NeWest Press’ General Manager, Matt Bowes, had this to say about why they published The Seven Oaks Reader and what it brings to the Canadian historical table.
The pianist Glenn Gould revelled in counterpoint, whether in Bach’s compositions or his own radio documentaries: In Idea of North, Gould presented a series of voices that sometimes ran overtop one another. Text can’t quite achieve this polyphony – the eye can read only one line at a time – but it can come close. Myrna Kostash’s Seven Oaks Reader, originally developed for radio, is a contrapuntal history of the 1816 gunfight known as the Battle of Seven Oaks, which took place near the Forks in today’s Winnipeg. The skirmish lasted only 15 minutes but left 22 dead and would long reverberate in relations between settlers and natives. In Seven Oaks Kostash arranges short passages from multiple sources – journals, histories, fiction, songs – that together form an at times contradictory narrative. From those contradictions emerge larger truths about finding meaning in history. A work that heeds the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to build “capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.”
Review by Jade Colbert, Globe and Mail
Myrna Kostash’s The Seven Oaks Reader is an impressive effort to pull together all the information and perspectives imaginable on the controversial event that played a crucial role in the initial defining of Métis identity on the Prairies, while also providing a justification for Anglo-Canadian settlers for wresting control over the region from Métis and First Nations people alike.
Helped me to better understand what happened. Though I felt the book tried to balance both sides, it came off a little unbalanced. Good read though and will spur me on to read more about this important time in western Canadian history.
This book is rare in its suitability for both personal and academic contexts. Kostash painstakingly puts together a full narrative of the Fur Trade Wars, with a wide array of primary and secondary sources. Yet, it is a comfortable and often amusing read! I used this book for research about Red River jurisdiction, but I will certainly return to it for a later reading.