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Book Review: Churchill Hudson Bay – A Guide to Natural and Cultural Heritage

Our February Book of the Month Club Selection by Lorraine Brandson

Book Review by Laurie MacNevin, Historical Fiction Associate Editor

Lorraine Brandson’s book is a complete guide for the local, the visitor, or just the curious bystander which gives details and history about all the life in Churchill; people, animals, plants, even the stones, the wind, and the stars. I have never seen a more complete history of a place. Brandson covers everything:

  • A chronology of Churchill from 1700 BC when pre-Dorset cultures first left their marks there to present day with the plans for a new Churchill Marine Observatory run by the University of Manitoba
  • Indigenous histories with details on palaeo-Eskimos, the Caribou Inuit, Sayisi-Dene (The People Under the Sun), the Maskekowininowak (Swampy Cree), and the Metis
  • Henry Hudson, British Explorer, Hudson Bay is named after him
  • The fur trade era, Prince of Wales Fort, Sloop Cove, York Factory
  • The street names of Churchill, the story of the name of each street in the town
  • The Churchill railway, the history of the railway and the importance of Churchill as an inland shipping route
  • Geology and Paleontology of the region
  • Atmospheric Science and Astronomy of the region, there are few places in the world where the northern lights are this magnificent
  • Northern Ecology, Churchill is a place which provides unique opportunities for scientists to study the north
  • Diversity of Life: pictures and scientific details about sea mammals, land mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and terrestrial arthropods of the area

Why we love this book:

“We are all guilty of overlooking the culture and history of our home and region, often too busy tending to our own daily routines and commitments.”
-Lorraine Brandson

Lorraine describes in detail the interaction between the Indigenous people and the European settlers in the Churchill area paying close attention to the lives, histories, traditions, stories, and culture of Indigenous people. Her attention to those details and perspectives which are so often missing from other histories is refreshing and feels right. The history of Churchill is about all the people who lived there and for Lorraine it isn’t just about the people, it’s about the inter-connectedness of everything—the people, the land, the animals, the plants—the lives of all of them are all tied up together in a beautiful and complex system.

Though it sometimes reads a bit like a textbook, the book is peppered throughout with stories collected from Dene oral tradition, tea and bannock recipes given by locals, and details about the animals, plants, and sealife which thrive there. Lorraine’s book is a work of pure love and attention which, in a world where we often rush past and don’t notice the details, is valuable and unique just for that. Lorraine’s mindful approach to the place she calls home can teach us all a little something about noticing the details.

What about you? Do you know the history of the place you live? Do you know any details about the plants, animals, geography, or stars of your home? Share with us in the comments!

About the Author:

Lorraine Brandson is the Curator of the Eskimo Museum in Churchill and has a long term interest in heritage and environmental stewardship of Northern lands. A Churchill resident since 1973, she has authored two books on Inuit and Dené culture and serves as the photograph archivist for the Churchill-Hudson Bay Diocese. Brandson has contributed to a number of northern initiatives, including Chair of the Working Group Committee that negotiated the establishment of Wapusk National Park (1996).

Book Details:

Published by The Churchill Eskimo Museum and the Diocese of Churchill Hudson Bay in 2011. Reprinted with revisions in 2016. Buy it here!

See also Lorraine Brandson’s book Carved From The Land: The Eskimo Museum Collection. Published by The Churchill Eskimo Museum and the Diocese of Churchill Hudson Bay in 1994 (First Edition) Buy it here!



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Photo of Polar Bear by Dan Bolton

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