It is now official: on Monday, December 13th, 2010, I successfully defended my PhD dissertation in the Department of History, University of Saskatchewan. As a newly-minted PhD, my role as a professional historian, writer, editor, and all-around storyteller has been given a stamp of approval.
My grateful thanks to everyone involved in the process of writing and defending a doctoral dissertation. Over the past four years, I have been supported by graduate student colleagues, professional colleagues within the History Department and elsewhere across campus, by people in my hometown region north of Prince Albert, by my family and by the people of the community of Biggar, in which I currently reside.
Specific kudos and thanks go to my committee: Dr. Erika Dyck, Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine; Dr. Jim Miller, Canada Research Chair in Native-Newcomer Relations; Dr. Geoff Cunfer, a specialist in agricultural and Dust Bowl history (as well as the Department’s hard-working Graduate Student director); and Dr. Maureen Reed from the Department of Geography, who brought a new, and much appreciated, perspective on the material.
My external reviewer was Dr. George Colpitts from the University of Calgary. Not only did he brave the cooler Saskatchewan weather, but his insight into local and place history, his suggestions for further improvements, and his overall response (very positive and complimentary) was appreciated.
Other key players in the dissertation process included Andrew Dunlop, who was a tremendous help in scanning the photograph and map collection, and Nadine Penner, the hard-working center of adminstration for the graduate students. The staff at both the Saskatchewan Archives Board and the Prince Albert Historical Society have been unfailingly helpful and enthusiastic.
It was my honour to work with Dr. Bill Waiser as my advisor throughout the process. His depth of experience, his writing expertise, his expert handling throughout the administrative hurdles, and his tremendous sense of humour and support opened the way. I am endlessly grateful.
The title of the dissertation is: “At the Edge: The North Prince Albert Region of the Saskatchewan Forest Fringe to 1940.” In it, I argue that the forest edge is an ecological and cultural ecotone between two different environments and two different ways of life. Canadian history that depicts Saskatchewan using only the iconic images of endless fields of wheat have skewed the Saskatchewan story. In fact, I argue, from First Nations use of the western interior to the end of the Great Depression, Saskatchewan inhabitants used both landscapes of prairie and forest in concert to provide the necessities of life.
I build the story from First Nations use of the Saskatchewan Forks/North Prince Albert region through the rise of the lumber industry, the introduction of farming and soldier settlement, the occupational pluralism typical of the forest edge where locals drew their living from both farm and forest, the rise of tourism (Lakeland and Prince Albert National Park), and the local boom during the Great Depression, where thousands of refugees flocked to the forest fringe, abandoning the wheat belt Dust Bowl.
I will upload the document to this website once all the changes requested by the committee have been made.
My thanks and appreciation to all.