Happyland : the agricultural crisis in Saskatchewan's drybelt, 1917-1927
McManus, Curtis R.
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In 1908, the Dominion Lands Act was amended to open for settlement some twenty-eight-million-acres of land between Calgary and Moose Jaw in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. The amendment also inaugurated the beginning of what was to become thirty-one years of crop failure and farm abandonment in the same region, commonly referred to as Palliser's Triangle. Settlers in west-central and south-west Saskatchewan, the arid heart of the triangle, suffered horribly from crop failure and abandonment. An estimated ten thousand men, women and children fled this region between 1917 and 1927, adding to the thousands more who fled both prior to the crisis of the 1920s and afterward during the Dirty Thirties. The little-known crisis of the 1920s was the second act in a three-act tragedy which claimed the livelihoods of thousands of people. The tragedy was exacerbated by a provincial government which, for a variety of reasons, could not and would not come to terms with the crisis. The second stage of western settlement, the era after 1908, was riddled with problems. This circumstance sets it apart from the earlier and more successful settlement years between 1896-1908. Settlers who participated in the settlement of southwestern Saskatchewan after 1908 experienced crop failure and abandonment like any other region in the province. The crisis of the 1920s raises disturbing questions about the wisdom which underpinned the amendment to the Dominion Lands Act. By considering the crisis, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the second phase of western settlement was, by many yardsticks, a failure.