That “Frozen” North!
A plaimspoken condemnation of the perversion of Arctic geography by Canadian textbooks
IN AN article on the perversion of history through foreign textbooks, Napier Moore contended in a recent MacLean’s that building up within Canadian youth a pride of Canada is one of the legitimate functions of our schools. He showed how far from this objective were the United States histories we have been using. Then Colonel Kirkpatrick,
again in MacLean’s, pointed out inaccuracies found in English schoolbooks which transmitted to their readers impressions not always in keeping with the facts. By inference, we gather that if our children are to learn the truth about our country they must have textbooks written and published here.
Being a geographer, and considering that a pride of Canada may be built upon geography no less than upon history, I have been curious to learn how far the schools of our country describe it so that boys and girls shall grow up to feel pride in its nature and confidence in its resources.
This summer I have had the chance to learn. Travelling on a lecture tour through seventy-five towns and cities between the Rockies and the Great Lakes, I bought along the route various readers and geographies which would seem to conform to the requirements laid down by Mr. Moore. They were written in Canada, they were published in Canada, they each bore the stamp of
approval of the provincial departments of education. Some of them, indeed, had prefaces which outlined the reason for which they were written—to present a strictly Canadian point of view.
All this sounds reassuring if you think that the misinformation and pessimism about Canada found in our lower schools are likely to be the product of foreign influence. But actually a study of histories and geographies will show that the historical depreciation of Canada about which many have complained in foreign textbooks does not equal the geographic depreciation of Canada in our native books. There is probably no large section of our history where the worst foreign book
approved for use in our schools is more than ten or twenty per cent incorrect. Moreover, that incorrectness is not all derogatory. But it is easy to find widely used textbooks written in Canada, where the entire geographic teaching, so far as it deals with the northern two-thirds of Canada, is two-thirds wrong, with the misstatements chiefly derogatory.
If Canada is valuable only in its southern third, as the majority of textbooks say either specifically or by
The contrast between the optimism of scientific fact and the pessimism of schoolbook fiction with which this article proposes to deal is little more than a contrast between the teaching of the lower schools and that of the universities. We warn the reader in advance, therefore, that if he has studied geography in some modern university he will find little in the following discussion except tedious repetition of what he already knows. Still, it may divert him, if he reads, to marvel afresh that the higher teaching is so slow to percolate down into the lower schools.
innuendo, then we may be all right in quality but we can never amount to much as a nation in wealth or power. But if Canada is valuable even to the north coast of the last island north of our mainland, as many of those best informed about the Far North believe, then we have a larger territory than even the United States upon which to build an eventual national greatness. Few things can, therefore, be of more importance to Canadians than the question of our northern resources and the climate that will hinder or help their development.
The lower schoolbooks we shall quote in this article, for contrast with university teaching, are: Ontario Public School Geography, authorized for use in the public schools of Ontario; The Teacher’s Manual, authorized for use of teachers in Ontario; Public School Geography, authorized for use in the public schools of Alberta; Manual of Geography, I, authorized for use of teachers and high-school students
of Alberta; Dent’s Canadian Geography Readers, Book II, optional or supplementary reading in several provinces; The Canadian School Geography, authorized for use in the public schools of British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Saskatchewan; Canadian Readers, authorized for use in the public schools of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Most of these books are dated 1928 or 1929. All of them were bought from displays for the present school season.
The observed temperatures about to be quoted in this article for contrast with the textbooks are, unless otherwise stated, taken from the records of the Dominion Meteorological Service. Some of the other facts used are from Government reports; most of the rest are from my own observation through ten winters and thirteen summers spent in the Arctic, during which I travelled there afoot about 20,000 miles-a good oppor tunity to see conditions as they are.
That “Arctic” Winter
CTUDYING the books purchased, I ^ found that practically all of the geograph.es were still holding to the ancient Greek philosophical view that the farther north you go the colder it is, no matter what the season of year. One book expresses it, “The temperature steadily decreases from the Equator to the Poles,” and the others have the same idea worded differently. It is “especially unfavorable for both plants and animals.” In the Arctic “terrible blizzards often rage for days together.”
Postponing our discussion of the more important season of summer, what are the facts about the Canadian winter?
One is that children in certain wheat-raising sections of Alberta, who probably shudder with sympathy for the poor Eskimos, are themselves living in a region that has minimum winter records as low as seventy-eight degrees below zero. The probable lowest temperature for the North Pole itself is twenty degrees warmer, say fiftyeight or sixty below. The lowest temperature recorded on the north coast of Canada is fifty-two below, but we have the following below zero minima from the southern third of Canada: Quebec, sixty-three; Ontario, sixty; Manitoba, sixty-three; Saskatchewan, seventy; and Alberta, seventy-eight.
There is probably, then, no Eskimo living who has felt a temperature as low as thousands of our children face going to school in prosperous communities of southern Canada. If there are Eskimos who have felt cold equal to that of some of our farming communities, they belong to tribes that winter inland, well to the south of the coast dwellers.
As to blizzards and snowfall: excluding the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the line of heaviest snowfall in Canada is approximately at the Canada-United States border. Storms are, on the average, fewer and milder in the Arctic than in any other equally large area on earth, as the great explorer, Nansen, pointed out more than thirty years ago. It is for these reasons among others that trans-Arctic flying is steadily pushing to the front as the practical solution of commerce by air between the Old World and the New.
However, from the strictly economic point of view, it makes little difference what we teach in the schools about the winter temperatures of Canada. Mining, for instance, can be carried forward in any climate, for among the successful coal mines are those of Alabama,
1.000 miles south of Winnipeg, and those of Spitsbergen,
2.000 miles north of Winnipeg. In factory work the expenditure for fuel varies and is an important charge against operation, but still there are great industrial centres developing all the way from Birmingham to Montreal. Blizzards are perhaps unpleasant, but Regina is growing as substantially as Miami; cold may
distress you, but Montreal is larger than New Orleans. Of the two Red River valleys, the one in Louisiana is warmer, but the one in Manitoba is more prosperous.
The Maligned Northern Summers
TINTER temperatures, then, have little effect W upon the prosperity of lands or the growth of cities, nor do blizzards signify. It is the summer temperatures that matter, and the length of the summer, for upon them depend the economic vegetations that give food to the people and feed to grazing animals.
The greatest economic damage to Canada that is wrought by the public schools is, therefore, in the maligning of our northern summers. For the schools teach as a principle that the farther north you go the
colder the summers become. They do further harm by misrepresenting not only the summer temperatures of Arctic and sub-Arctic Canada but also the length of the growing season.
As to the heat and length of the northern summer and some of their direct results, the textbooks approved by various provinces teach the following things among others. “In northern Canada and northern Alaska during the short summer the very slanting sunlight is unable to raise the temperature much above the freezing point,” says a geography approved by several provinces. “There is no warm season (in the Arctic),” is how we are told the same thing in a manual of geography authorized by a department of education for the guidance of teachers, and printed not by a commercial house, but by a King’s Printer. Every province has some officially approved textbook that states or implies that hot weather— eighty to ninety degrees in the shade —does not occur in the Arctic at all, and that it occurs rarely even in those parts
of the Northwest Territories that lie between the Arctic Circle and the northern boundaries of the Prairie Provinces.
This would be sad if true. But the summer temperatures in the Mackenzie District of the Northwest Territories hard up against the Arctic Circle really go to ninety-six degrees, while the highest for Prince Edward Island is only ninety-two. The highest temperature recorded since 1900 in Winnipeg is one hundred degrees and the same temperature has been recorded in Alaska by the United States Weather Bureau at Fort Yukon, north of the Arctic Circle. Temperatures ranging from eighty to ninety degrees are common both in the Canadian and Alaskan Arctic.
Some of the lower school geographies give the real facts of Arctic summer temperatures, but do not correlate them so as to enable an ordinary student to realize that what the textbook says elsewhere about the summer never being warm must be incorrect. The texts state, for instance, that in midsummer the sun delivers about half as much heat per hour in the Arctic as it does at the Equator. Elsewhere they mention that the Arctic day is twenty-four hours long and the equatorial day only twelve hours long. What they do not draw attention to, thus failing to enlighten the careless reader, is that there is no difference between the result of half the heat-delivery for double the time and double the heat-delivery for half the time. It is exactly because you have this condition that you expect, and do get, tropical heat in those north polar lowlands (and they are extensive) where sea breezes do not seriously interfere.
“The Barren North”
HAVING described the climate in such unfriendly terms, perhaps it is consistency that impels the textbooks to make the vegetation correspond with it. "Much of this vast area," says one, "is a treeless wilderness of rock and swamp, covered with mosses and lichens which provide food for the caribou and musk ox." “In the extreme north,” says another, “(there is) a cold desert where, however, vegetation is not entirely wanting; for in the marshes in summer the ground becomes covered with reindeer moss on which the caribou and musk oxen feed.” “Why cannot trees grow there?” asks a third, to which the general textbook reply is that the winters are too cold for them. A reading selection continues the work of the geographies with, “In that land there is little but ice and snow.”
Again, what are the facts? One is that
inside the Arctic Circle mosses and lichens are not so prevalent as they are inside the textbook covers. They comprise less than ten per cent of the vegetation by tonnage. The other ninety per cent is represented by flowering plants. In all my Arctic experience I have never found a region where mosses and lichens prevailed over the flowering plants. I had to visit a section near Churchill, Manitoba.. 600 miles south of the Arctic Circle, to see that sort of country.
What about trees? The Forestry Branch of the Department of the Interior has reported trees seventy feet high, straight, and fourteen inches through, a hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle in Canada. Similar trees go at least twice that far beyond the Circle in Siberia. Moreover, the textbooks imply in most cases, and specify in one, that winter cold limits the growth of trees; but the coldest known spot north of the equator—Verkhoyansk, in the Yakutsk Province of Siberia—has a dense forest of both evergreen and deciduous trees, although the recorded temperatures go down to ninety-three degrees below zero. The Prairie Provinces which have approved this book are themselves in part treeless. Would they appreciate the intimation that this is because of the cold? And if so, how can they reconcile the teaching of their schools with the fact that the largest treeless sections of the Prairie Provinces themselves are in their southern parts, the largest forests in the northern?
The “Snowy” North
THE textbook allegation that in the Arctic “there is little but ice and snow” conveys to the child among other things the idea that there is a heavy snowfall. Instead, the snowfall, as previously mentioned, is heavier in the most southerly hundred miles of Canada than in the most northerly hundred. Or again, the pupil may think the statement means that in July and August there is more
snow or ice on the ground in the north. But the fact is that British Columbia has ten times as much permanent snow as the whole of the much larger section of our continent designated the Northwest Territories. The part of Alaska which lies in the Temperate Zone has a hundred times as much permanent snow as there is in the Arctic section. In the South Alaska mountains the snow line comes down to sea level; in the North Alaska mountains it is 4,000 to 6,000 feet above the sea.
Lest the child may think that the
desolation and worthlessness are largely confined to the Arctic Circle proper, a fifth-year reader instructs him in part as follows: “Long before the treeless wastes are reached, the forest ceases to be forest except by courtesy On the shores of Great Bear Lake—which is, of course, in the Temperate Zone—four centuries are necessary for the growth of a trunk not so thick as a man’s wrist Still farther
north the trees become mere stunted stems set with blighted buds that have never been able to develop themselves into branches; until, finally, the last vestiges of arboreal growth take refuge under a thick carpet of lichens and mosses, the characteristic vegetation of the Barren Grounds.”
The textbook editor borrows this heartening description, and much other cheerful information about our resources and climate, from a book entitled, humorously enough, “Greater Canada.” If a country thus described be indeed a “Greater Canada,” then we wonder what those may believe about us who are really pessimistic.
Against this “Greater Canada” view let us set the facts, uncontested by those who have lived on Great Bear Lake and have traversed the forest north of it to where it meets the Arctic prairie. Instead of being no bigger around than your wrist, the larger trees on Bear Lake are a foot and a half through, and more than a hundred feet high. There is no such gradual diminution in size as the author makes out. We have already mentioned, for instance, the Forestry Service report which describes trees seventy feet high a hundred miles north of Great Bear Lake and within five miles of the beginning of the prairie. Again there is Big Stick Island, northeast of Great Bear Lake, a clump really beyond the tree line. It is only a few acres, and yet the trees are a foot and a half through, tall and straight.
I have come in from the Arctic prairie to the northernmost forest at various points on a thousand-mile front ranging from
the Colville to the Coppermine, and I have never seen the peculiar trees of “Greater Canada” with “blighted buds that have never been able to develop themselves into branches.” Once, for instance, when I discovered trees just a few miles inland from Franklin Bay in a section where I did not expect them, I entered in my diary the unusually (forme) poetic description that I had seen “a little band of Christmas trees climbing the hillside.” They were of such proportions as to branch and stem that they would have been saleable at Yuletide in any of our cities.
What About Those Barren Grounds?
\\ JE HAVE commented before on the W textbook idea that the chief vegetation of the Arctic, or even of the “Barren Grounds,” is mosses and lichens. Here we comment rather on the name itself—Barren Grounds. According to a bulletin of the Department of the Interior issued last winter, the epithet “Barren Grounds” was originally applied to the prairie districts between Winnipeg and Calgary. When growing knowledge showed how absurd the name was for that section, it was not abolished as it should have been, but was, so to speak, lifted up and transported from the southern prairies across the northern forest to the northern prairies and there set down to do its part in holding back the development of the North as it already had held back the development of the West.
I was born and brought up in that West which was originally called “Barren Grounds,” and have often said that had I been transferred in my boyhood by magic from the prairies, across which I used to ride as a cowboy, to the prairies of Banks Island, 200 miles north of the north coast of Canada, I should have known on waking up that I was not in my home district, but I could not have decided offhand that I was not somewhere in northern North Dakota or southern Saskatchewan. Dropping on my knees and playing Sherlock Holmes, I could have decided by careful study of the vegetation and soil that I was in a strange
place, but looking off to the skyline I should have felt at home. There would have been the same rolling prairie, with perhaps somewhat less grass but with a great many more flowers. Had it been winter there would have been snow on the ground in both places, but less in Banks Island than in Saskatchewan.
With such experience of the trees,
grasses and flowers of southern and of northern Canada, it is easier for me to read the lower school textbooks as works of humor than of sober instruction. But the children take them seriously, and it is difficult to look upon the results as merely funny, especially if you have a stake in the country, either through birth or affiliation.
The Ground Frost
'T'HE ground frost of northern Canada is made a handicap in the textbooks. But in real life it is useful as often as not. “Fields of ice and snow and a permanently frozen subsoil effectively limit man’s movements in the Arctic regions,”
says one of them, and that is a fair sample of what most of them say or imply.
The first advantage of frozen subsoil is that there can be no dry season. The growers of cereals and vegetables count on that in Alaska now. So do the reindeer ranchers. For if the season has less rain than usual it means only that the ground will thaw deeper than usual, and the roots of the plants will reach farther down for their water. The only thing the rancher has to guard against is the trampling out of the forage vegetation by the animals, just as he would if he were an Australian sheep farmer. So far as dry seasons are concerned, he can graze the same numbers on a given ranch for any period of years, a thing the Australian cannot do, for his feed varies with the rains.
A second advantage, less important, but spectacular and about to come much into public view, bears upon flying. For where there is a frozen subsoil there is no underground drainage, and rain and thaw waters stay where they fall. This creates innumerable lakes all over the country, providing flyers with natural landingfields for pontoons in summer and skis in winter. That is one reason why accidents are fewer in the Arctic than in temperate or tropic flying. If you are a mile high and you develop engine trouble, you can always glide to a safe landing where the subsoil is frozen.
Those who have kept track of the advance of the Hudson Bay Railway from
The Pas to Churchill, even if it be onlythrough press dispatches, are familiar with a third advantage, for the ground frost has simplified and made cheaper and easier the building of that important pioneer line. In so far as the cost of construction is derived from taxes, the people of the whole of Canada have already benefitted in purse and pocket from the very condition which they formerly thought would increase the building costs.
COMING back again to Arctic vegetation in the textbooks, we find a reader approved for school use in four provinces saying: “There are no trees in this cold land, but there is a kind of hard brown moss that grows under the snow.” There are known to be more than 300 species of Arctic moss. These the textbook ignores along with more than 700 kinds of flowering plants. And why does this one moss that is known to the textbook compiler do its growing under the snow? Isn’t it poor judgment for even a moss to wait idle during the hot summer and to begin to grow in the fall when snow comes? Or— and I gather this from the complete selection—perhaps the author believes that a snow covering is permanent in the Arctic. The fact is, of course, that Arctic land is permanently snow-covered only on or near mountains. Most Arctic lands are low and, like the Prairie Provinces, they have snow in winter and none in summer. In Peary Land, the most northerly land on earth, there are bees and butterflies in the rolling meadows of flowers and grass.
The textbook statement that musk oxen feed on moss is perhaps a minor error from the point of view of this article, but it shows how widespread are the inaccuracies. The mouth of the musk ox is anatomically unsuited for picking up moss. It lives mainly on grasses, sedges, and browse.
Up to this point, the geographies have, in the main, agreed to disagree with the scientists. On the question of animal life they begin to disagree with each other. Some of them, having talked so convincingly of sparse vegetation, continue this idea. For, since many of the Arctic animals are herbivorous, if the text admitted that there are large numbers of them, the children might well begin to puzzle as to what they lived on. Therefore we find one author saying that the Eskimos live almost wholly on animals and that their “available food supply is scanty.” A reader has it that “there are very few (musk oxen) left. They keep them in a park with a high wire fence about it.”
Others, however, report large herds of caribou and musk oxen, and some go so far as to mention polar bears, wolves, foxes, hares, seals and fish. But we gather that these animals lead a precarious existence.
As a fact, few known waters are richer in fish, whales and seals than those of the Arctic. The caribou of Arctic and subArctic Canada number several hundred for each single Eskimo, and yet travellers who have described bands of thousands, and even herds of a hundred thousand moving together, have never reported any noticeable depletion in the vegetation.
In the case of musk oxen, there are probably 40,000 wild for every forty that are in parks. These wild musk oxen are in no danger of extinction at present, for most of them are on islands that are uninhabited, many of them never even visited by Eskimos.
The Patchwork “Eskimo”
X-TAVING invented a fictitious country with the fictitious name of Eskimoland, the textbooks find it necessary to invent a fictitious people, and the Eskimo are misrepresented even more than the territories they inhabit. They are all supposed to be alike, though some of them live farther away from others than Canada is from Mexico, and have less contact. Their climate has only one
description in most textbooks, although they really live in several different climates. The materials of the description of land and people, so far as they are not invented, have, however, been gathered from many Eskimo countries, many
Eskimo climates, and many Eskimo peoples. The result is a patchwork portrait which resembles no Eskimo who ever lived. Then they make this patchwork man live in a patchwork country. One is as real as the other.
The schoolbook accounts of the Eskimo presumably arouse in the child both pity and amusement. Here are some of the quotations:
“The Eskimo has an environment which forces him into constant conflict with Nature. He is in continual danger of freezing and starving to death.”
“The Eskimo suffers from intestinal diseases, malnutrition and scurvy, and his resistance to disease is greatly lowered.
“The ravenous eating of tallow candles and soap by Eskimo children is well attested.”
“When the Eskimo boy is thirsty, he drinks oil.”
Against this picture stands in my mind at least my own experience of living more than ten years as an Eskimo among Eskimos. To me it seems that as a race they have more leisure than city dwellers, for instance. Some of the geographies mention their ivory carving and ornamented ceremonial dress, but they leave it a mystery how a people under terrific strain for a livelihood find time for such things. My observation has been that in many communities the needed work to provide food, shelter and clothing requires from the Eskimo less than half of our standard eight hour day. Four hours of work and eight of sleep give him twelve hours of leisure. Accordingly, a man will spend a week carving an ivory handle which he could have made plain in half a day. A woman who could sew a warm coat in two days will spend two months making one not so warm by cutting up whole skins and piecing them together in complicated designs. Entire communities spend weeks singing and dancing and listening to story-tellers spinning out long tales of adventure with spirits and men. The winters, so frightful in the textbooks, are their holiday season, spent in carrying out elaborate festivities.
Most of the textbooks say or imply that most or all Eskimos live in snow or ice houses in winter. This is geographical hodgepodge. No Eskimos live in ice houses, or at least I never heard of it. Some live in snow houses, but more than half the Eskimos in the world have never seen them, and have heard about them only through white men. In the textbooks all snow houses are called “igloos,” but the word igloo means house in general, and would never be used for so specific a type as the snow house. It is misleading to imply that snow houses are known to all Eskimos and used by most of them. In many districts the snow house, being unknown, is not represented by any word in the vocabulary. Many Eskimos live in houses built of earth and wood, or with bone rafters and walls of stone and earth. There are several other types of dwelling.
The case is worse about the use of oil. According to the above textbook quotation and many similar, they drink it. Before my recent study of Canadian lower school texts, I had heard that they did this for two reasons—one that they liked it, and the other to keep warm. It remained for a textbook published in the same city as MacLean’s Magazine to advance the new explanation that they do it to “quench thirst.” But to have this true, the laws of both physiology and chemistry would have to be changed. Physiology teaches that thirst is quenched only by water, and chemistry that there is in oil no water which the human stomach is capable of extracting.
The Eskimo stomach is similar to the Canadian stomach. If you think he drinks oil for any reason, I would suggest that you take about a water tumbler of whatever oil you prefer. If you have a strong will you may be able to get it down, but the chances are nine out of ten that you will not be able to keep it down. If you are the one in ten who can keep it down, you will very soon wish that you weren’t.
The truth is that Eskimos use oil with their food, as we do salad oil or gravy. They eat it but they don’t drink it, and are, therefore, just like us in this respect, as they are in most fundamental human things, instead of being weird monstrosities.
Education in the North
ARE they stunted in mind and body?
■ Physically they are better described as of average stature rather than small. Mentally their teachers usually report them to be near the European average.
That brings us to the question of the spread of European education in the Far North. A school reader says: “There are no books in that land and (the Eskimos) could not read them if there were.” If this were true, it would bear out the allegation that the Eskimos are stupid, for the Danes began trying to teach them reading and writing about two centuries ago. They found them apt pupils, however, the knowledge gained by one or a few spreading by native instruction from house to house and village to village. The work since then has been shared by two governments, the Danish and the American—Canada has, as yet, taken no direct educational action. The most effective cultural work has been done by the churches, among them the Moravians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians and Quakers. It would be strange if the efforts of all these bodies, some going back two hundred years, left it still a justifiable criticism of Eskimos that they cannot read or write. As a matter of fact, more than half the Eskimo population of Greenland, Labrador, Canada and Alaska can read and write some language, generally their own. They publish some of their own books and have a magazine that has appeared regularly since 1867. Editors, proof-readers, typesetters, engravers, printers, subscription solicitors and the rest have all been Eskimo through all that time. No other language has been employed in connection with the journal. It is as Eskimo as the Spectator is English.
Which, by the way, is more interesting, the fiction that the typical Eskimo does not know what a book is, or the fact that one of the oldest journals in the western hemisphere is in Eskimo?
That Eskimo children eat soap is ridiculous on the face of it. I have never seen Eskimos eat candles, nor heard of a case. But if they did eat tallow candles it would be no stranger than the eating of tallow in any other form. Tallow is only suet, and many a well-ordered meal in our country still includes suet pudding.
As for the “deficiency diseases and scurvy,” the Eskimos are singularly free from them so long as they live on their own accustomed diets. Once they begin to live on white men’s groceries and neglect to secure fresh meat, these diseases grow. Dr. William A. Thomas, of Chicago, found in Labrador, for instance, that the Eskimos who suffered most were those nearest the trading stations. In the sections beyond the reach of the traders or little affected by them the deficiency troubles vanished.
As to commercial dealings with the outside world, we are instructed by the geographies in contrary ways. On page 12 of one of them, the printed matter says: “The Eskimos have almost no trade with other people. They must depend on their
own country to supply their wants.” Eut on page 123 of this same book, there is a photograph of six power schooners—not whaleboats—with the caption “Eskimo Whaleboats, Fort McPherson!”
It is, as a matter of fact, one of the important industries of Edmonton to supply Eskimos with power schooners. I have seen a photograph from the Arctic showing $100,000 worth of these in a single view. The same engines that produce electric light for these Eskimos on shipboard in summer are used by them to light their houses in winter. Some have separate Delco electric lighting systems for their homes. But the teachers of Edmonton use now, or did use recently, textbooks which state or imply that the Eskimos have no boats except skin canoes, and no light except seal-oil lamps. Nor can you defend these books by suggesting that they are talking of fifty or a hundred years ago. The context shows that these allegations are supposed to fit the present.
To balance all these unfavorable untruths about the northern half of Canada, I have been able to discover in the texts one—and only one—favorable mistake. A geography says, “Mosquitoes are found all over the North American continent except in the extreme north.” Anyone who has been there will tell you that until you approach the Arctic you do not really know how bad mosquitoes can be.
Geographical Wet Blankets
A THING which the incorrect schoolbooks are doing is to dampen that current enthusiasm about the Far North of Canada which is due to the beginning of actual mining in the Middle North, where Flin Flon and Sherritt Gordon are already words to conjure with.
For these mines are in the sub-Arctic, which, according to the textbooks, is almost as bad as the Arctic itself, a land barren because of the cold. Mining is expensive where food is not produced locally and where no one lives except the miners and their dependents. There is, in consequence, a fundamental need to colonize even the richest mineral districts with a food-producing population. Sunlight and rainfall are, therefore, the most important resources of any district, and the younger generation of Canadians should be permitted to grow up with a true understanding of how heat and water are distributed, and how these are used by nature for the production of those plants upon which all animal life, including the human, must in the last resort depend.
Canada is two things, a people and a country. We need truthful histories for a reasonable judgment of our past; we need accurate geographies for planning the future. The schoolboys of today and the schoolgirls, most of them without university training, will step into control of this land tomorrow. Their chief equipment for that task is their education. What the university courses teach in advanced geography and climatology is not propaganda but truth. Anyone is bound to discover that if he will make enquiry. Why not give the pupils of the common schools the advantage of the same correct description of our climate and its results, so that they, too, will know how to prepare for the great spread of settlements northward that must continue till inhabited Canada becomes as broad as it is long, a nation drawing power from all its territories, even the farthest islands in the northern sea?