available to prospective settlers. Drainage officials advised that the Dominion should retain ownership of the highly variable wetlands in the southern parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta. Otherwise, after a series of wet years, newly inundated homesteaders would demand drainage, obliging the Department to undertake difficult and expensive projects. A brief period of dryness did not indicate permanent change, and administration had to accommodate environmental variability. Whereas disputes between Manitoba and Ottawa over the swamp lands arrangement descended into perversity, the officials who administered drainage in Alberta and Saskatchewan held to their sensible policies, even in the face of public pressure. Despite the frustrations of settlers who wanted the dried lands that the Dominion was • withholding, much progress had been made. From a jurisdictional gridlock that had impeded drainage, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ottawa had developed a workable drainage policy. More significantly, officials had come to appreciate that the variability of prairie wetlands should affect land management. Caution was the operative principle. The government did what Molyneux St. John had recommended to Manitoba Lieutenant Governor Archibald decades earlier. "The nature of the country" was taken into account. Ottawa officials managing the swamp lands that Manitoba returned to the Dominion in 1912 exhibited a similar awareness of the need to accommodate the dynamic nature of 144 wetland ecosystems. Following the transfer, an employee of the Department of the Interior was asked about the possibility of dividing these acres into two categories: "those which will require drainage and those which are fairly fit for settlement as they stand."91 There were a number of legitimate means by which the Province could have received good land under the swamp lands arrangement. Square areas (quarter sections or quarters of them, depending on the date) were classified as swamp according to the condition of the bulk of the land. 160 acres (65 hectares) legally defined as swamp land and transferred to the Province could, for example, contain up to 79 acres (32 hectares) of good land. Also, the Dominion government had on occasion agreed to transfer good land to the Province in lieu of swamp land, in order to meet the needs of settlers and railway companies who wanted land classified as swamp. When the land was transferred back to the Dominion in 1912, it was estimated that at least 10% of swamp land was in fact not swampy at a l l . 9 2 But how to distinguish this 10% from the rest? Through the work of the Swamp Lands Commissioners, Manitoba land inspectors, and a 1912 inspection undertaken by Dominion agents, officials had a substantial body of information concerning the swamp lands. But all shared the limitations of the maps produced by Dominion Lands Surveyors. As one official explained: If the subdivision survey were made in a wet year, or after a series of wet years, or in the early part of the season, the surveyor probably found lakes, sloughs, or 9 1 LAC, RG 15, D-II-I, vol. 439, Swamp Lands File, vol. 15, Memorandum to Mr. Cory, 25 July 1913. 9 2 LAC, RG 15, D-II-I, vol. 439, Swamp Lands File, vol. 15, Memorandum re Manitoba Swamp Lands, 6 March 1914. 145 marshes, which he accordingly showed on his plans, which became the Departmental record. If the survey were made in a dry year, or after a series of dry season, or late in almost any season, many of the smaller lakes or sloughs were dry, or practically so.... In Manitoba as in Alberta and Saskatchewan, lands that vacillated between wet and dry were a concern. If lands that were only temporarily dry were granted to settlers, the inevitable return of water would bring a torrent of complaints. Caution in land disposal was the best way to limit the future liability of the government. Responsible policy would take into account the inherently dynamic nature of the wetland landscape. With the 1912 revestment of the unalienated Manitoba swamp lands, the significance of the line between wet and dry changed dramatically. Transferring wetlands to Manitoba had provided a means of sidestepping jurisdictional barriers to drainage. But it had also allowed the Dominion to appease provincial rights advocates without conceding that Manitoba had a legitimate claim to its own resources, as the transfer could be explained in environmental rather than political terms. The political consequences of land classification thwarted meaningful attempts to come to terms with environmental conditions. Until 1912, any change from wet to dry or dry to wet produced aggravation and suspicion because of its implications for government jurisdiction. It was only after swamp land management was separated from the continuing controversy over natural resources management that the challenges of administering Manitoba's dynamic environment came into focus. LAC, RG 89, vol. 49, file 22: General Information - Drainage, Memorandum to Cory, 12 August 1919. 146 Timing was crucial to the different ways wetlands were managed across the prairies. Examining the Manitoba situation makes clear how the environment changed through time. Comparing Manitoba to Alberta and Saskatchewan emphasizes how environmental policy was equally subject to change. Wet areas took O n political implications in Manitoba before conservationist thinking had significantly influenced government officials. By the time Alberta and Saskatchewan addressed their drainage problems in the mid 1910s, administrators were aware that marshy areas could be valuable bird habitat.94 Pressure from conservationists may have helped to keep drainage administrators focused on the environmental context for their work, making it less likely that political considerations would define policy. Drainage became controversial in other ways, as the human benefits of drainage were weighed against the habitat needs of waterfowl. But conservationist debates turned in part on the dynamic nature of wetlands and thus remained far more attuned to environmental processes than political debates over government jurisdiction had been. At numerous points during the late 1910s and early 1920s, Ottawa, Alberta and Saskatchewan tried to involve Manitoba in their deliberations on drainage. Manitoba ignored most overtures, though its reasons were never made entirely explicit. Most likely, provincial officials simply found very little that spoke to their situation in these negotiations because wetlands management in Manitoba had followed a different trajectory. By the time Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ottawa had worked out a legislative 9 4 LAC, RG 89, vol. 50, file 22: General Information - Drainage, J. B. Harkin to F. E. Drake, 7 June 1917. 147 framework for drainage, Manitoba had launched a Royal Commission to investigate aspects of the substantial drainage system already servicing parts of the province. With regard to intergovernmental arrangements bearing on wetlands management before the 1930 transfer of the natural resources to the prairie provinces, Manitoba was a very different place for both political and environmental reasons. 4.5 Conclusion Manitoba's drainage and swamp lands arrangements were meant to sidestep jurisdictional barriers to drainage and to ease contention over Dominion ownership of provincial resources, but they proved a source of confusion and controversy. Administrators were preoccupied by the political consequences of land classification. Environmental change was evaluated primarily for how it bore on land ownership, and suspicion and hostility flowed from the dynamism inherent to regional wetlands. In this way, the drainage and swamp lands arrangements exacerbated the political conflicts they were in part intended to ameliorate. Drainage in Alberta and Saskatchewan was addressed at a later period and without the same sort of implications for government authority. Officials developed a land management policy attuned to variability and the complications that might result i f settlement went ahead in areas that were only temporarily dry. Attention to wet areas sheds new light on the history of the Prairie Provinces by illuminating some of the key legislative and environmental discrepancies within the region. As Reclamation Branch Head F. E. Drake wrote of the Northwest Irrigation Act: 148 "The term 'Irrigation Act' does not adequately indicate the nature of the law." This was because "The Act vests in the Crown, in the right of Canada, the ownership and control of all sources of surface water supply within a certain described territory. It prescribes the purposes for which grants of the right to the use of water may be made, these being domestic, municipal, industrial, irrigation and 'other'. It is thus apparent that the Act covers much more than irrigation rights, and might more properly be described as a general water law." 9 5 Environmental conditions and political developments operated in tandem to distinguish Manitoba from the more westerly Prairie Provinces. Manitoba's wet prairie was beyond the reach of what Drake called the Dominion's general water law. Historian Gerald Friesen has argued that the Dominion's role in civil administration contributed to the consolidation of the prairie imagined community. "Ottawa treated the west," he asserted, "as a single administrative unit for settlement, for lands and forests, for naturalization and police and Indians and transportation and the tariff."96 But water policy was not applied so consistently. If the emphasis were shifted from land to water, southern Manitoba might be better understood as a region unto itself. 9 5 LAC, RG 89, vol. 290, file 4222, Memorandum for W. W. Cory by F.E. Drake, 5 November 1918. 9 6 Gerald Friesen, "The Prairies as Region: The Contemporary Meaning of an Old Idea," in River Road: Essays on Manitoba and Prairie History (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1996), 173-174. 149 5 WATERSHEDS: CONCEPTUALIZING MANITOBA'S DRAINED LANDSCAPE 5.1 Introduction The term 'watershed' has multiple meanings. Taken literally, it can be used to denote a catchment basin; employed figuratively, it refers to a turning point.1 This chapter will draw on both of these in investigating why the idea of watershed management failed to reshape land drainage in Manitoba and what management strategies were adopted instead. There are two key intellectual currents to follow. Like the water that drainers tried to channel, they flowed in unpredictable and uncontrollable ways, moving apart and coming together over time. The first sprang from how the ecological commons created by flows of surface water clashed with the settlement geography created by the Dominion Land Survey and the 1872 Dominion Lands Act. Seeking to facilitate rapid agricultural settlement, the Dominion government laid a grid across the prairies. This was used as the basis for land alienation, with many newcomers laying claim to homesteads of 160 acres.2 Settlers would legitimate their entry by fulfilling certain duties, such as clearing land and erecting buildings. The provisions for settling the west bore on settlers' mental maps as much as on prairie landscapes. The Dominion Lands 1 Watershed can also be used to refer to the high point of land dividing two drainage basins. This usage predominates outside North America. See Michael Quinion, "Watersheds," World Wide Words, 9 October 1999, available from http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-watl.htm: accessed 9 December 2005. 2 For a more detailed analysis of settlement policy, see John Langton, By Section, Township, and Range: Studies in Prairie Settlement (Brandon: Assiniboine Historical Society, 1972). 150 Act confirmed the local significance of the ideas of private property and land improvement conceived in a capitalist context that were part of the cultural baggage of many newcomers. It did nothing to accommodate the patterns of water flow that were so important on the wet prairie. The second stream of thought pertained to jurisdiction between the provincial and municipal governments. More specifically, it turned on which party had responsibility for drain maintenance. This question built on the problematic relationship (considered in chapter three) that had already developed between provincial and municipal governments by the time The Land Drainage Act was passed in 1895. The ongoing environmental change that complicated jurisdiction over Manitoba Crown land also affected the process of draining the wet prairie. As in the early days of drainage, the expectations of many Manitobans remained unreasonable, even as the expectations themselves changed through time. 5.2 The Land Drainage Act and Early Enthusiasm , The Land Drainage Act was passed by the Provincial Legislature in 1895. It provided for the creation of drainage districts: administrative entities intended to facilitate the financing and construction of drainage in geographically-bounded areas. The costs of large-scale drainage would be divided among area residents, in the expectation that the improved agricultural productivity of drained land would more than compensate for the expense. Drainage districts were not unique to Manitoba. By the end of the 19 t h century, such entities were standard in large-scale, government-assisted land drainage projects 151 across North America. 3 In Manitoba, district boundaries were established through an iterative process. Engineers or surveyors provided an initial evaluation of the area proposed for drainage, determining whether the benefits justified the expense. Local support for drainage projects was assessed, and plans might be modified to include the lands of enthusiastic proponents or to exclude the lands of the strongly opposed. Difficulties were encountered i f districts included a significant proportion of Crown land, as the cost of draining these unalienated areas would be spread among district residents, which inflated the drainage levy. 4 Given the importance of public approval and assessable acreage, all drainage districts were compromises between how experts and residents perceived the flood problem on privately-owned lands.5 They amounted to an aggregation of quarter-sections that were both flooded and settled. 3 Mary R. McCorvie and Christopher L. Lant, "Drainage District Formation and the Loss of Midwestern Wetlands, 1850-1930," Agricultural History 67, no. 4 (1993): 29-39. Drainage districts can usefully be considered in relation to a body of literature dealing with special government districts. Though most scholars have focused on later districts conceived for reasons other than drainage, this literature helps situate the drainage district within an institutional lineage. Unfortunately, there has been little attention to Canada by scholars of special government districts. Representative works include John C. Bollens, Special District Governments in the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957); Donald Foster Stetzer, Special Districts in Cook County: Toward a Geography of Local Government (The University of Chicago Department of Geography Research Paper no. 169, 1975); Nancy Burns, The Formation of American Local Governments: Private Values in Public Institutions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); Kathryn A. Foster, The Political Economy of Special-Purpose Government (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1997). The importance of special government districts to water management is emphasized in Donald J. Pisani, Water and American Government: The Reclamation Bureau, National Water Policy, and the West, 1902-1935 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 292. 4 The problem was amply demonstrated in Drainage District No. 1, when much Crown land was included and residents responded by refusing to pay their drainage assessment. Manitoba. Drainage Commission. Report of the Manitoba Drainage Commission. (Winnipeg: King's Printer, 1921), 8,21. 5 Griffiths, "The History and Organization of Surface Drainage in Manitoba," 4-6. 152 The new legislation addressed a major shortfall in earlier efforts at drainage. Effective surface drainage, whether natural or artificial, requires a dendritic pattern of interconnected channels, with smaller waterways collecting runoff and conveying it to more substantial courses. Drains have to be planned not just in relation to the land they serve, but also in relation to each other. Early drainage was hampered by inadequate systematization. Drainage projects in the post-1895 period were distinguished not only by number and size from the fewer and more moderate undertakings of an earlier period. There was also the question of design. The more secure and substantial funding available under The Land Drainage Act allowed provincial officials to plan on a broader scale, ensuring adequate outlets for the water they removed from flooded areas. Drainage in Manitoba depended largely on the construction of surface ditches. Drainage districts abutted the major lakes and rivers of the province, and either dumped directly into them or, more often, into smaller tributaries. Compared to the challenges of conveying water over vast distances for irrigation or the cost of installing tile drains underground, the logistics of draining Manitoba were relatively simple. Generally, government surveyors or engineers laid out the drains and the government contracted with private firms to construct them under the supervision of provincial inspectors. The primary contractor often entered into arrangements with a number of subcontractors. While a substantial amount of work was done by horse and plough, large ditch-digging machines were also employed. In Drainage District No. 1, for instance, two dredges were built on location. They started digging at the high end of one of the major drains and floated downstream in their own ditch as they worked toward the outlet. These 153 massive, steam-powered dredges were slow, but they completed a large amount of excavation in early 20 t h century Manitoba.6 Moreover, these imposing machines leant a sense of grandeur to the enterprise, confirming the association between drainage and progress. By 1903, there were already 13 drainage projects underway, encompassing just over a million acres. They were numbered in order of creation and identified by number. Drainage districts had been created across a significant portion of the more densely settled southern portion of the province, stretching from near the eastern shore of Lake Manitoba to the Saskatchewan border and from the international boundary to more than halfway up the northern basin of Lake Winnipeg. Despite the extensive area over which they extended and without disregarding differences between local environments, drainage districts shared a similar geographical character. The topography of southern Manitoba has been compared to a vast soup bowl, with the comparatively flat basin of the Red River valley bounded on the east by the irregular topography of the Precambrian Shield and on the west by the dramatic increase in elevation along the Manitoba Escarpment. Most of the drainage districts of the province were situated at or near the bottom of the Manitoba soup bowl (see Map 5.1).9 6 Griffiths, "The History and Organization of Surface Drainage in Manitoba," 7. 7 Warkentin, "Water and Adaptive Strategies in Settling the Canadian West," 60. 8 Edward Ledohowski, The Heritage Landscape of the Crow Wing Study Region of Southeastern Manitoba (Winnipeg: Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism, 2003). 9 The most notable exception to this general statement is Drainage District No. 1. In addition to overland flow from adjacent areas, the marsh was fed by a significant number of underground springs. Flooding in this region was not simply a question of runoff pooling in low areas. The springs - "subterranean rivers," 154 Map 5.1: Drainage Districts in Manitoba, 1933 Adapted from A M , Manitoba Department of Mines and Natural Resources, Surveys Branch, Map of Manitoba, Southern Portion, 1933; Map: The Drainage Districts in Ellis, The Soils of Manitoba, 29. What did this mean for drainage? In 1950, provincial government investigator R. H. Clark described the situation in the following terms: The tributaries which originate in the rolling hills to the west and the high flat marsh plains to the east have steep slopes of entrance to the valley. Upon reaching the ancient lake bed [the bed of glacial Lake Agassiz] these slopes quickly flatten out and, since the channel through the plain has not sufficient according to an early provincial report - meant that, regardless of alterations to drainage patterns and local topography, the area remained swampy. A M , GR 1530, Order-in-Council # 619, Re Report of the Minister of Public Works on lands reclaimed by drainage, 14 January 1882. Today the area is known as Oak Hammock Marsh and is home to the head office of Ducks Unlimited. 155 capacity to carry the flows, the water quickly tops the banks and spreads out over the valley. 1 0 In the evocative language employed by early drainers, watercourses would "lose themselves" as they passed from the sides to the bottom of the soup bowl. Water would spread out across extensive areas of land. While some of it eventually found its way to the lowland waterways, much of it pooled in slight depressions and disappeared only through evaporation.11 Though some areas were afflicted more severely than others and some districts also confronted more localized challenges to drainage, the problem of water pooling in the bottom of the bowl was common to many areas of southern Manitoba. In the view of C. G. Elliot, an international expert on land drainage, the problem was "peculiar to this region," at least in its severity. The soup bowl topography was not taken into account in the formation of drainage districts. The Manitoba approach to district formation can be usefully contrasted to the sort of thinking that defined water administration in the region that came under the 1894 Northwest Irrigation Act. In the area that became the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, water was administered in relation to conditions throughout the drainage basin. As resolving the problem of scarcity meant looking around for outside sources, arid regions leant themselves to a spatially-expansive conception of water management. The Northwest Irrigation Act prevented prospective owners from viewing the land 1 0 A M , GR 45, N - l 1-3-16, Notes on Red River Floods with particular reference to the flood of 1950 by R. H. Clark, October 1950, 14. " A M , GR 1607, G 7987, J. A. Macdonnell to the Minister of Public Works, 30 December 1898. 1 2 A M , GR 1609, file: Drainage Commission, Report on Land Drainage in the Province of Manitoba by C.G.Elliot, 5 June 1918. 156 solely through the lens of the Dominion Lands Act, as they were obliged to think not only of how to get land but also of how to get water. In contrast, the problem of excess in agricultural Manitoba could be considered in a spatially-restricted manner, in relation to the lands immediately afflicted. The narrow focus did not situate the problem of flooding within the larger watershed. This was comparable to irrigators trying to solve aridity without importing water from wetter regions. Work within drainage districts can thus be seen as the construction of a watershed substitute: modifications within limited areas afflicted by flooding were to solve a problem ultimately derived from the geography of the watershed. With drainage districts defined by the spatial extent of flooding, rather than in relation to the larger watershed in which the flooded lands were embedded, the water that ran in from higher lands became known as foreign water. The distinction between foreign and local water was central to conflict over drainage in Manitoba. Rather than a proliferation of limited upstream/downstream conflicts among individuals, relatively coherent geographically-defined communities of interest emerged. In many areas that stood to benefit from drainage, interpersonal conflicts were dwarfed by the general significance of one large slope of consequence. Residents shared a comparable topographical location with their immediate neighbours and with many others within their local community. Foreign water was less a matter between neighbours and more a 1 3 This phrasing is inspired by John Opie's description of the Ogallala aquifer as a 'climate substitute' for farmers in the Midwestern United States in "100 Years of Climate Risk Assessment on the High Plains: Which Farm Paradigm Does Irrigation Serve?" Agricultural History 63, no. 2 (1989): 254. Donald Worster has referred to the Ogallala aquifer as "invented" water. The drainage district can be understood as an invented watershed: Donald Worster, "Climate and History: Lessons from the Great Plains," in Earth, Air, Fire Water: Humanistic Studies of the Environment, eds. Jill Ker Conway, Kenneth Keniston, and Leo Marx (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), 62. 157 matter between localities differentiated by elevation. Because of this, individuals' feelings of anger and resentment coalesced through discussions with others who were similarly afflicted. The terms highlanders and lowlanders became part of the local discourse, consolidating communities of interest among those who occupied similar topographical locations and suggesting conflicts of interest with those who lived at different elevations. To better understand the development and operation of these communities of interest, it is helpful to focus on a particular location. Drawing out the nature of the debate in one place suggests the range of concerns and the modes of thought manifest in local debates throughout the province. This method of inquiry also reflects how many alterations to drainage policy came about: a problem that was especially acute in one area prompted the government to change general practices. Government investigation and intervention, rather than litigation before the courts, was the prime means of dispute resolution. Drainage District No. 2, situated between the Manitoba Escarpment and the Red River south of the Assiniboine, had a particularly severe problem with foreign water. Events in this area — by far the largest of the Districts at nearly 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) — bore heavily on government policy. 1 5 The use of 'highlander' and iowlander' to describe actors in this debate is also apparent in newspaper reports. For examples, see the Manitoba Free Press (16 February 1922) and the Winnipeg Tribune (8, 15, and 22 February 1922). 1 5 There were eventually 2,109,154 acres included in drainage districts. See Appendix II for a 1934 break-down by district. To provide context, after the rapid increases in cultivated acreage early in the 20 th century, the number of acres under the plough in Manitoba remained relatively stable through the 1940s, ranging from the high 7,000,000s to the low 8,000,000s. 1921 saw an unusual peak of 9,022,738 acres, which would not be reached again until 1941. See J.H. Ellis, Manitoba Agriculture and Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Activities (Department of Agriculture, 1944), 39. 158 The Manitoba Escarpment is a key topographical feature of the province - the highest and steepest side of the soup bowl. In an examination of the escarpment, geographer W. J. Carlyle provided a good description of the environmental factors that contributed to the foreign water problem in Drainage District No. 2. In the spring months, the flow of melt water from the escarpment was often delayed by the snow and ice that persisted on the low lands. Though precipitation is generally lower to the west, the highlands are vulnerable to intense rainstorms in May, June, and July. The swift moving waters carry a great deal of sediment eroded from the shaly till and shale bedrock of the escarpment.16 Annual snowmelt flooding that overwhelmed lowland streams; flash floods caused by intense precipitation; and the sediment that clogged waterways and ditches: all clearly descended from the highlands to the west. There was no disputing these basic facts of physical geography and few did. Most lowlanders were content to tolerate some of this, believing that lowlands should absorb what was understood as the natural flow from the highlands.17 Drainage District No. 2 was incorporated in 1898, and work according to the original plan took until 1907 to complete. Through a series of main and feeder drains branching out across the area, flow patterns were fundamentally reshaped. The area had included a 1 6 W. J. Carlyle, "The Management of Environmental Problems on the Manitoba Escarpment," Canadian Geographer XXIV, no. 3 (1980): 255-269. 1 7 The Unpublished Sesional Papers contain an incomplete transcript of the hearings of the Legislative Committee on Drainage about the 1921 Report of the Manitoba Drainage Commission. A M , GR 174, G 8374, file 13: Special Committee on Drainage, Drainage Committee Report. Another partial transcript is in the files of the Minister of Public Works, A M , GR 1609, G 8019, file: Drainage - General, Drainage Committee Report. 159 few substantial wetland complexes such as the Boyne Marsh and the Tobacco Creek Marsh. Drainage efforts zeroed in on these locations, and ditches were constructed in number and capacity appropriate to the existing problem. The massive project took years to complete, buoyed throughout by the optimism of residents and experts. At the same time, however, rapid environmental change was also taking place beyond Drainage District No. 2. Settlement, clearing, and ploughing had increased in areas both within and beyond the drainage district. The 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) of Drainage District No. 2 accounted for barely a third of a watershed of over 1.2 million 18 acres (nearly a half million hectares). Though flooding in the district was moderated for a few years by dry conditions, 1912 brought severe inundation. This inaugurated another period of intense construction that concluded in about 1915. By this point, matters were coming to a head. Lowlanders were beginning to look beyond the drainage district to explain continued flooding. They began to articulate the view that ongoing cultivation and deforestation in the longer settled regions along the Escarpment were affecting flow patterns in ways detrimental to the lowlands. In the lowlander view, agricultural progress in the lowlands was hampered by the changed flow patterns derived from agricultural progress in the highlands. In 1918, the Red River Valley Drainage and Improvement Association was formed. Made up largely of representatives of the municipalities of Drainage District No. 2, the aim was to lobby the government more effectively.19 The Government of Manitoba was receptive to the Association's A M , Drainage Maintenance Boards Minutes and Office Files, GR 7784, Q 032694, file: Drainage -General, Memorandum Related to Drainage District No. 2, n.d. 160 concerns and connected them to expressions of discontent received from individuals in the area and in other drainage districts. It was clear that something had to be done. Drainage in southern Manitoba was at a watershed. 5.3 The Sullivan Commission and the Watershed The Provincial Government was eager to respond, but was not clear how to proceed. Officials sought the advice of Charles Gleason Elliot, a prominent American drainage engineer. Elliot served as Chief of Drainage Investigations for the United States Department of Agriculture and had published numerous works on drainage.20 His Engineering for Land Drainage: A Manual for the Reclamation ofLands Injured by Water was in its third printing by 1919. In 1918, at the request of the Manitoba Department of Public Works, Elliot conducted an examination of the Manitoba drainage 21 system. He was contracted to suggest the sort of inquiry that should be mounted into i drainage problems in Manitoba and to offer preliminary thoughts on possible solutions. Elliot submitted his report to the Minister of Public Works in June 1918. It contained much that was favourable. Well-acquainted with the challenges of drainage, Elliot appreciated the government's efforts to grapple with a difficult situation. Early efforts seemed well-intentioned and at least moderately successful, given the severity of 1 9 AM, GR 1609, G 8019, file: Drainage - General, Drainage Commission Notes by Mr. McColl, n.d. 2 0 C. G. Elliot is discussed as a significant figure in the planning and administration of American drainage projects in Meindl, Alderman and Waylen, "On the Importance of Environmental Claims-Making," 682-701. 2 1 AM, GR 1609, G 8019, file: Drainage Commission, Report on Land Drainage in the Province of Manitoba by C. G. Elliot, 5 June 1918. See also AM, GR 7784, Q 032694, file: General, Text of an Address delivered at annual meeting of Union of Municipal Drainage Districts by F. E. Umphrey, 27 November 1945. 161 Manitoba's drainage problem. The province was keeping pace with other regions of the British Commonwealth, many of which were in the process of "revising and perfecting their drainage systems and doing it at large expense."22 On balance, his report praised The Land Drainage Act, while recommending some adjustments. Though he was careful not to anticipate the results of the official investigation, C. G. Elliot envisioned major changes. In a manner reflecting the careful tone of his report, Elliot began by noting the challenge of establishing appropriate drainage district boundaries, especially "where natural drainage lines do not point out clearly the divisions between the watersheds."23 He asserted that expert examination of the land was the only way to define watersheds effectively, and recommended that a survey should be part of any government investigation. Though couched in diplomatic terms, it is clear that Elliot made a connection between the constrained boundaries of drainage districts and the problems with which they were afflicted. He goes on to further clarify the matter: a drainage district unit cannot often follow political divisions without violating some law of slope or controlling topographical feature of the land. We should observe and be governed by conditions which Nature has imposed, as nearly as we can. 2 4 2 2 A M , GR 1609, G 8019, file: Drainage Commission, Report on Land Drainage in the Province of Manitoba by C. G. Elliot, 5 June 1918. 23 Ibid. 2 4 Ibid. 162 Elliot had, with feather-light touch, put his finger on the heart of the drainage problem. He also pointed out possible pitfalls in striving for resolution. From a discussion of the importance of the watershed, he moved directly to address the matter of public relations. He recommended that any Commission formed by the government should keep in close touch with the affected settlers, as "the cordial cooperation of all parties concerned is highly desirable, and even necessary, i f the best results are to be obtained." In a manner consistent with Elliot's vision, a commission was formed by an Order-in-Council of 17 January 1919.25 J. G. Sullivan, a civil engineer much experienced with railroads, was appointed chair with farmer H. Grills and entrepreneur J. A . Thompson rounding out the commission. The commissioners spent about two years examining the question of drainage through the study of local geography, research on drainage practices elsewhere, and consultations with experts and settlers. They returned their report in December 1921. It lacked Elliot's diplomatic tone, and began with a curt dismissal of complaints about excessive taxation and corruption. It then went on to address the causes of flooding, determining that "the greatest factor causing damage from flooding is the changed conditions since the districts were first formed."26 The change was particularly marked in relation to Drainage District No. 2. In seven townships just beyond the western boundary of the District, there were 4,177 acres (1,688 hectares) of improved land in 1877. Some 13 years later, the amount of cultivation had increased by nearly 4,000 acres (1616 hectares). In 1915, there were 2 5 A M , GR 1530, Order-in-Council # 30724, Report of a Committee of the Executive Council, 17 January 1919. 2 6 Drainage Commission, Report, 11. 163 82,000 acres (33,128 hectares) ploughed. By the early 1920s, nearly all of the land in the area was cleared of timber and planted to crop. In lands further west but still within the watershed, commissioners put the rate of cultivation at 75%. The problem, as the report explained, was that such changes worsened flooding in the drainage district: "no matter how well the original channels were designed, and no matter how well they were maintained, they would not now be capable of properly taking off the extra rush of waters that comes from the higher grounds on account of the changed conditions."27 Confronted with the inadequacy of the drainage district as a watershed substitute, commissioners pondered what to do. They proposed a solution, to be applied to all the drainage districts of the province: the boundaries of the drainage district should "include all lands whose surplus waters drain into said district and are carried by an artificial channel through it to a natural outlet."28 Sullivan concluded by asserting that the watershed was the natural division of lands, arguing that "any other division leads to disputes."29 Subsequent events would demonstrate that the watershed approach was no safeguard against disputes. Following the return of the report in December 1921, the Legislative Committee on Drainage convened a series of public hearings. Partial transcripts of the proceedings have survived, and provide a vivid picture of how the watershed idea was Ibid., 20. Ibid. 164 received. Not surprisingly, opinion often broke along topographical lines. The Province had sent notice of the hearings to the municipalities of the province, and those who testified were identified as representatives of specific municipalities (Map 5.2 shows the location of all municipalities involved). Many from municipalities that overlapped substantially with one or more drainage districts were sympathetic to the idea of watershed management. For instance, a representative from Roland, the eastern half of which was included in Drainage District No. 2, argued that "there seemed to be no other logical boundary for [drainage] except the watershed."30 A M , GR 1609, G 8019, file: Drainage Commission, Drainage Committee Report, p. 54. Municipal representatives who spoke in favour of the report came from the municipalities of Rhineland, Ste. Rose, Glenella, Roland, Morris, Macdonald, Cartier, and Tache. This list draws on both the hearing transcripts and newspaper reports published in the Manitoba Free Press (16 February 1922) and the Winnipeg Tribune (8, 15, and 22 February 1922). 165 Map 5.2: Municipalities and Drainage Districts, 1933 Adapted from A M , Manitoba Department of Mines and Natural Resources, Surveys Branch, Map of Manitoba, Southern Portion, 1933; Map, The Drainage Districts in Ellis, The Soils of Manitoba, 29. Those from highland municipalities took a different view, and the arguments they presented before the Committee are worthy of careful consideration. Many highlanders disputed the relation between an action in one region and an effect in another that underlay the watershed idea. They were not convinced by the assertions of the Sullivan Report, which they dismissed it as overly theoretical, and demanded more concrete proof of connections between highland change and lowland floods than the report 166 furnished. Further, they doubted that such proof would be forthcoming, as the Commission's description did not square with how they understood their lands. Many had a different view of the effect of cultivation on surface water patterns. Reeve D. F. Stewart of Thompson Municipality, situated directly to the west of Roland, argued that the Sullivan report was "entirely wrong" in its assertion that extensive cultivation had led to hastened and increased runoff. He was blunt: "any farmer who knows anything about farming knows that cultivated land will not run off water faster than wild land." There was a logic behind his assertions: "the frost is out two feet on the cultivated land before it is out of the grass land, and it is free therefore to absorb more water...." To Stewart's mind, commissioners had an erroneous understanding of the environment. He sought to enlighten them, explaining that in many parts of Thompson Municipality, "we are holding that water back all we can, and would like to get more. We have lost our crops for want of water. It is not drainage but irrigation we want."31 From the highlander vantage point, the report was simply wrong about the Manitoba environment. Sullivan had not anticipated this line of critique. Indeed, he was entirely confident that all would see the inherent justice of aligning drainage district boundaries with the watershed and assessing all landowners within the watershed for a portion of the expense of drain construction. His confidence was reinforced by officials in the 3 1 A M , GR 174, G 8373, file 13: Drainage Committee Report, Testimony of Reeve D.F. Stewart, Thompson Municipality, pp. 33-44. According to the hearing transcripts and media reports, speakers from the municipalities of Stanley, Thompson, Pembina, Lome, Grey, Dufferin, Victoria, and South Norfolk disagreed with the Report of the Manitoba Drainage Commission. 3 2 A M , GR 1609, G 8019, file: Drainage - General, Drainage Committee Report, p. 182 167 Manitoba Department of Public Works. H . A . Bowman, Chief Engineer in the Reclamation Branch, wrote to the Chair of the Legislative Committee, explaining that after having "given this matter considerable study" he had come to the conclusion that management by watershed "is the only solution to the acute problem before us." Further, at this point he felt sure that it would "be hard to find any Engineer of repute who has made a study of reclamation who will hold a contrary opinion." 3 3 However, scientific consensus on watershed management was not complete. While the experts cited by the Sullivan Commission emphasized that, as a general rule, tree cutting and crop planting increased both the speed and amount of runoff, the link between action in one part of the watershed and effect in another remained diffuse and controversial. For instance, Engineer Bowman himself noted in a 1929 letter that "opinions are largely divided among Reclamation Engineers, the majority, perhaps, being of opinion that growth or denudation of timber has little or no effect on total run- off."3 4 Contrary to Sullivan's expectations, even experts disagreed over the effect of highland drainage on lowlands. Highlanders had an alternative explanation for the proposals contained within the Sullivan Report. Those who felt ill-served were quick to claim collusion between lowlanders and the Commissioners. The recommendations would unfairly involve highland farmers in the solution of lowland problems, despite the fact that highlanders had their own environmental challenges to confront. Highlanders were not mollified by 3 3 A M , GR 174, G 8374, file 13, H. A. Bowman, Reclamation Branch Chief Engineer, to W. C. McKinnell, Chair, Legislative Committee on Drainage, 16 February 1922. 3 4 A M , GR 1611, G 8062, file: Reclamation Branch, H.A. Bowman to D.G. McKenzie, 12 April 1929. 168 Sullivan's assertions that their contributions to the costs of drainage would be comparatively moderate, and that i f the rate of flow had not been increased, they would not be liable at all. Highland representatives completely rejected the idea of watershed management. Indeed, they found it "incredible that any legislative body should attempt to put across such a despotic and arbitrary matter as this." The report of the Sullivan Commission seemed a "diabolical plot," and those opposed vowed to fight against it "until the last ditch." 3 5 Why such strident language? The answer to the question goes to the heart of the matter. For those affected, such terminology seemed only appropriate to what they saw as a fundamental betrayal of the terms under which they had taken up land in the province. Highlanders were being told that they contributed to lowland flooding not through an acknowledged evil such as irresponsible drainage but through the apparently good actions of clearing and cultivating. Under the Dominion Lands Act, homesteaders were required to clear land and make improvements in order to secure title to their lands. Purchasers would do the same in an effort to capitalize on their investment. Highlanders who cleared land had been doing just as they had been encouraged - even obliged - by government. Now the Sullivan Commission asserted that by improving the land, highlanders had rendered themselves liable for damage to the lowlands.3 6 How could this be? 3 5 A M , GR 1609, G 8019, file: Drainage Commission, Drainage Committee Report, pp. 20, 33, 48, 55. 3 6 The fact that the Dominion Lands Act was federal legislation and land drainage was governed by provincial legislation did not receive any attention. Likely, jurisdictional distinctions seemed less significant than the regulations themselves. 169 Beyond the question whether such good work as land improvement could have negative consequences such as financial liability, there was the issue of whether settlers had any responsibility for quarter-sections other than their own. Much highlander testimony came in the form of stories of settlement on quarter-sections beset with challenges every bit as daunting as the flooding that afflicted lowlanders. Indeed, some Highlanders claimed to have recognized the flood danger in the lowlands and decided that they preferred to invest time and money in clearing and breaking the highlands. The census of 1921 suggests that, once established, farms in the lowlands were generally more productive than those in the highlands.37 Resentment was exacerbated by what seemed the injustice of funding the improvement of, in the words of the representative from Thompson Municipality, "land which is worth much more than ours."38 Before the Legislative Committee, the complexity and diversity of highland settler experiences was reduced to one substantive point. They had received no assistance with the hard tasks they faced on arrival. So why should they assist with drainage? One highlander explained how he paid $4,500 for a highland quarter-section that had been already cleared of timber. His brother paid $1,700 for undrained lowland that was subject to flooding.3 9 In his mind, the $2,800 difference in their initial outlay represented the price of improvement, whether what was needed was clearing or 3 7 The 1921 census suggests that the lowlands were in fact more agriculturally productive than the highlands, despite drainage problems. Canada. Census of Canada. Table 79: Farms and Farm Property, 1921. 3 8 A M , GR 1609, G 8019, file: Drainage Commission, Drainage Committee Report, pp. 33. 3 9 A M , GR 174, G 8374, file 13, Drainage Committee Report, p. 127. 170 drainage. Having paid the price himself, he was unwilling to subsidize his brother. Not even familial relationships moderated the conviction that individuals should fund improvements to their own homesteads. Highlanders felt they should be free to do as they wished on their own lands. Indeed, it was the opportunity for private land ownership extended by the Dominion Lands Act that had drawn many to the prairies. The notion of watershed management proposed by the Sullivan Commission conflicted with the individualistic terms in which settlers conceived their lives. This was a heated debate and its key referents were the fundamental legislative and ideological pillars that underpinned the settlement of the Canadian prairies. The Dominion Lands Act linked private property and agricultural progress, as homesteaders proved up by cultivating their lands. In southern Manitoba's soup bowl, progress for some meant disaster for others. Watershed management seemed to some a solution, but to others, a betrayal. The watershed concept would have redefined property and progress by establishing a relation between highlander and lowlander areas. As highlanders could potentially be obliged to contribute to the cost of lowland drainage, they would be involved in the improvement of lands they did not own. Not surprisingly, they objected. Environmental historian Mark Fiege has used patterns of water flow to explain the experienced environmental and social world of irrigated Idaho.40 The Manitoba example illustrates that settlers not only lived amidst watershed processes, but also Fiege, Irrigated Eden, 34-41. 171 engaged actively with the notion of the watershed. They were enmeshed with the watershed not only experientially, but also intellectually. For some, notably the highlanders, other ways of conceptualizing their land and their lives seemed to them both more accurate and more fair. The watershed idea did not accommodate the human history of the landscape - the notion of private property legitimized by agricultural improvement that was, to settlers, entirely naturalized. The scope of the debate, in which watershed management was likened to treachery, certainly made it more difficult for any party, individual or government, to advocate the adoption of management by watershed. In the wake of the hearings, the Provincial Governmen
UBC Theses and Dissertations
Wet prairie : an environmental history of wetlands, flooding and drainage in agricultural Manitoba, 1810-1980 Stunden Bower, Shannon 2006
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