UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

The Road Allowance People

Young adult fiction highlights the history of the Metis

By Carolyn Pogue

If you haven’t heard of the Road Allowance People, I urge you to ask your library or bookstore to order Jacqueline Guest’s new book, Outcasts of River Falls.

The Road Allowance People were the Métis, who, without a homeland, were forced to build homes and communities on the crown land known as “road allowance” land set aside for a highway. They lived a precarious existence, welcome neither in white settlements nor allowed to live on Treaty land. The Crown land, of course, could be appropriated or developed at any time; people were often burned out of their homes or otherwise forced to move.

In a fast-paced story, readers meet a Toronto orphan who finds herself living with her Aunt Belle, a survivor of the 1885 Louis Riel Uprising. This is young adult historical fiction that cuts close to the bone.

Guest is a prolific author who this year received a well-deserved Indspire Award (formerly the Aboriginal Achievement Award). She lives in a log house in Bragg Creek, Alta., in the Rocky Mountain foothills, where bear, deer and the odd cougar are neighbours. She travels the country a great deal meeting her primary audiences in schools. In fact, we became friends on an author tour in Fort McMurray, Alta., and later connected again when she was launching her book Ghost Messages in Newfoundland. Her presentations are full of interesting anecdotes, humour and passion. And encouragement — lots of that.

Her passion is literacy, kids and Canadian history — the real history, I mean. Which is why writing about the Road Allowance People, also rudely called the Ditch People, is important to her. Literacy has been famously called “the new buffalo” by another Métis author and storyteller, Maria Campbell, the author of several books, including the shocking 1970s memoir Halfbreed.

Outcasts of River Falls is Guest’s fourth historical novel after Belle of Batoche, about the Riel Uprising; Ghost Messages, about laying the first trans-Atlantic cable from Ireland to Newfoundland in 1865; and Secret Signs, set during the Great Depression on the Prairies. Guest has written 13 other books for young readers, including many with sports themes. Several are award-winners. Her settings and characters are uniquely Canadian, which is another reason I enjoy them.

Don’t let the “young adult” label on the novel turn you away from a good read. Do yourself a favour and dig into Outcasts this summer. Maybe start reading it on Canada Day.


Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Announcement

New Observer editor and CEO, Jocelyn Bell. Photo by Lindsay Palmer

New editor named

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: My Year of Living Spiritually

by Observer Staff

Anne Bokma left the Dutch Reformed Church as a young adult and eventually became a member of the United Church and then the Unitarian Universalists. Having long explored the "spiritual but not religious" demographic as a writer, she decided to immerse herself in practices — like hiring a soul coach, secular choir-singing and forest bathing — for 12 months to find both enlightenment and entertainment.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image