The New York Times' Frank Jacobs has a great post on the Borderlines blog about the fallacy of the straight border between Canada and the US, noting that the clear-cut demarcation "deviates from the 49th parallel by up to several hundred feet." It proceeds to deliver an abbreviated history of how the border became what it is today, and that rather than one giant straight line, it's a series of smaller straight lines between a series of border monuments. It concludes with a remark on how colonial forces along the 49th parallel (in Russia's Far East and North America) have created these imaginary lines, with very real consequences, at the detriment of indigenous peoples:
|Joe Burgess/The New York Times|
Another (ahem) parallel: Both sets of powers divided the territories between each other irrespective of the native peoples present in those areas. In the case of Sakhalin, Japanese/Russian occupation was disastrous for the Ainu, Gilyak and other local tribes.
In the 1870s, Sioux fleeing the might of the United States Army provided the straight part of what is now sometimes known as “the longest undefended border in the world” with its most poetic epithet. Seeing how an invisible force seemed to stop the American cavalry dead in their tracks, they called that imperfectly demarcated boundary the Medicine Line.