352 pages, 6 1/2 x 9
25 b&w photos, 4 maps
Release Date:01 Feb 2000
Release Date:01 Jun 1999

Once Upon an Oldman

Special Interest Politics and the Oldman River Dam

UBC Press

Once Upon an Oldman is an account of the controversy that surrounded the Alberta government's construction of a dam on the Oldman River to provide water for irrigation in the southern part of the province. Jack Glenn argues that, despite claims to the contrary, the governments of Canada and Alberta are not dedicated to protecting the environment and will even circumvent the law in order to avoid accepting responsibility for safeguarding the environment and the interests of Native people.

Glenn describes the geography and history of the Oldman River basin, the institutional arrangements behind the dam project, and the ongoing controversy as it has unfolded since 1976. He then takes a close look at the disparate groups involved in the controversy: the governments of Alberta and Canada and their agencies, the Southern Alberta Water Management Committee, the Friends of the Oldman River Society, and the Peigan Indian Band. Considering these in the context of major issues raised by the project, he discusses water management and irrigation, environmental impacts, and implications for the culture and beliefs of the Peigan, including their claim to a share of the flow of the river.

In Once Upon an Oldman, Glenn has pulled together information from a wide range of sources: the media, correspondence of politicians and public servants, reports from government agencies, environmental groups, and the Peigan Indians, court decisions, and interviews. What emerges is a disturbing and fascinating tale of confrontation, pitting governments against environmentalists and Native people, that convincingly demonstrates that resorting to the courts is an ineffective way to protect both the environment and those who have lived here since before the arrival of Europeans.


  • 2000, Winner - Clio Award (Alberta), Canadian Historical Association
Glenn has carefully documented the sequence of events surrounding this often bitter controversy and has provided a comprehensive analysis of the issues, motives, and actions involved. His thorough review of the geography, history, and political institutions offers readers an understanding of how and why the project emerged. His book is well written, enjoyable to read, and supplemented by extensive notes and references. Recommended for all readership levels, especially for those interested in the interactions between governmental agencies, lobbyists, Native peoples, environmental groups, and legal institutions. M.J. Zwolinski, Choice
In this dense, well-researched, and thoroughly readable book, Jack Glenn examines how this highly controversial project came about. Ken Woollard, CBRA 5043
An exhaustive chronicle of the battles over the construction of the Oldman Den in southern Alberta ... a definitive chronicle of both the battle of the Oldman specifically and the ongoing struggle to keep some of our natural landscape whole in the face of development pressures. Glenn provides background and reasons for his criticisms that are hard to object to, no matter what your agenda. for anyone who was involved, however peripherally, in the Oldman struggle, this book will be both engrossing and enlightening. For those concerned with the overall government versus environment struggle, it should be equally so. Valerie Haig-Brown, Alberta Views
Jack Glenn has worked for both Environment Canada and Alberta Environment. He lives in Calgary.





1 The Oldman River Basin

2 In the Beginning

3 The ECA Review

4 A Dam on the Oldman

5 Interlude

6 The Battle Joined

7 The EARPGO Challenge

8 Carry on Regardless

9 Milton and the Lonefighters

10 7 September 1990

11 In the Aftermath

12 The Federal Review

13 The Panel Reports

14 And Thereafter


15 The Iron Triangle and the Oldman River Dam

16 The Environment and Its Friends

17 Archaeology

18 Biological Diversity

19 EARPGO and the Courts

20 FOR and the Attorney General

21 The Peigan Indians

22 The Peigan and the Oldman River Dam I

23 The Peigan and the Oldman River Dam II

24 The Federal Watchdog I

25 The Federal Watchdog II

26 Iniquity and Betrayal

27 The Peigan, Politics, and the Courts

28 The Environment, Politics, and the Courts

29 Information and Disinformation

30 Does It Matter?



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