This year’s winner of the Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize, presented by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Great Plains Studies, is Michel Hogue’s “Métis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People.”
The book tells the story of the Métis, descendants of the French-Canadian fur traders and northern indigenous tribes in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. They were important economic and political intermediaries between white and Native peoples on both sides of a poorly defined U.S.-Canada border. The “Medicine Line” is what some Natives called the U.S.-Canadian border because it seemed to magically stop American soldiers from pursuing them further. Hogue’s meticulous research reveals this unappreciated and critical component of northern Great Plains history.
And it’s a history that is still evolving. In April, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Métis and other non-status Natives are considered “Indians” in the eyes of the federal government. The ruling means the group can pursue benefits from Canada’s Indian Act, including land claims, the right to discuss policy on a federal level, and public services such as health care and education.
“The awards committee was impressed by the breadth of Hogue’s research, which documents more than a century of dramatic change on both sides of the ‘Medicine Line’ stretching from Minnesota and Manitoba to Alberta and Montana,” said book prize chair David Wedin, professor in UNL’s School of Natural Resources.
Hogue is an assistant professor of history at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The book is published by the University of Regina Press in Canada and University of North Carolina Press in the United States.
“It was a challenge to tell such a story on this broad regional canvas and to try to narrate it in a way that audiences on both sides of the border might find meaning in it,” Hogue said. “I hoped that these family stories would allow readers to connect the broad processes of colonization and nation-making to the lived experiences of those in its pages.”
This year’s other finalist was “The Cowboy Legend: Owen Wister’s Virginian and the Canadian-American Frontier” by John Jennings (University of Calgary Press).
The book prize winner receives a cash prize of $10,000 and the Stubbendieck Distinguished Book Prize medallion. The prize was created to emphasize the interdisciplinary importance of the Great Plains in today’s publishing and educational market. Only first-edition, full-length, nonfiction books published in 2015 were evaluated for the award.
For more information about the Center for Great Plains Studies or the Stubbendieck Book Prize, click here.