150 years ago, the Canada we are so familiar with was a very different place. The border between the United States and Canada had been established in 1818, but to many of the people living on both sides of the border, either to the north, in Rupert’s Land, or the American territories in the south, it was little more than a line drawn on paper. To many of the indigenous people of the Plains, this border meant little to them, as their traditional territories had been long established before men in far-off cities decided a line would be drawn where there was no line before. In the long years of conflict as indigenous people fought to preserve their lands and ways of life the 49th Parallel became known as the ‘Medicine Line’ for its almost mystical ability to stop American or British troops. Where once bison roamed freely, today it is marked by fences and tightly controlled border crossings. The wild landscape has been replaced in large part by massive-scale monoculture, and much of the world Riel knew has been changed. Over the next few posts, it is my aim to provide an idea of what that land was like, through photos and images curated to give a glimpse into a past now vanished.
About the Author:
I’m Ella Speckeen, a second year student of Archaeologist and Anthropology at the University of Oxford. As a Métis woman, traditional Métis fiddler, and historian, I hope that my perspectives, notes, and commentary can provide insight into the land of Riel.
About the Photographer:
Many photographs appearing in these collections were taken by Matthew Lloyd, a fourth year Biochemistry student at the University of Oxford. Matthew is a keen naturalist and amateur photographer, and was invaluable in spotting and identifying the diverse range of flora and fauna we encountered on the prairie this past summer.