In the Road Allowance Era, Echo’s story picks up again when she travels back in time to 1885.
The bison are gone. The Manitoba Act’s promise of land for the Métis has gone unfulfilled, and many Métis flee to the Northwest. As part of the fallout from the Northwest Resistance, their advocate and champion Louis Riel is executed. As new legislation corrodes Métis land rights, and unscrupulous land speculators and swindlers take advantage, many Métis begin to settle on road allowances and railway land, often on the fringes of urban centres.
For Echo, the plight of her family is apparent. Burnt out of their home in Ste. Madeleine when their land is cleared for pasture, they make their way to Rooster Town, squatting on the southwest edges of Winnipeg. In this final instalment of Echo’s story, she is reminded of the strength and resilience of her people, forged through the loss and pain of the past, as she faces a triumphant future.
This fourth volume in the A Girl Called Echo series rounds out the history of Métis dispossession from their land and subsequent social marginalization brilliantly. While dealing with the hard issues of colonialism, Vermette sensitively points to the resilience, determination, and power of Métis people. In Road Allowance Era, the stories of Ste. Madeleine and Rooster Town take their place alongside the more prominent stories of Métis nationalism situating the power of Métis family as the source of their survival.
Is enthralled the correct word when describing such a dark chapter in Métis dispossession, along the road allowances in the western prairies? Or is enraging more apt? Or maybe brilliant blinding beauty? Because that's what Vermette has achieved here. Even as the graphic novel closed, I was reflecting on this staggering and respectful work. A swell in my chest, a pride in my spirit; you'll feel the strength of our people, the Free People, the Otipemisiwak, against the injustice of Canadian imperialism in the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries.
Among CBC Books 22 Canadian comics to watch for in spring 2021