‘Valley of the Birdtail’ wins 2023 Stubbendieck book prize

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‘Valley of the Birdtail’ wins 2023 Stubbendieck book prize

Black-and-white photos of Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Douglas Sanderson (Amo Binashii) on color campus background
Andrew Stobo Sniderman (left) and Douglas Sanderson (Amo Binashii)

The winner of the 2023 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize is “Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reserve, a White Town and the Road to Reconciliation” (Harper Collins, 2022) by Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Douglas Sanderson (Amo Binashii).

The book prize, awarded by the Center for Great Plains Studies, celebrates the most outstanding work about the Great Plains during the past year, chosen by an independent group of scholars.

Sniderman is a writer, lawyer and Rhodes Scholar from Montreal who has written for The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, and Maclean’s. He has also argued before the Supreme Court of Canada, served as the human rights policy adviser to the Canadian minister of foreign affairs and worked for a judge of South Africa’s Constitutional Court. Sanderson is the Prichard Wilson Chair in Law and Public Policy at the University of Toronto and has served as a senior policy adviser to Ontario’s attorney general and minister of Indigenous affairs. He is Swampy Cree, Beaver clan, of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation.

Divided by a beautiful valley and 150 years of racism, the town of Rossburn and the Waywayseecappo Indian reserve have been neighbors nearly as long as Canada has been a country. Their story reflects much of what has gone wrong in relations between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. It also offers, in the end, an uncommon measure of hope.

“While the events conveyed are broadly relevant and resonate across the Great Plains, Sniderman and Sanderson focus their telling on two families, one from each side of the Birdtail River, a specificity that makes the history feel uniquely vital and urgent,” said Todd Richardson, a University of Nebraska at Omaha professor and book prize chair. “Indeed, the families’ stories … culminate in a hopeful instance of reconciliation, hope the authors build upon by outlining bold, achievable steps toward broader reconciliation between settler and Indigenous communities. ‘Valley of the Birdtail’ is engaging, thoughtful and precisely researched, and it warrants both a wide readership and the Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize.”

Book prize winners receive a $10,000 cash prize are invited to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to present a lecture on the book’s topic. First-edition, full-length, nonfiction books copyrighted in 2022 were eligible for the award. Jim and Cheryl Stubbendieck have supported the book prize for more than a decade.

Other finalists:

  • “Born of Lakes and Plains: Mixed-Descent Peoples and the Making of the American West” by Anne F. Hyde (W.W. Norton)

  • “Cattle Beet Capital: Making Industrial Agriculture in Northern Colorado” by Michael Weeks (University of Nebraska Press)

Learn more about the award and the Center for Great Plains Studies.

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