Camp #9 : an historical and archaeological investigation of a depression era relief camp in Prince Albert National Park
St. Denis, Michael
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In 1929 the New York Stock Exchange crashed, ushering in a decade that would come to be known as the Great Depression. Although the Depression was a global phenomenon its impact was influenced by a variety of local economic and environmental conditions. On the prairies, a nearly decade long drought occurred at the same time forcing people from farms and driving thousands of people into unemployment. By the summer of 1932 conditions deteriorated to the point where the Conservative Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Richard B. Bennett, enacted a federally supported relief program. Relief camps, which provided room, board and a meagre allowance in exchange for work, opened under the administration of both the Department of National Defence and, within the western National Parks and Point Pelee, Parks Canada. Over the course of the following three years an estimated 200,000 men worked in these camps. Although a dramatic event in Canadian history scant literature is available, either historically or archaeologically, on relief camps. This thesis is an attempt to address the lack of data, particularly archaeological, on this topic through an examination of a relief camp, Camp #9 (153N) in Prince Albert National Park. Often lauded as the paragon of economic systems, fundamental insights into capitalism and individuals' places in it might best be accomplished through examination of when this system falters, as it did in the 1930s. By examining consumer choice, or what the men of Camp #9 chose to buy with their limited resources, insight into the social value of some commodities can be gauged. This thesis examines the role of agency in consumer choice and explores its social implications during the Depression in the context of a National Park relief camp. Three models are proposed that explore alcohol consumption at Camp #9 and help elucidate how the men of this relief camp actively shaped and responded to their experience of the Depression I hope this work not only shows the value of archaeological investigation of relief camps but also of the 20th century as a whole while providing a necessary contribution to these particular fields of Canadian archaeology.