Can you imagine what it was like in prairie in the late 1800s?
- For the Cree, Dakota, Dene (Chipewyan), Nakota (Assniboine) and Saulteaux first nations people, living on the prairie?
- For the first settlers crossing the beautiful (and easy to travel) prairies?
I imagine what the settlers would see and think: all that open sky, all that open land. No cities, no crowds, no people. Beautiful, and scary. The wagons would be uncomfortable as the land is bumpy from all of those gopher holes. Depending on the time of year, it might be lush or full of tall, dry grass. Regardless, this is somewhere that things grow.
Then the wagons would hit the badlands. Repeating myself from a previous post, I asked a scientist what defines “badlands”, expecting some kind of biogeoclimatic answer, but the answer was that the early settlers called these lands terres mauvaise (literally bad lands) because the land was bad to bring a wagon through. No kidding. I’m sure it hasn’t changed much in 150 years, these badlands are hard enough to hike in, never mind having to pull a wagon through them.
What I loved about Grasslands National Park (my 2nd favourite stop on my way across the country on my Canada 150 trip, after Twillingate, Newfoundland) is that the park preserves this for us. It is basically untouched. As I was there, I could see and imagine being there 150 years ago, the land is just the same.