Barbara Meneley

The 160 Dirt Project
work in progress

dialogic installation & performance

Through the late 1800s and into the first decades of the 20th century, up to one million people are estimated to have migrated to the Canadian prairies. As the Canadian government sought to consolidate territory and populate the prairie west, railways were extended and settlements shaped. Settlers were enticed by offers of free land with rich virgin soil and lives of opportunity, health, and prosperity, with nothing to fear. Dreams were encouraged, and promises made.

What is the state of those dreams and promises, those colonial imaginaries, in prairie communities today?

The 160 Dirt Project invites reflection on the history, the development, and the contemporary state of prairie settlement. Based on the 160 acres of free land offered to settlers, this project invites participation from contemporary prairie residents. Soil samples will be collected from 160 communities included on a 1901 map of Assiniboia, communities that still exist in some form today. Sample locations will be mapped, and soil samples will be put into in small glass vials. The map and soil samples will become part of an art installation and project that examines the legacies of colonial imaginaries in contemporary times.


Do you live in or near one of the communities listed here?

Do you know someone who does?

If you would like to take part in this project, please get in touch with me.

Participation is simple and takes very little time. Instructions and all supplies will be provided.


© Barbara Meneley, all rights reserved