About the project and the journalist
My name is Katie Doke Sawatzky and I was born in Saskatoon but grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, on the territories of the nêhiyawak, Anihšināpēk, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda, and the homeland of the Métis.
After completing my BA in English at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, I lived on the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver for two years with my husband Glenn and our two kids, before moving back to Regina. Living on the westernmost tip of the Point Grey Peninsula meant Vancouver’s old-growth temperate rainforest and the Pacific Ocean were minutes outside my door. At that time, I read Vancouver journalist James B. MacKinnon’s influential The Once and Future World, which makes the argument that we live in a world that hosts only 10 per cent of its potential biological diversity. MacKinnon also introduced me to a social phenomenon called shifting baselines, in which we normalize current levels of biodiversity because generational knowledge (the diversity our ancestors lived with) isn’t passed down over time. The combination of falling in love with the landscape and MacKinnon’s book inspired me to find out more about how much of Saskatchewan’s true prairie is left and what it means to people with different perspectives.
The Prairie Commons Project, or prairiecommons.ca, is a multimedia research project that completes my Master of Journalism degree at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. It is a journalistic investigation on the state of native prairie in Saskatchewan and focuses on diverse communities and individuals who are trying to conserve the landscape despite government decisions and policies.
The goal of the project is to inform the public and foster greater understanding about why different people care about native prairie, and how unique partnerships are forming between disparate groups. The idea of the “commons,” that is shared land, and how people interact with it is not new. American ecologist Garrett Hardin argued that, if unregulated, there is a “tragedy of the commons,” in which people look after only their own interests and the quality of the land degrades. My hope is that this project helps critique that idea, by telling stories of people who recognize the shared values of these lands we call home, and of a Canadian federal government who successfully regulated a grassland commons for 80 years.
I welcome comments or questions about this project. Please email me at [email protected]. I’m also on Facebook and my twitter handle is @kdokesawatzky.
I would like to thank Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies Joe Piwowar for analyzing the AAFC crop-inventory data and creating maps to show the decline of grassland in Saskatchewan.
For their support, advice and encouragement, I want to thank my graduate supervisor Patricia Elliott, University of Regina j-school professors and instructors Mitch Diamantopolous, Merelda Fiddler, Trevor Grant, Robin Lawless and Mark Taylor. Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank my husband Glenn Sawatzky and my children Leo and Evelynn for their enduring love over a very busy two years. You made this project possible.
John Spencer Middleton & Jack Spencer Gordon Middleton Scholarship
University of Regina Faculty of Arts/FGSR Graduate Student Base Funding
Saskatchewan Innovation and Excellence Graduate Scholarship
Margaret Skeel Graduate Student Scholarship