Friday, September 22, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: The Unfairness, Unjustness, and Inhumanity of It All

When I was a girl living in the North,
I keenly felt the unfairness, the injustice, and the inhumanity
in the way aboriginal people were treated by white people.
I observed this treatment, but I primarily absorbed it
through my relationships with my Ojibwa and Métis friends
in Lansdowne House, Lac Seul, and Sioux Lookout.
My girlhood shock and outrage have never left me.

We Five Shortly Before Moving to the North
Roy, Donnie, Louise (Me) with Bertie, and Barbie
Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada  Fall 1960
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

When I first moved to Lansdowne House in 1961
and attended its Church of England Indian Day School,
I thought that the government, the church,
the schools, and the Hudson's Bay Company,
were there to help the Ojibwa achieve better lives.
I had no idea of the complex and troubled history
between Canadian institutions and aboriginal people. 

However, I soon sensed that the way white people
interacted with the Ojibwa was paternalistic.
I may not have understood the full meaning of paternalism,
but I was increasingly aware
that the Ojibwa were considered less than whites.

I could see the poverty that the Ojibwa lived in,
and I could hear the way that white adults talked about them.
I grasped that the white adults around me
thought our way of life was superior to that of the Ojibwa,
and that the lives of the Ojibwa would be greatly improved
if they abandoned their primitive ways and adopted our modern ones.
What took me longer to sense was the cost of such a transition for the Ojibwa.

Indian Camps on Shore of Nipigon Lake
Photograph by Joseph Burr Tyrrell, 1906
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, 
Toronto, Ontario Canada, M5S 1A5
Part of: MS. Coll. 26 Tyrrell (Joseph Burr) Papers

At that time I had no knowledge of the 1876 Indian Act,
of the government's intent to subsume indigenous people
by destroying their languages and cultures,
nor of the cruel treatment of indigenous children in Indian schools.

I recognized that my experiences as a white girl
attending an Indian Day School were in no way typical
of an indigenous student's experiences,
but I had no comprehension of how the Indian educational system
had been used to demean and to undermine indigenous cultures.  

I only knew that my father was my best teacher ever
and that he wanted all of his students to learn and to succeed,
not just his offspring, but his Ojibwa children as well.

From the time I was a small child,
I knew that my father believed in the necessity of reading and writing English well.
So it was no surprise to me that in his classroom in Lansdowne House,
my father's primary focus was teaching English to his students.
He didn't care if we were white or copper,
but he did care that we improve our English skills
at whatever level we were at as students.

My father insisted that we four siblings spoke to our classmates in English,
for he believed that his Ojibwa students
would improve their English skills by interacting with us.
That insistence worked with Roy, Donnie, and myself,
but not so much with four-year-old Barbie
who was having fun learning Ojibway from her Ojibwa friends.

My father was not someone who ridiculed or punished a student
for speaking Ojibway in the classroom or on the school grounds.
I doubt at the time he completely understood the insidious nature
of the Canadian government's drive to teach indigenous people English;
although, I think he quickly developed a full understanding of it 
as he gained more experience in the Indian Affairs Branch.

Barbie and Dad
Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada  Winter 1962
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I don't think many people spend much time thinking about
how fundamental their native language is to their very essence;
I know I certainly didn't. I'm just beginning to grasp its significance now.

A native language shapes who you are, how you relate to others,
and how you understand the world around you.
It connects you to your parents, your grandparents, and your past,
and it encompasses your culture, traditions, and spirituality.

When a government deliberately implements policies
that separate a group of people from its native language, 
what it is actually doing is committing cultural genocide,
particularly if it separates children from their parents
and puts them in government schools
designed to eradicate their language and culture.

By disrupting families a government is preventing
the transmission of language, culture, and identity
from one generation to the next.

Group of students, Indian Industrial School
Brandon, Manitoba, 1946
Library and Archives Canada
Credit / Mention de source :
Canada. National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. 
Library and Archives Canada, PA-048574
Reference No. / Numéro de référence : MIKAN 3381315, 4112011

In Canada, for well over a century,
it was the goal of the Canadian government,
not just to eradicate indigenous languages and cultures,
but to eliminate First Nations peoples 
by ultimately absorbing them
into the mainstream, white, western culture.
Indians were to cease to exist legally, culturally, and racially.  

I think that Canada's first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald,
expressed this goal for the new nation of Canada
when he told the House of Commons in 1883:

"When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages; 
he is surrounded by savages, and though he may learn to read and write
his habits, and training and mode of thought are Indian.
He is simply a savage who can read and write.

"It has been strongly pressed on myself, as the head of the Department,
that Indian children should be withdrawn as much as possible from the parental influence,
and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools
where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men." 

Honoring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future:
Summary  of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada:

Sir John A. Macdonald, 1872

When I lived in Lansdowne House, I didn't know that our first Prime Minister,
a key figure in Canadian Confederation, had uttered such words, 
and I didn't understand that Indian schools were a powerful tool for achieving that goal.

Had I read MacDonald's words at that time,
I would have recognized that, according to him,
I was living among savages and attending school with savages on their reservation.

I would also have known that my Ojibwa friends were not savages
and that our heroic Father of Confederation was very wrong.

Now it's more than fifty years later,
and there have been improvements in the relationships
between Canadian institutions and aboriginal people.

We still have a way to go as white Canadians,
but I think we are finally understanding with our hearts
the unfairness, the unjustness, and the inhumanity
with which aboriginal Canadians were treated in the past. 

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Lansdowne House Lies in the Wilderness
West of James and Hudson Bays

Lansdowne House 
Northern Ontario, Canada

Map of the Eastern British Provinces in North America
at the time of Confederation 1867

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: A Teacher Challenged

When my father arrived in Lansdowne House in mid-September 1960,
he was frustrated, mixed-up, and apprehensive.

He had just endured a confusing one-day orientation in Sault Ste. Marie
followed by more confusing days stranded in Nakina.

He was about to face unexpected challenges that would have had some teachers
on the shortwave radio at the Hudson's Bay Post chartering a flight back to Nakina ASAP.

Flying to Lansdowne House for the First Time
My father wrote on the back of this photo:  
"This is a picture taken from the Norseman just as we were crossing the Albany River
which is about halfway between Nakina and Lansdowne House.
You can see the Albany River down to the right."
September 13, 1960
Photo by Donald MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

During his "indoctrination" by officials from the Education Division
of the Indian Affairs Branch of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration,
my father was informed that he would likely be teaching
twenty to thirty Ojibwa and a few Cree children
from Kindergarten through Grade 6,
many of whom could speak no English ~
But all this would have to be confirmed after his arrival in Lansdowne House.

He found out that he would likely be staying
with the Roman Catholic teacher at the Roman Catholic mission
or possibly living by himself at the Department of Forestry building ~
But all this would have to be confirmed by the Indian Agent after his arrival in Nakina.

My father also learned that his school was located on the "Mainland,"
which was really the tip of a long peninsula sticking out into Lake Attawapiskat;
and, if he boarded on the Father's Island at the mission,
he would have to commute by canoe between the two ~
Fortunately the Department of Indian Affairs would pay for him
to rent a canoe from the Hudson's Bay post if that proved necessary.

The Lansdowne House Mainland and the Father's Island, 1935
Credit: Canada. Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Library and Archives Canada / PA-094992

Lansdowne House Today
Northern Ontario, Canada
Imagery:  DigitalGlobe, Landstat/Copernicus
Map Data:  Google 2017

When my father left Sault Ste. Marie by train for Nakina,
he anticipated waiting a day, two at the most,
for a chartered plane to fly him into Lansdowne House.

Instead, a series of unfortunate events stranded him in Nakina for four nights:
bad weather in Nakina, followed by bad weather in Lansdowne House,
followed by his pilot breaking his leg playing baseball.

My father spend much of his time
waiting on the weather and on a new pilot from Sudbury
trying to track down the Indian Agent
who was supposed to arrange his flight and his accommodations.

While marking time in Nakina, my father played chess with at the telegraph office,
socialized with a teacher from the nearby Aroland Reserve,
and talked to a number of Indians.

The Telegraph Office
Nakina, Northern Ontario, Canada
Photo by Father Ouimet
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

He dug up more information about his new position,
some of it conflicting:
No, he would not be teaching Ojibwa children,
he would be teaching Cree children.
He would have only twenty-one students
from Kindergarten to Grade 4.
But maybe fewer ~
His students could be heading for the winter traplines
because no teacher had shown up.

My father found the news on the mission encouraging:
It had both electric lights and indoor plumbing,
whereas the forestry house had neither.
He fervently hoped he would land at the mission,
for he had begun to dread the thought
of living alone in the forestry building. 

And land at the mission he did, off-loaded
from a cargo canoe on a strip of sand
by a fringe of bush on the Father's Island.

The Father's Island
with the Roman Catholic Mission
Uno's and Dad's "Cottage" is the brown, white-roofed building 
between the church and rectory (middle right)
Photo by Father Ouimet
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My Father's Baggage 
Off-Loaded on the Beach
Photo by Don MacBeath
September 13, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

A French Canadian Oblate brother emerged from the bush
to help my father drag his trunk and baggage up to his new home.

My father wrote of his new home:
"We have a nice unpretentious little two-room cottage to live in.
The front room we use for a living room,
washroom, cloakroom, and general store room.
The back room we use for a bedroom, a library, and study." 


  Nice and Unpretentious:  Back Room (left), Front Room (middle),
   Dad in the Bedroom/Library/Study (right)
    Photo by Uno Manilla
    © M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
      All Rights Reserved

  Dad's Shack on the Father's Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue 
All Rights Reserved

And of his new roommate:
"My roommate, or rather my bunkmate companion for the winter,
is a very nice chap by the name of Uno Manilla.
You will probably think the same as I thought at first,
that he is either Italian or Spanish.
Actually, he is of Finnish extraction.
He is very young, but he has taught Indians before."

Uno and Dad with Baby Duncan
on Uno's Side of the Bedroom/Library/Study
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

In 1960 Northern Ontario had 54 Indian schools 
scattered across its wilderness of rock, lake, and muskeg.
My father's was one of the 38 single-classroom schools
and one of three new Indian schools built that year. Table
Imagine my father's dismay at walking into that school and finding it empty.

My father wrote:
"They have a beautiful new school, but there isn’t a stick of furniture in it.
No desks, no chairs, teacher’s desk, or what have you.
I immediately got on the radio and contacted
the Department of Indian Affairs at Nakina to ask them what I was to do.
It is utterly impossible to teach school with no furniture in the school."

The Church of England Indian Day School
The Mainland, Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario, Fall 1960
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

The best the Department of Indian Affairs could do
was promise to fly in desks and chairs in several weeks.
My father, more frustrated, but doggedly determined,
started hunting up anything he could find to furnish the school temporarily,
and the people in the community rallied to help him.

Father Ouimet lent him old handmade desks stored in his attic,
and my father hired Indians to ferry them over to his school
in Father Ouimet's 18-foot freighter canoe.

My father made the rounds of the Hudson's Bay,
the Department of Transport, and the Nursing Station 
scrounging card tables and chairs
from the avid, card-playing white community.

A little later he spotted plywood sitting on the DOT dock
that belonged to the Department of Indian Affairs.
Inspired, he had two Indians to carry a sheet up to his school,
and then he borrowed two low sawhorses from Bill Mitchell at the Bay.
The result was a kindergarten table for his youngest students.

After some scrounging and improvising, my father had seats for his students,
but would he have any students to sit in those seats?

On the Water between the Island and the Mainland
with the Department of Transport and Hudson's Bay Buildings 
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

That was the beginning of a number of challenges
my father had to overcome at his new Indian school.

He could not foresee the problems ahead of him:
shoddy construction, falling ceilings,
malfunctioning and dangerous oil stoves,
and slow and incomplete shipments
of equipment and supplies flown in by bush plane ~
not to mention him having to haul all the water used in the school
and having to periodically hand-pump 400 hundred gallons of oil
from 45-gallon barrels into the school oil tanks.

However, my father quickly realized
that if you wanted to be a successful teacher in the North,
you had to be ready to tackle anything.

Bush Plane with Pontoons for Landing on Water

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Boars Head Lighthouse
Tiverton, Long Island, Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

1.  Shortwave Radio:
     The only way to talk with someone on the Outside was by shortwave radio.  The one my father
      typically used was located at the Hudson's Bay Post.  The only other means of communication
      was via the telegraph or mail.

2.  The Hudson's Bay Post:
     The "Bay" was a commercial establishment where the Ojibwa traded their furs for supplies.
     Anyone could purchase goods at the Bay.   

3.   ASAP:
      The acronym "ASAP" stands for "as soon as possible."  Its use originated in the US Army. 

4.  The Roman Catholic Mission: 
     The Roman Catholic church had an OMI Mission on Couture Island just off the peninsula
     containing the Hudson's Bay Post and the Department of Transport buildings in Lansdowne
     House.  The mission included a church, rectory, school, recreation hall, sawmill, the "cottage"
     Uno and my father rented, and a graveyard.  OMI means Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
     The OMI fathers and brothers are sometimes referred to as Oblate fathers and brothers.

5.  Department of Forestry Building:  The Department of Forestry building was for use as a place
     to fight forest fires in the area.

6.  The Father's Island:
     Officially the "Father's Island" was called Couture Island after Father Joseph-Marie Couture,
     a Jesuit missionary who traveled the region by canoe and dogsled.  In 1938 the Oblate fathers
     took over the far northern Roman Catholic missions.  The Nipigon Museum Blog 

7.  Father Maurice Ouimet and Brother Raoul Bernier:  
     The Oblate priest and brother at the Roman Catholic Mission in Lansdowne House.
     They were members of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate,
     a missionary religious congregation in the Roman Catholic Church.
8.  White Community: 
     The white community consisted of the Mitchells (HBC), Brian Booth (HBC), Uno Manilla
      (RC teacher), the McRaes (DOT), the MacMahons (DOT), Father Ouimet (OMI),
      Brother Bernier (OMI), Margaret Kelly (nurse) and my father Donald MacBeath (CE teacher).
      The Ojibwa community would not have had tables or chairs to lend to the school.

9.  Liquid Capacity Conversions:
      400 gallons = 1514 liters

For Map Lovers Like Me:
Map of Canada
Highlighting Ontario

Locations of Sault Ste. Marie, Nakina, and Lansdowne House
Map Data:  Google 2017

Location of Lansdowne House
Wikimedia   edited

My father wrote on the back of this photo: 
This is the Norseman that I flew
from Nakina into Lansdowne House.
The company maintenance man  
and the pilot Rudolph Hoffman "Rudie"
(at the extreme right of the picture).
They have just finished refueling,
and we are ready to go.

D. B. MacBeath, September 13, 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Premier's Rose Garden ~ British Columbia Parliament Buildings, Victoria

Last September I stumbled across a fragrant surprise 
behind the British Columbia Parliament Buildings:
The Premier's Rose Garden.

The Premier's Rose Garden
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
September 10, 2017
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I've visited this lovely spot
a number of times,
and I rarely see anyone in it.

It's quiet, peaceful, and beautiful,
and I enjoy wandering around
seeing and smelling all the gorgeous roses.

Kosmos Fairy Tale White Floribunda Roses
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Livin' Easy Orange Floribunda Roses
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Buxom Beauty Pink Hybrid Tea Roses
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Julia Child Yellow Floribunda Roses
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Henry Whittaker, Chief Architect for the British Columbia Department of Public Works,
designed the rectangular-shaped garden with its boxwood hedges and central sundial.

Paved paths in the shape of a cross divide the rose garden into four quadrants
featuring different rugosa, tea, floribunda, and grandiflora roses.

Central Sundial
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Central Sundial
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Satellite Imagery of the Premier's Rose Garden
Behind the West Annex of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings
Imagery:  Google
Map Data:  Google 2017

The Premier's Rose Garden was constructed
as a relief project in 1935-36 during the Great Depression.
It sits on the former site of one of the original
parliament buildings known as the "Bird Cages."

The garden was dedicated to British Columbia's Premier Bill Bennett
in 1986 and renamed "The Premier's Rose Garden."

The old parliament buildings ("bird cages") and land office
Reference Code:  AM54-S4-: Out P1027
 Copyright Status Public Domain

Anywhere you walk among the colorful roses,
you can smell their beautiful fragrances
and hear the sound of honeybees buzzing among the blooms.

Apricot/Pink Floribunda Roses
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Easy Going Yellow Floribunda Roses
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Buxom Beauty Pink Hybrid Tea Roses
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Living' Easy Orange Floribunda Roses
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Pink/White Hybrid Tea Roses
The Premier's Rose Garden
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

When you sit on one of the quiet benches in a shady spot in the garden,
it's hard to imagine that Victoria's bustling Inner Harbour is only a few hundred yards away.

If you let your imagination drift, it's easy to imagine that you've
stumbled across Briar Rose's enchanted castle.

The Premier's Rose Garden
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Victoria has lovely rose gardens big and small, public and private,
but this is my favorite.

Information Source:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Sometimes I Feel Like Wonder Woman, and Sometimes ...

Sometimes I feel like Wonder Woman ...

Flickr  tacit requiem   Licence

And sometimes I have to admit,
I am not.

This is one of those times.
I simply couldn't finish my Northern post,
although I tried mightily.

But I'll have it by next Friday!
So sorry ~ See you then!