The Homesteading Hero Myth: Jessy Lee Saas, The Myth of the Homesteader: Challenging Saskatchewan Settler Narratives, 1880-1910, MA dissertation, University of Saskatchewan, 2022


Abstract: At the beginning of Saskatchewan’s homesteading period, from 1880 to 1910, the
Homesteading Hero Myth – a narrative that celebrates the courageous white farmer who entered
an unknown landscape and faced numerous hardships, only to succeed in breaking the land and
creating home – took shape. The Homesteading Hero Myth presents agricultural development of
Saskatchewan land as an epic quest and casts settlers as the winsome protagonists who prevail
despite the challenges they face. This same Myth downplays or ignores the roles of Indigenous
peoples who are represented neither as main nor as supporting characters: when they are given a
role to play at all, it is minor, on the sidelines, typecast, or silent. Yet, despite the Homesteading
Hero Myth relying on the idea of the Canadian prairies being an “open” landscape ripe for the
settlers’ taking, the settlers who came did not actually see the land as empty. Settlers recognized
evidence that Indigenous peoples had recently occupied the territory they now claimed, and in
many cases recognized Indigenous peoples as neighbours. Settler family narratives about the
homesteading period provide an alternate account in which incoming settlers recognized and
understood that they were arriving on Indigenous lands. Ultimately, this thesis argues that
homesteader hero narratives need to be “unsettled” and reframed into the uncomfortable reality
that they are really stories about imperial dispossession, suppression, and oppression of
Indigenous peoples.

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