Contesting Rural Space: Land Policy and Practices of Resettlement on Saltspring Island, 1859-1891

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McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, 2005 - History - 324 pages
An intriguing mix of African-American, First Nation, Hawaiian, and European, the early residents of Saltspring Island were neither successful farmers nor full-time waged workers, neither squatters nor bona-fide landowners. Contesting Rural Space explores how these early settlers created and sustained a distinctive society, culture, and economy. In the late nineteenth century, residents claiming land on Saltspring Island walked a careful line between following mandatory homestead policies and manipulating these policies for their own purposes. The residents favoured security over risk and modest sufficiency over accumulation of wealth. Government land policies, however, were based on an idea of rural settlement as commercially successful family farms run by sober and respectable men. Settlers on Saltspring Island, deterred by the poor quality of farmland but encouraged by the variety of part-time, off-farm remunerative occupations, the temperate climate, First Nations cultural and economic practices, and the natural abundance of the Gulf Island environment, made their own choices about the appropriate uses of rural lands. R.W. Sandwell shows how the emerging culture differed from both urban society and ideals of rural society.

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Reading the Rural with a Microhistorical Eye
Settling Up the Wild Lands
Commercial Farmers?
Rocks and poor soil characterized much of Saltspring Island
Joe Nightingale and Jim Horel
Political Economy and Household Structure
Road crew is working on a bridge across Cusheon Creek
The Stevens and their lodgers
Violence Racism
Mural on the wall of an island pub celebrating the life and work
Melvin Estes son of William Estes
Cohesion and Fracture in Saltspring Island Society
The Bittancourt family on the porch of their large house 182
Log schoolhouse at Central Settlement near Ganges

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About the author (2005)

R.W. Sandwell teaches in the department of theory and policy studies, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.

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