Forest Prairie Edge

Place History in Saskatchewan

Merle Massie (Author)

Saskatchewan is the epitome of the “prairie” provinces, even though half of the province is covered by boreal forest. The Canadian penchant for dividing this vast country into easily-understood “regions” has reduced the Saskatchewan identity to its southern prairie denominator and has distorted cultural and historical interpretations to favor the prairie south.

Forest Prairie Edge is a deep-time investigation of the edge land, or ecotone, between the open prairies and boreal forest of Saskatchewan. Ecotones are transitions from one landscape to another, where social, economic, and cultural practices of different landscapes are blended. Focusing on the Prince Albert region ecotone, Merle Massie delves deeply into the varied uses of the land over the centuries, from Indigenous meeting place to mixed farming community, from transportation hub to industrial resource extraction site. Along the way we meet fascinating area residents, some just travelling through and others whose presence had lasting impacts on the land through political and commercial enterprises.

By studying what other historians have commonly dismissed as “scrub land,” Massie shows how the edge ecotone has repeatedly offered refuge from the economic and environmental instability of the southern prairie landscape. Her lively and engaging book overturns long-held assumptions about settlement patterns, economic development, and what it means to be from the “prairies.”


  • WINNER, Luther College and University of Regina Arts Award for Scholarly Writing, Saskatchewan Book Awards (2015)


“Reveals new narratives, rewrites others, and is yet another demonstration of the excellent environmental history scholarship that has been produced in Canada in recent years.”

Mark McLaughlin, Trent University, H-Net Reviews

“Massie’s command of her sources and intimate knowledge of the place and people allow her to weave together a story that is both personal and universal, and always enlightening.”

– James G. Lewis, Forest History Today

“An excellent piece of local history that complicates Saskatchewan’s provincial history, provides an excellent resource for scholars interested in how to do local place history, and presents a much more nuanced picture of the settlement of the Canadian prairie.”

Matthew Zantingh, Briercrest College, The Goose

“A remarkable piece of work that has contributed to filling a significant gap in both Saskatchewan and Canadian history. This book challenges not only dominant regional approaches to environmental history, but also the assumptions held by most of us about Saskatchewan as a purely prairie province.”

Naomi Horst, University of Guelph, NICHE

“This provocative place history, which calls even Saskatchewan’s designation as the ‘Land of Living Skies’ into question, offers a powerful lens through which to view, interpret, and further question the place in which we find ourselves, regardless of where that is.”

Brenda Schmidt, Alone on a Boreal Stage

“Massie brings new perspectives from environmental history into the fold, including invaluable discussions of fuel, ecological consequences of exploitation, and the evolving character of agriculture and subsistence in the forest fringe, to offer an exceptional and innovative contribution to our historical understanding of the west.”

– Liza Piper, History and Classics, University of Alberta

About the Author

Merle Massie is a Saskatchewan writer, editor, and farmer who specializes in local, rural, and environmental history. Visit Merle’s website.

Book Details

  • Forest Prairie Edge: Place History in Saskatchewan
  • Merle Massie (Author)
  • Published April 2014, 336 pages
  • Paper, ISBN: 978-0-88755-763-7, 6 × 9, $27.95
  • Topic(s): Environmental Studies, Geography, History

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