In 1875, Icelandic immigrants established a colony on the southwest shore of Lake Winnipeg. The timing and location of New Iceland was not accidental. Across the Prairies, the Canadian government was creating land reserves for Europeans in the hope that the agricultural development of Indigenous lands would support the state’s economic and political ambitions. In this innovative history, Ryan Eyford expands our understanding of the creation of western Canada: his nuanced account traces the connections between Icelandic colonists, the Indigenous people they displaced, and other settler groups while exposing the ideas and practices integral to building a colonial society.
Ryan Eyford is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Winnipeg. He has published articles and chapters in Histoire sociale/Social History, the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, Sport History Review, and the edited collection Within and Without the Nation: Canadian History as Transnational History.
A particularly powerful aspect of White Settler Reserve is the richly detailed portrait it paints of the "First New Icelanders" who formed communities in this colonization reserve. By bringing their names, experiences, and struggles to this new audience, Eyford has helped to ensure their stories will not be forgotten.
White Settler Reserve contextualizes the emigrant story, and triangulates what is sometimes simplified into a binary relationship between settlers and indigenous peoples, lands and humans.
Western Canada’s bloc settlements are an understudied aspect of Canadian land policies in the nineteenth century, making Ryan Eyford’s study of New Iceland in Manitoba a welcome addition to the field.
White Settler Reserve exposes one of those corners of Canadiana omitted from official records and federal observances of this 150th anniversary of Confederation. It is shocking and intriguing, the best kind of history.
[White Settler Reserve] highlights the early and ongoing interactions between the Icelanders and Indigenous peoples, beginning with the pre-existing land claims and including the devastating impact of smallpox, adding greater depth and context to the history of New Iceland and to the history of the settlement of the Canadian Northwest.
White Settler Reserve is a sophisticated and persuasive consideration of the interplay of liberalism, colonization, and emigration, and of that “dialectic process between the centre and the periphery” (p.191) that was an integral part of the iconic story of the settlement of the Canadian West."