Savages and Relics: the Commemoration of Native Peoples in the Nineteenth Century
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the perspectives of Europeans on Canada’s Native peoples were governed by the two quite distinct but sometimes overlapping stereotypes of the ignoble and the noble savage. To take examples that are already familiar from previous essays, in J. Mackay’s Quebec Hill (1797), "the Indians of Canada" are regarded as animalistic and vengeful roamers whose primary occupations are war and hunting (1: 81-86; 2: 63-72), but in Adam Kidd’s The Huron Chief (1830), the Hurons are depicted as the wise, virtuous, eloquent, affectionate, and peace-loving inhabitants of a natural realm in which "two kind hearts might rapture share, / As happy as an Eden pair" (451-52). Behind these two perspectives and stereotypes lay two radically different sets of assumptions about European civilization as well as North American Native culture. In Mackay’s case, the Indians are seen through the lens of Adam Smith, William Robertson, and other Enlightenment thinkers and writers who, as discussed in Essay 2: Tokens of Being There: Land Deeds and Demarkations, contended that all societies are destined to pass through the four stages of savagery, barbarism, agriculture, and commerce in their upward progress from rudeness to refinement. According to this model, the Native peoples of Canada were "rude" and "uncouth" savages who would greatly benefit from "refined" or "polished" European civilization. In Kidd’s case, by contrast, the Indians are seen through the lens of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Romantic heirs, who asserted that the Native peoples of North America and elsewhere existed in a state of relative innocence that would be corrupted and ultimately destroyed by contact with European civilization. By Kidd’s own account, The Huron Chief was inspired by "[t]he innocent, and unassuming, friendly treatment that [he] experienced among the Indians, together with the melancholy recital of the deep wrongs which they received from those calling themselves Christians"(3). The poem’s twofold aim, Kidd adds, is to register and condemn the treachery of white (especially American) civilization towards the Native peoples and to record and celebrate the way of life of Indian "Nations [that] are daily dwindling away, and in a few years hence will scarcely leave a memorial to perpetuate their names, as the once mighty rulers of the vast American regions"(3). It was in the force-field created by the negative and positive stereotypes of the ignoble and the noble savage that late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century writers perpetuated the names of Canada’s two greatest Native heroes, Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) and Tecumseh (Tech-kum-thai).
Although Brant and Tecumseh were a generation apart—Brant was born about 1742 and died in 1807, Tecumseh was born about 1768 and died in 1813—both lived through the period around the turn of the eighteenth into the nineteenth century when the assumptions of the Enlightenment were being increasingly contested and would eventually be eclipsed by those of Romanticism. A consequence of this was that the two men were perceived during their lives and for sometime after their deaths as embodiments of both the ignoble and the noble savage, a conflicted situation that had a considerable effect on the ways in which they were remembered and memorialized. Prior to the Revolutionary War, Brant was known to have become a scholar and a Christian, and during the hostilities he remained loyal to Britain and the King, but reports of his military activities varied greatly, with the result that he was viewed by many Americans as a blood-thirsty savage responsible for the deaths of numerous civilians at Oriskany (1777), Wyoming (1778), and elsewhere but by his British superiors as "the perfect soldier, possessed of remarkable physical stamina, courage under fire, and dedication to the cause, as an able and inspiring leader, and as a perfect gentleman" (Graymont 806).1 Similarly, Tecumseh, who, of course, threw in his lot with Britain in the War of 1812, was associated by his American adversaries with the Indian victories in the Ohio country in the seventeen nineties but by his British allies with the slaughter of his tribe by the Americans at Tippecanoe (1811), with his clemency towards American prisoners at Fort Meigs (1813), and with the resistance to the American invasion of Canada that cost him his life at the Battle of the Thames (Moraviantown) (1813). Were Brant and Tecumseh, then, to be remembered as ignoble or noble savages? Were they brutal warriors whose "civilized" qualities were merely a veneer that was stripped away by war, or natural leaders whose innate goodness was perverted by American perfidy and modern warfare?
As regards Brant, the principal and most influential literary exponent of the view that he was an ignoble savage was Thomas Campbell, a Scottish poet whose Whig and American leanings led him in Gertrude of Wyoming (1809) to level harsh criticism at the behaviour of the British and their Native allies during the Revolutionary War. As Sarah Green has convincingly demonstrated in "An Icon of the Ignoble Savage: the Context and Consequences of Thomas Campbell’s Representation of Joseph Brant as a ‘Monster’ in Gertrude of Wyoming" (1995), Campbell’s description of the Mohawk Chief as "The Mammoth…! the foe! the Monster Brant!" (68) in his treatment of the destruction of Wyoming "fixed" him in legend and poetry" as an ignoble savage for most of the nineteenth century (3).2 It was partly in response to Gertrude of Wyoming that John Strachan wrote his "Life of Captain Brant"(1820), a fairly sympathetic treatment of Brant’s character and career in which, among other things, he accuses Campbell of credulity for accepting at face value "the exaggerated descriptions" of Indian cruelty that were produced by American writers during the Revolutionary War "to blacken the character of the British" (Visit 156). "It is expected that, in a new edition of his beautiful poem, Mr. Campbell will adhere to historical truth in relating the story," wrote Strachan; "and indeed, by way of atonement, he ought to select a subject more honourable to the British character, on which to display his exquisite poetic talents" (162). If asked, Strachan might well have suggested Abraham’s Plains or Queenston Heights as suitable subjects for Campbell’s atoning poem.
Dismayed though he was by Gertrude of Wyoming and its propagandistic sources, Strachan did not go to the opposite extreme of depicting Brant as a blameless and noble leader but offered instead an orthodox Anglican and Tory reading of him as an "uncommon Mohawk" who, like "all the descendants" of Adam and Eve, possesses an "aptness to learn good as well as evil" (Visit 151-152)— which is to say that, if left in a state of nature without the benefit of education and Christianity, Brant would have remained an ignoble savage. As it was, he had "serious religious impressions" as a young man and "promised himself that he would be eminently beneficial to his nation, by assisting to humanize them and make them Christians" (154)3 and then—in a nice variation of the Russeauian pattern—underwent a regressive change in character and ambitions after exposure to English society during a trip to England in 1776 had destroyed his Christian faith and, thus, "deprived him of the only restraint on his savage ferocity" (163-64). In subsequent years—the years of Brant’s efforts to "maintain the…freedom and sovereignty" of the Six Nations (Graymont 811)—pride, ambition, and "spiritous liquors" caused him to degenerate further until "he lost his popularity, not only with the Indians at large, but even with the Mohawks in the village which they erected at Oswego, on the Grand River," near present-day Brantford, Ontario (166). Strachan concludes his biographical sketch by recounting the story of Brant’s unintentional wounding and killing of his son Isaac in 1795 and asserting that "[h]is habit of drinking…increased, and hastened his death…in 1810 [in fact, on November 24, 1807]"—at his house near what is now Burlington, Ontario (168). No suggestion for a monument to Brant caps Strachan’s "Life": important military and civic leader though he was, Brant was not a "noble figure" (Graymont 811) to Strachan, but a man of ignobly savage propensities whom Christianity temporarily humanized, a figure unjustly maligned by Whig historiography and poetry, but no "modest" Wolfe or meritorious Brock worthy of commemoration in Canadian stone and verse.
While Brant and Tecumseh had much in common, not least a commitment to Native unity on "the principle of common ownership of land" as a means of "oppos[ing] American expansion" (Goltz 797; Graymont 806), they were very different in their lives and in the eyes of commentators. Apparently Brant was not a persuasive public speaker, but Tecumseh was known for his rhetorical eloquence; Brant was renowned for his drunkenness, but Tecumseh was reputed to have foresworn "spiritous liquor of any sort" after a youthful bout with "the common vice of the Indian" (Longmore, Tecumthe 8); and, whereas Brant died in his bed, Tecumseh was killed defending Canada from the Americans, who, it was rumored, desecrated his body and "cut off strips of skin, to preserve as trophies" or "to convert…into razor-straps" (Francis Hall 229; Richardson, Tecumseh 113).4 More than anything else, it was the combination of Tecumseh’s supposed Anglophilia and gruesome death that captured the imagination of British and Canadian writers. No physical monument to Tecumseh was raised in the decades following the War of 1812, but his life and death were commemorated in several poems, beginning with Francis Hall’s "To the Memory of Tecumseh" (1818):
Contorted though this is, it nevertheless presents several aspects of Tecumseh that inspired later poets: the defilement of his body by Americans (the eagle had been the official emblem of the United States since 1782); his desire to avenge the deaths of his friends at Tippecanoe (Hall’s reference to "his children’s blood" is either metaphorical or, more likely, inflationary); and, less obviously, the fondness for visual imagery that was thought to be a hallmark of Native rhetoric. ("‘The Great Spirit gave the lands which we possess to our fathers,’" Tecumseh was reported to have told General Procter at Fort Malden [Amherstburg] a few days before the Battle of the Thames; "if it be his will, our bones shall whiten on them; but we shall never quit them’" [qtd. in Longmore, Tecumthe 9].) In subsequent poems, Tecumseh’s worthiness as a hero would hinge on the issue of revenge: was he an ignoble savage predisposed by nature to the brutality for which the destruction of Tippecanoe merely provided a catalyst, or was he a noble savage who was driven to unnatural but perhaps justified acts of violence by American aggression and who showed his true nature when he prevented the slaughter of prisoners at Fort Meigs? If the former, was he at all worthy of memorialization? If the latter, then surely a memorial should mark his grave and a monument commemorate his heroism.
The first long poem to confront these related issues was first published in Montreal in December 1824 in the Canadian Review and Literary and Historical Journal and subsequently reprinted in a somewhat revised form in Edinburgh in an anonymous collection of poetry and prose entitled Tales of Chivalry and Romance (1826). Tecumthe, a Poetical Tale. In Three Cantos, which is now known to be by the Canadian-born Royal Engineer, George Longmore, thus participates in both the drive to promote the knowledge and preservation of things "‘Historical…and Canadian’" to which Lord Dalhousie had given impetus in 1824 with the foundation of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec (qtd. in Klinck, "Literary Activity in the Canadas, 1812-1814" 128) and in the closely related fascination with pre-commercial cultures that had developed in Britain as a result of the Romantic conservatism embodied in such works as Bishop Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), Robert Southey’s edition of Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (1817), and, of course, the Ossianic poems of James Macpherson and the gothic prose and poetry of Sir Walter Scott.5
To establish his poem’s historical authenticity and his own authorial credibility, Longmore surrounded Tecumthe with a factual Argument and Appendix and, for his British readers, added notes on a variety of topics including, most prominently, "the ceremonies and superstitions" that mark "the Indian tribes of North America" as "uncivilized beings"—namely, their deference to "individuals" such as "the ‘Prophet of the Shawnee tribe, the brother of Tecumthe’," who "pretend to the endowments of supernatural powers of prophecy," and their use of animal "sacrifices…to obtain success in…hunting or fighting" (64). Consistent with this note, the Native peoples as they appear in the body of Tecumthe are stereotypically ignoble savages: "uncouth," untam’d," and "untutor’d…child[ren]" of Nature (1:295; 2:491; 3:171), they possess "Some traits of [Nature’s] diviner power" such as "Freedom…, fortitude to suffer pain," and the "virtue… / Of hospitality" (1:193; 2:499-151), but are essentially creatures of "instinct," "necessity," and "appetite" whose behaviour resembles that of predatory animals (1:455-62). As "rude" and "wild" as the terrain through which they move, the Native peoples of Tecumthe are especially prone to what the four stages historian William Robertson describes as "the distinguishing characteristic of men in their uncivilized state": "the passion for revenge" that originates in "resentment of an ill," develops into implacable "animosit[y]," and results in brutal violence (2:500; 2:464; 3:528-37). At Tippecanoe, the Prophet attacks the Americans "wildly…Like to the tyger… Shout[ing] for vegeance to the last" (2:347-62) and, when the massacre is over, "Tecumthe’s spirit…is / Sworn to revenge" "with deadlier danger / From the successes" of his enemies (2:397-82). As he "mingles in the fray" at the Battle of the Thames, Tecumthe is like a "lion [searching] for its prey" and his demeanor is marked by "Vengeance" as well as "Valour" (3:651-65).
In contrast to Tecumthe, Isaac Brock garners Longmore’s unconditional praise in both the body and the notes to the poem. Evidently written on Queenston Heights before the foundation stone of the Brock monument was officially dedicated on October 13, 1824, the preamble to Canto 3 of Tecumthe consists of five Spenserian stanzas (a form appropriately chosen for its heroic resonances) that gently decry the absence of a "stone" or "marble-storied column" to mark the spot where "gallantBROCK" fell, but offers the consolation that the site itself both protects and embodies his memory:
A note to the preamble to Canto 3 in the 1824 edition of Tecumthe makes reference to the recent laying of the foundation stone of the Brock monument, and in the 1826 edition this is expanded to include a reference to British North America’s greatest military hero: "[w]hy has no reward of a similar nature been paid [on the plains of Abraham] to the immortal Wolfe…to whose valour and talent Great Britain owes her Colonies of North America, as she does equally their preservation, in the onset of the last war, to the efforts of the gallant Brock"? (65). Only once in the body of the poem is Tecumthe’s name given the emphasis of block capitals (like "BROCK") and nowhere in either the poem or the notes is mention made of either the absence or the desirability of a Tecumthe monument. Why?
No doubt part of the answer lies in the fact that, unlike the battle of Queenston Heights and Abraham’s Plains, the Battle of the Thames was a defeat rather than a victory for the British (and a defeat, moreover, that raised questions about the courage and competence of the British commanding officer, Major-General Henry Procter). But almost as certainly Longmore’s refusal to grant Tecumthe the same heroic status as Brock and Wolfe stemmed from his perception of Native peoples as ignoble savages who possessed only some of the virtues necessary to warrant unmitigated admiration and full-scale commemoration. In his Appendix to Tecumthe, Longmore provides an assessment of Tecumthe’s character that is consistent with his depiction of Native peoples throughout the poem in being heavily coloured by the four stages theory of the ignoble savage: "Nature…gifted him with a strong understanding…which, had it been placed where Education could have drawn forth the blossoms of genius to maturity, would have shone, as one of those great luminaries, a pride to the past, and an adornment to posterity;—as it is, he must be noticed, as displaying undoubted powers of mind" (63). Here, as at several points in Tecumthe itself, Longmore expresses admiration but withholds approbation, an admixture that gives rise to the special pleading of the poem’s final stanzas, the argument of which runs as follows: the records that remain from ancient (European) times "memorize" the deeds of Greek and Roman heroes and "offer into memory’s hand, / Deeds to engrave with glory’s hand"; may not "[Fame’s] genius, History," then, "twine"
One laurel more at valour’s shrine,
• • •
And kindle memory o’er
Because he "wanted…the polish’d mind," Tecumthe’s "mound" should prompt memory, but it does not warrant a memorial, for, unlike the "spot" where "gallantBROCK" fell, his "grave" does not, in Longmore’s mind, unproblematically recall "Deeds to engrave with glory’s hand," deeds that justify the placement of a "marble-storied column graven there" (3:2). In short, Tecumthe is worthy of a poetic tale of chivalry and romance, but not an inscription in block capitals, a series of Spenserian stanzas, or a "sculptur’d column" in the Graeco-Roman style: his "ruder head" lacked the civilized qualities that would justify a "marble-storied column."
The tension between the perception of Native peoples as ignoble savages and the urge to honour Tecumseh as a hero of the War of 1812 is again evident in John Richardson’s Tecumseh; or, the Warrior of the West: a Poem, in Four Cantos, with Notes, which was first published in London (England) in 1828 and subsequently reprinted, in a much reduced form, in four issues of The New Era, or the Canadian Chronicle (Brockville) in July and August 1842. According to the Prospectus and Preface to the first edition of his "Epic Poem…illustrated by copious notes," Richardson wrote Tecumseh in 1823 with a "view to rescue[ing] the name of…[a] truly great man from the unmerited oblivion to which it has been consigned" (Tecumseh  183-84, 186).7With an eye on both the poem and "A Canadian Campaign" (the account of the War of 1812 that he published in December 1826), Richardson hoped that he would receive the encouragement of his fellow Canadians "not simply in his character of Poet, the first of his native soil who has adventured on the dangerous shoals of verse, but also in that of the Historian, the panegyrist of him who is no more, but whose name and whose memory there can be few Canadians unwilling to see transmitted to posterity" ( 184). Despite his description of Tecumseh as a "great man" and his assertion of poetic priority, Richardson is no more Tecumseh‘s straightforward "panegyrist" than he was the first Canadian to write poetry; indeed, he is as equivocal in his presentation of his hero as Longmore and, if his naming of Tecumseh’s putative son Uncas derives, as seems quite likely, from The Last of the Mohicans (1826), probably wrote all or part of his poem after the appearance of Tecumthe. Perhaps the presence in his literary sources of both the ignoble and the noble savage stereotypes partly explains Richardson’s description of Tecumseh in his Prospectus as "one of [nature’s] brightest though rudest gems" and his assertion in his Preface that, contrary to the "sentimental" treatment of Native peoples in "the pretty Indian love-tales [Atala (1801) and René (1802)] with which the Viscomte de Châteaubriand is pleased to entertain…European novelists," "the sentiment of love is almost wholly unknown among the Indian tribes, by whom the sex is held in the utmost inferiority and contempt" ( 183, 185). As Robertson puts it in The History of America (1777), the "natives" of the New World "treat their women with coldness and indifference" (2: 65).
Several aspects of Tecumseh itself, particularly the longer version of 1828, also reveal the imprint of the four stages theory. When Tecumseh is introduced, he is likened through diction and imagery to Satan in the opening books of Paradise Lost and, in one of several borrowings from Gertrude of Wyoming, compared to "the wild mammoth of Ohio’s shore" in his fierce quest for revenge ([1842;1992] 1:210-40). After the destruction of Tippecanoe, he is "red with…slaughter" and resolves to "deal…vengeance" on the Americans "Like the fierce monsters of his native wood, / Till gorg’d with victims and with human blood" ( 19). And when the death of his father and son have added injury to injury, the "glowing furnace" of his vengeful hatred of the Americans is heated to the point that he looks forward to the Battle of the Thames with "deathless ire" and "rage unpitying," and relishes the prospect of "each foe / Gasping, and writhing ’neath his vengeful blow" ([1842; 1992] 2:223, 205-08). Co-existing with these negative characteristics in Richardson’s portrayal of Tecumseh are several qualities such as mercy, loyalty, and eloquence that justify his father’s perception of his violent actions as a product of American aggression and cruelty ([1842; 1992] 2:169-76). In his father’s eyes, if not necessarily in Richardson’s, Tecumseh is a messianic "Redeemer" whose clemency at Fort Meigs repaired the damage that was done to the reputation of the Native peoples at the massacre of Fort Michilimackinac in 1763, when naturally peace-loving people were transformed into "hellish fiends" "who frantic tore / Each quivering limb, and quaff’d the reeking gore" ([1842; 1992] 2:79-80)—an imputation of cannibalism based, almost certainly, on Alexander Henry’s highly gothicized account of the event in his Travels and Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories between the Years 1760 and 1776 (1809): "from…bodies…ripped open, the butchers were drinking the blood, scooped up…and quaffed amid shouts of rage and victory" (80-81).
Richardson’s complex construction of Tecumseh as an (ig)noble savage and an epic hero is perhaps most apparent in the stanzas describing his death. "Drunk with human gore" and "towering" above the field of battle "like some dark…fiend," Tecumseh spots his arch-enemy, Colonel Richard Johnson of the Kentucky Riflemen, and "with loud yells that devils might appal" wounds him with a "ball from his rifle" ([1842; 1992] 4:297-304; Richardson, War of 1812 124). As he rushes forward with "vengeful blade" to kill Johnson, Tecumseh enacts a pattern of hand-to-hand combat between opposing leaders that is as typical of classical epic as the Homeric simile in which his action as expressed. Derivative though it is of Paradise Lost 1:612-15), the simile effectively mirrors the speed and violence of Tecumseh’s descent on the wounded Johnson:
Tecumseh’s revenge is not complete, however, for Johnson "dr[aws] a pistol from his belt, and sh[oots] him dead" (War of 1812 124):
A miniature of Richardson’s complex portrait of Tecumseh as a savage turned hero, this stanza contains a narrative movement which suggests that only in death did the Shawnee "Chieftain" transcend his violent passions and demonic nature to achieve the peace and honour traditionally accorded to the "fallen"(in 1828, "glorious" )"brave." As if purged of "rage," "hatred," and his desire for "vengeance," Tecumseh at last joins the heroes of the British tradition, who, in the words of William Collins’s "Ode, Written in the Beginning of the Year 1746, "sink to rest / By all their country’s wishes blest!" (437).
Since Richardson was obviously more convinced than Longmore of Tecumseh’s heroic stature, it comes as no surprise that in the 1842 version of the poem he expunged some of the elements of the earlier edition that made him seem "a bloodthirsty monster" (Wanda Campbell 86) rather than a "truly great man" or that, in the same year, he gave his editorial support in The New Era to a proposal to erect a monument to Tecumseh at Amherstburg, referring in the process to "the high estimate which has been so universally formed of the noble Indian" and to his "deeds, both of glory and of mercy, in the field" ("Monument to Tecumseh"). A factor that almost certainly contributed to Richardson’s relatively unambiguous endorsement of Tecumseh in 1842 was the publication of Benjamin Bussy Thatcher’s Indian Biography: or, an Historical Account of Those Individuals Who Have Been Distinguished among the North American Indians as Orators, Warriors, Statesmen, and Other Remarkable Characters (1832), an American work that "created an appetite" for biographies of noble savages (Norman B. Wood 11) and nourished the hunger of travel writers such as the Charles Joseph Latrobe of The Rambler in North America (1835) for material about the Native peoples that would fulfill the increasing demand among pre-Victorian readers for tales of heroism and pathos. Thatcher pronounces Tecumseh’s character "remarkable in the highest degree" (2:241), and he concludes his biographical sketch of the Shawnee chief with a description of his grave that is less notable for its accuracy than for its use of botanical emblems (the oak of England, the willow of mourning, and the wild rose of beautiful, untamed nature):
The grave in which Tecumseh’s remains were
deposited by the Indians after the return of the American army, is still
visible near the borders of a willow marsh, on the north line of the
battle-ground, with a large fallen oak-tree lying beside. The willow and
the wild rose are thick about it, but the mound itself is cleared of
shrubbery, and is said to owe its good condition to the occasional
visits of his countrymen. Thus repose, in solitude and silence, the
ashes of the INDIAN BONAPARTE.
In The Rambler in North America, Thatcher’s laudatory account of Tecumseh’s character and exploits is loudly echoed, but Latrobe’s description of his grave begins on a note of scepticism and ends by suggesting that the decline of the Native peoples is irreversible. Moreover (and as might be expected in a book published in England), it reduces Thatcher’s trinity of botanical emblems to the one that speaks of Tecumseh’s death in the service of the British who "deserted him" in his hour of greatest need:
He is said to lie in a grave dug by the Indians a
short time after the battle, on the borders of a swamp near the place
where he fell, by the side of a huge prostrate oak. He might be called
the Last of the Red Men— for since his time, the decline which he
foresaw and strove to arrest, has proceeded with accelerated movement;
and beaten back, debauched, and degraded—who or what shall now arrest
the downward course of the
Such questions are repeatedly addressed by another writer who travelled through Canada with Thatcher’s Indian Biography to hand: Anna Jameson. The product of a nine month sojourn in Canada West (Ontario) just prior to the Rebellions of 1837, Jameson’s Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada (1838) puts material drawn from Thatcher, including Tecumseh’s famous speech to General Procter at Fort Malden (352), at the service of her conviction that without an awareness of Canada’s "picturesque and romantic" history (353) Canadians will not be able to transcend their colonialism. "There reigns here a hateful factious spirit in political matters, "she wrote in February 1837; "Canada is a colony, not a country; it is not identified with the dearest of affections and associations, remembrances, and hopes of its inhabitants: it is to them an adopted, not a real mother" (66). And in July of the same year: "[i]t is seldom that in this country the mind is ever carried backward by associations or recollections of any kind. Horace Walpole said of Italy, that it was ‘a land in which the memory saw more than the eye," and in Canada hope must play the part of memory. It is all the difference between seed-time and harvest. We are rich in anticipation, but poor in possession—more poor in memorials" (304). With eyes trained but not blinkered by the four stages theory,8Jameson is ever alert for the Native as well as the European "associations or recollections" of the places that she visits. Thus the Niagara frontier enjoys some of the "interest derived from…historical [and] poetical" associations because of "the memory of General Brock, and some anecdotes of the last war" and "the name of…[Brantford] has certain recollections connected with it, which might well make an idle contemplative wayfarer a little pensive," not least, as Jameson points out, because its namesake is "the Brandt [sic] whom Campbell…handed down to the most undeserving execration as the leader in the massacre at Wyoming" (232-33).
Of more interest to Jameson than Brock or Brant, however, are Tecumseh and Pontiac. In journal entries written at Chatham and Detroit, Tecumseh is hailed as "the historical hero" of the "Western District" and Pontiac as "the hero par excellence of all these regions" (305, 302, 334), and the two chiefs are repeatedly paired for their espousal of "the daring and really magnificent plan…of uniting all the Indian tribes and nations in a league against the whites" (305, 334). "[W]hen Detroit becomes a great capital of the west," predicts Jameson, Pontiac "will figure like Caractacus or Arminius in… Roman history…. As they have called Tecumseh the Indian Napoleon, they might style Pontiac the Indian Alexander [the Great]" (334, 337). But, although the campaigns of Pontiac and Tecumseh were "accompanied by all those atrocious barbarities, and turns of fate, and traits of heroism, and hair-breadth escapes, which render these Indian conflicts so exciting, so terrific, so picturesque," they are "little known beyond the locality, and excite but little interest when read cursorily in the dry chronicles of time" (337, 353). Clearly, this is a situation that Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada attempts to remedy, through Jameson modestly defers the task of "throw[ing] over these events the light of a philosophical mind, and all the picturesque and romantic interest of which they are capable" to "some eloquent historian" of the future. "[W]e shall then have these far-off shores converted into classic ground," she avers, "and the names of Pontiac, Tecumseh, Isaac Brock, become classic names familiar on all lips as household words—such at least they will become here" (353). In the meantime, there is the small consolation that "a flourishing village, or rising town,…west of Detroit…is called Pontiac, as one of the townships in Upper Canada is styled Tecumseh"—two commemorative gestures that "literally illustrat[e]" Lydia Howard Sigourney’s observation in "Indian Names" (1834) that the "hills," "shore," and "rivers" of North America carry in their names a "memory" of the Native peoples and their languages (339).
Despite the growing admiration for Tecumseh in the eighteen thirties, the only considerable act of commemoration in Canada on or around the thirtieth anniversary of his death was the republication in serial form of Richardson’s "Epic Poem." And, despite Richardson’s call for a "Monument to Tecumseh," a substantial recognition of his role in Canadian history lay even longer in the future than the arrival of Francis Parkman to lend his eloquence to the story of "the Indian Alexander" in The Conspiracy of Pontiac (1851). "In five years will come round the one hundredth anniversary of the battle of the Thames," Katherine B. Coutts would write in 1908; "[h]ow fittingly on that day would the Canadian people unveil a monument to the memory of the brave, the noble Shawnee who died in battle against the Invaders of Canadian soil!" (25). In 1911, Coutts’ suggestion was taken up by the citizens of Thamesville, who placed a commemorative stone on the spot where Tecumseh was supposed to have fallen at the Battle of the Thames. This token gesture did not satisfy everyone, however, and in 1931 R.D. Shaw complained that "[m]ore than a century has passed…and Canada has not yet fittingly commemorated Tecumseh for the splendid services he rendered her at a critical time in her history" (152). It is unlikely that Shaw would have been satisfied with the kitschy memorial consisting of an oblong stone inset with a medallion, decorated with a pictograph, and inscribed "TECUMSEH" that was finally placed near Chatham in 1970. Nor, surely, would Tecumseh.9
In the century and a half that elapsed between the poems of Richardson and Longmore and the erection of the Thamesville memorial, Tecumseh continued to attract the interest of Canadian poets, particularly those who were engaged in the nationalistic project of forging links among Canada’s different ethnic groups and between the country’s present and past. One such poet was Charles Mair, whose ponderous Shakepearean closet drama Tecumseh (1886) is dedicated "To the Survivors of the Canada First Association," prefaced in its second edition of 1901 with an assertion of Canada’s loyalty to the "high ideal" of a "United Empire" (6), and heavy with sadness and irony on the subject of the American treatment of the Native peoples in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. "‘Lost! lost! lost! the pale destroyer triumphs!’" exclaims Tecumseh in his final moment in Mair’s drama,
I see my people flee—I hear
In the drama’s closing scene, Colonel the Honourable James Baby, the son of a French-Canadian family "which ever since the conquest…[was] distinguished for its loyalty to the British crown" (Mair 265), charges Colonel William Henry Harrison, the American commander at the Battle of the Thames, to make "‘use of [his] authority / And shield [the Native] people if [he] can’" (to which Harrison replies, "‘I shall, I shall. / Right feeling tends this way, though ’tis a course / Not to be smoothly steered’") (127).10 As consistent with Mair’s emphasis on the British, French, and Indian origins of Canada as the prominence given to Baby in Tecumseh is his didactic insistence that both Brock and Tecumseh "were men of transcendent ability, to whose genius and self-sacrifice at the most critical period in her history is due the preservation of Canada to the Empire" (5). As envisaged by Mair, the chord that binds Canada together is loyalty to Britain, but its strands are French and Indian as well as British.11
Among the major Confederation poets, only Bliss Carman turned to "Tecumseh" as a subject, and then only for the purposes of parable. One of three "considerable poems…bearing on the [First World] [W]ar" that Carman published in American periodicals in the spring and summer of 1918, "Tecumseh and the Eagles" reflects Carman’s passionate involvement with the Vigilantes, a group of American writers and artists who banded together in New York in 1917, before the Unites States entered the War, with the aim of "countering German propaganda and aiding the Allies" (Gundy 247). "[T]he Vigilantes have no political preferences as an organization…and [I] am still proud that I am a Canadian with a right to say ‘God Save the King,’" Carman told Rufus Hathaway in April 1918; "Freedom will need us. She is just now fighting Kaiserism. Bolshevism is almost as great a danger in the future. We stand for freedom under ordered law and institutions" (Letters 256). In "Tecumseh and the Eagles," Carman’s commitment to the war effort issues in a fanciful but, for its purposes, quite effective poem that traces Tecumseh’s "noble dream" of a "league" among the Native peoples "to hold their freedom old / And make their peace supreme" to his youthful observation of the behaviour of America’s emblematic bird:
After three more stanzas in this vein, the poem laconically chronicles the passage of Tecumseh’s "noble dream" and the Native peoples themselves:
The vision of Tecumseh
In the fourth and final section of the poem, Carman makes his point explicit: Tecumseh’s "noble dream" and Indian "league" are no more, but the eagles that inspired them "Still hold their lofty flight" and may once again serve as an inspiration to those who admire and, indeed, identify themselves with "their valiant instinct," who recognize that "Another race [is] being brought face to face / With liberty or death," and who heed their "master cry, ‘If freedom die, / Ye shall have lived in vain!’" (497-98). This is propaganda, of course, but it is saved from the worst characteristics of that species of writing by its technical deftness and its elegiac respect for Tecumseh and the Native peoples.
Given the hostility of A.J.M. Smith and other "cosmopolitan" High Modernists to anything savouring of Canadian history and geography, the absence of poetic treatments of Tecumseh between Carman’s poem and Don Gutteridge’s Tecumseh (1976) is dismaying but not surprising. A product of three anti-Modern developments of the nineteen sixties and ‘seventies—Canadian nationalism, southwestern Ontario regionalism, and New Age shamanism— Gutteridge’s poem is the fourth book in his Dreams and Visions: the Land tetralogy, the other three being Riel: a Poem for Voices (1968), Coppermine: the Quest for North (1973) and Borderlands (1975). Like other works in the Centennial mode such as John Newlove’s "The Pride" (1968) and Margaret Atwood’s The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), Tecumseh treats of Canada’s Native peoples and early settlers as geographical and spiritual ancestors. Thus the first part of the sequence, entitled "The pioneers: First Questions/ Second Thoughts," ends with the native-born son of a Pioneer proclaiming "The colour of my country / is white and red" (48) and the second part, entitled "Tecumseh: Dreams and Visions," includes a poem in which Tecumseh expresses a desire to "weave a new history from our twin beginnings":
we shall see our own shame and the
As a dreamer and a visionary, Gutteridge’s Tecumseh has foreknowledge not only of the linguistic theories of French structuralism (language as a "code") and the impassioned speeches of Martin Luther King ("free / at last"), but also of the future status of his myth and name in southwestern Ontario: "At last / they have given up / the centuries-long / pursuit of my bones," begins "Tecumseh: Last Thoughts on the Thames,"
"In the town of Chatham / children play ball / on a green field / which bears my name," continues Tecumseh, "And there are streets / and learning-places / inscribed with the letters of my name" (118). Tecumseh’s concluding dreams and visions are a reminder of the ubiquity and power of Canada’s Native heritage: "in a cramped room" "one too old / for his age" (perhaps an Alzheimer’s patient) writes the name Tecumseh "over and over / ’til there’s no / more white / on the white / page" (118) and, in the final lines of the concluding poem, Tecumseh delivers both an imperative and a warning to the book’s (white) readers:
I am everywhere
Physically "dismember[ed]" on the battlefield and verbally re-membered in the assemblage of lyrics, speeches, and historical documents that constitutes "Tecumseh: Dreams and Visions," Tecumseh has become—or so Gutteridge hopes—a ubiquitous presence in the Canadian collective memory, a perpetual reminder to "white and red" (but especially the former) of a shared record of "shame," an explosive legacy of Native anger, and a great Shawnee leader’s vision of "a new history" woven from "twin beginnings."
For reasons that are not difficult to find, Brant fared better than Tecumseh as a subject of physical (as opposed to literary) commemoration during the nineteenth century. Tecumseh’s military importance and heroic death in the War of 1812 were the stuff of stirring poetry and Brant’s activities during the Revolutionary War were shrouded in uncertainty and controversy, but as a candidate for physical commemoration, Brant had two distinct advantages: his body was available for ceremonial burial in a fitting, marked location, and he died in the bosom of his family and the Mohawk community, leaving a son, John Brant (Tekarihogen) who did much in the wake of Strachan’s "Life of Captain Brant" (1820) to remove the stigma of "Monster" from his reputation, and, indeed, secured a grudging but public apology for the epithet from Campbell in 1822 (see Sarah Green 142-57). This doubtless helped to prepare the way for the naming of the village at the centre of the Grand River reserve Brant’s Ford (now Brantford) in 1827, for the reassessment of Brant’s life and reputation by William L. Stone in his two-volume Life of Joseph Brant—Thayendenagea (1838; 2nd. ed. 1865), for the reinternment of the remains of Joseph and John Brant in a tomb beside the Anglican church in Grand River in 1850,12 and, ultimately, for the celebration of Joseph Brant as a Canadian hero that occurred under the auspices of Imperialism in the eighteen eighties and ’nineties.13
On October 8 of the same year that Mair published Tecumseh (1886) a monument to Brant was unveiled in the town that by then had born his name for nearly seventy years. Writing in the October 21, 1886 number of The Week, Sara Jeannette Duncan saw the Brant monument in her hometown not merely as a tribute to "the probity and prowess of a dead Indian" but also as a reflection of "that British sense of honour and of justice which holds its bond with ignorance and weakness as sacred as with enlightenment and power, which brings double payment for the ancestral acts of barbarism in the gentle and kindly acts of civilisation, which recognizes a hero in a subject and an alien race" ("Saunterings" 756). After a sketch of Brant’s life that conspicuously fails to absolve him of guilt for the massacres at Oriskany, Cherry Hill, and elsewhere ("some of the bloodiest chapters in the history of rebellion bear his name as their author"), Duncan tempers strong praise for the various components of the monument with an analysis of Percy Wood’s statue of Brant that reveals the tenacity of the stereotype of the ignoble savage and its underlying assumptions:
(The American politician Henry Clay [1777-1852] was as well known for his gangling physique as for his oratorical gifts.) Unable to resist using the occasion for humour, Duncan proceeds to meditate on the merits of "[t]he garb of North American barbarism" both for public statuary and for "distinguished politicians," but she concludes her account of the unveiling of the Brant monument on a deeply sombre note. Looking back to a time when "the spot whereon [the monument] stands was part of an unbroken wilderness," she finds pathos as well as irony in the fact that the members of the Six Nations who were present at the ceremony were, at base, "rendering tribute unto the warrior who did most to dispossess [them] of [their] great inheritance" by "giv[ing] allegiance to a power that robbed them of their right of tenantry, and all their wild ancestral life" (757). Looking forward to a "time which cannot be many centuries away," she envisages the extinction of the Native peoples and imagines the statue of Brant as "all that the sun and wind will find of the tribes they knew before they knew us." "Shall liberty be any the less dear because fetters are of bronze and of honour?" she wonders. "Shall extinction be any more acceptable because of carven memory? The strength and agility and endurance of the redman are set up before us in a graven image to his everlasting renown—but at what price!" (757). While the logic of these rhetorical questions is not entirely clear, their thrust seems plain enough, particularly in the light of Duncan’s allusions to Exodus 20:4 ("Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image") and 1 Corinthians 7.23 ("Ye are bought with a price; be not servants of men"): Canadians should pause to consider whether their veneration of Brant and their treatment of the Native peoples is consistent with Christianity’s injunctions against idolatry, its definition of liberty as service to God, and its subordination of the human to the divine. A "bronze Brant" on a "pedestal" may be a reflection of the moral flaws rather than the moral strengths of Canadian culture.
Perhaps because she had been invited to compose a poem to commemorate the re-internment of Red Jacket and eight other Seneca chiefs in Buffalo, New York in the previous October (Van Steen 15), the daughter of the Mohawk Chief George Johnson and his English wife Emily of the Six Nations (formerly Grand River) reserve was invited to read a poem on the occasion of the unveiling of the "bronze Brant" in October 1886. When the time came, Pauline Johnson was so shy that "On the Dedication of a Memorial to Joseph Brant" had to be read by W.F. Cockshutt, who was "later to become a Member of Parliament" (Van Steen 15). At its appropriately orotund climax, Johnson’s poem is an imperialistic celebration of the "common brotherhood" that Canadians of Native and European ancestry enjoy as "British subjects" under the protection of "England’s noble Queen," but in its opening couplets it is a movingly elegiac expression of regret and remembrance:
Two years earlier, in "The Re-Internment of Red Jacket," Johnson had made much the same point about the fading of the Indian race: Red Jacket’s "mind pulse[d] with the dying day / That sends his waning nation to decay…And few remain today" (48). On that occasion, however, she declared herself the proud inheritor of her "sire[‘s]" "copper-tinted face, and smoldering fire / Of wilder life" and addressed the "‘rising nation of the West’" in the voice of Indian Summer, urging mutual forgiveness for past wrongs between the "waning" and "‘rising’" nations and applauding the Americans for honouring Red Jacket in the dying days of the Native peoples (48). By the early eighteen nineties, Johnson had lost her shyness and, with the help of the Toronto journalist Frank Yeigh, transformed her capacity "‘to personify her race’" (Yeigh qtd. in Van Steen 17-18) into a Vaudevillian stage performance in which she recited such "Indian" poems as "The Song My Paddle Sings" (1912) and "A Cry from an Indian Wife" (1912) in an "Indian costume…[of] fringed and beaded buckskins, bear-claw necklace, and beaded moccasins" (23). Between October 1884 and November 1892, when she first appeared in "Indian costume," Johnson effectively reinvented herself as a manifestation of the third great stereotype of the Native in North American literature and culture: the stereotype of the living relic of a dying race.
While the fin-de-siècle fascination with decadence doubtless contributed to the formation and popularity of Johnson’s persona,15 the roots of the living relic stereotype stretch far beyond the eighteen eighties and ’nineties and include—as Johnson’s case, in fact, intimates—Native as well as European perceptions of the destiny of North America’s aboriginal peoples and cultures. Both the stereotypes of the ignoble and the noble savage tacitly assume the eventual disappearance of Native culture, the former through the positive and the latter through the negative effects of contact with European civilization. Both the Enlightenment and the Romantic movements included metahistorical theories of the rise and fall of civilizations, most notably those of the Italian philosopher Giambaltista Vico, who argued in the Scienza Nuova (The New Science) (1725; 3rd.ed. 1744) that all societies go through cycles (corsi) of growth, maturity, decline, and return to divine origins (recorso), and of the French historian Constantin François de Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney, who speculates in Les Ruines; ou Méditation sur les révolutions des empires, suivies de la loi naturelle (1791) on the fate of ancient empires and the prospects of modern ones. (One of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s favourite books, the 1795 English translation of Les Ruines (The Ruins) was not only a source for Queen Mab  and "Ozymandias" but also one of the four works from which the Monster gleans his education in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . "If…America…ha[d] been discovered more gradually…the empires of Mexico and Peru…[would] not [have] been destroyed" , Frankenstein suggests early in the novel, and after hearing of "the discovery of the American empire" in The Ruins the Monster weeps "over the hapless fate of the original inhabitants" .) In the course of the nineteenth century, the excavation of ancient cities such as Nineveh and Troy merely confirmed what Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin were arguing in the fields of geology and natural science: no species or civilization, however fierce or admirable, is immune to decline and extinction. As the cynically villainous Alfred puts it (with a likely debt to Volney) in Isabella Valancy Crawford’s Malcolm’s Katie (1884): "‘Below the roots of palms, and under stones / Of younger ruins, thrones, tow’rs and cities / Honeycomb the earth…their foundings all unknown’" (4:71-74). What were the gigantic mounds that dotted North America between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico but the remnants of a vanished race and civilization (see Silverburg)? What were the small groups of Native peoples that now inhabited the same area but the remnants of a race that would soon disappear entirely?
These questions bespeak a European perspective, of course, but they received reinforcement from the apparent fatalism and the fatalistic resistance with which American settlement was met by the Native peoples in the nineteenth century. "[I]n the course of fifty years more," wrote Isaac Weld in 1797, "no vestige even of these once…[numerous] people will probably be found in the whole of that extensive territory, which lies between the Mississippi and the Atlantic, and was once formerly inhabited solely by them" (2: 199). "Where today are the Pequot? Where the Narraganset, the Mohican, the Pocanet and many other once powerful tribes of our people?" Tecumseh asked the Choctaw and Chickasaw in a famous speech of September 1811. "They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before a summer sun…. So it will be with you…!" (qtd. in Tucker 200-01). "Everywhere our people have passed away, as the snow of the mountains melts in May," he told another group in November of the same year. "Gone are the Pequot, the Narraganset, the Powhatan, the Tuscarora and the Coree" (qtd. in Tucker 213). Such speeches probably did at least as much to confirm the perception that the Indians were a vanishing race—"a wasting remnant that must soon disappear with the receding forest" (Frances Wright 106)—as they did to secure the co-operation of the Native peoples in resisting American incursions on their lands. Certainly they resonate repeatedly with Canadian writings of the eighteen twenties and ’thirties in which observations concerning the lamentable diminution and, increasingly, the inevitable disappearance of the Native peoples are couched in a discourse of "remnants" and "relics." A striking case in point is the Lucubrations of Humphrey Ravelin, Esq. (1823) where the pseudonymous author who supplied Longmore with the Argument for Tecumthe observes that in the Unites States the Native peoples "have dwindled to a miserable remnant which, in the course of a few generations more, will utterly disappear from the face of the earth…. [T]hey have been made the victims, not the pupils, of civilization" and "become to the Americans what the shattered column, the broken arch, and the falling cloister are to the old world"—that is, the "vestige[s] of antiquity…[and] infant religion" (323-25). No longer feared as enemies or valued as allies, the Native peoples were becoming remnants and relics to be collected, preserved, and studied. Thus the Indian reservation became a living museum and the Native peoples the objects of savage ethnography.
Two Canadian works of the eighteen thirties that illustrate the entrenchment and implications of this attitude are The Huron Chief and Catharine Parr Traill’s The Backwoods of Canada. In the Preface to his poem, Kidd could be echoing Tecumseh’s speeches when he observes that "the poor Indians have been so cruelly treated, and driven from their homes and hunting-grounds, by the boasted freemen of the United States, that the MOHICANS, the NARAGANSETTS, the DELAWARES, and others, once powerful Tribes, have now become totally extinct—while the remaining tribes are daily dwindling away"(3). Consistent with this perception, The Huron Chief itself is both an elegiac celebration of the vanishing world of the noble savage that narrates the destruction of a "remnant of…[the Huron] tribe" (613, 671, 1619) and an antiquarian compendium of Native history, legends, traditions, symbols, and personages that Kidd "personally collected among [the Indians]" and from various published sources, particularly James Buchanan’s Sketches of the History, Manners, and Customs of the North American Indians (1825). Like display cabinets in an ethnographic museum, the poem’s copious notes allow the reader to glimpse an eclectic array of Native materials from a "MANITTO" and "WAMPAM" to the exploits of "ATSISTARI" and the fate of the Beothuks of Newfoundland as described by W.E. Cormack in his statement on the formation of the Boeothick Institution on October 2, 1827 (263n., 1564n., 673n., 137n; and see Howley 182-83). To the extent that the chiefs at "the Indian Village of Lorette" (673n.) near Quebec City furnished historical information and poetic inspiration for The Huron Chief, the Lorette reserve was, indeed, a living muse-eum for Kidd, a vivid home to the Muses where he heard "The glories of the Huron race" "recounted" from "mem’ry’s page" with feeling and admiration (672-76).
In The Backwoods of Canada a recurring theme is the transformation of the Native peoples from dangerous savages into gentle relics in the form of a band of "Chippewa" (actually Mississauga Ojibwa) whom Traill visited on the Rice Lake or Hiawath reserve that was established near Peterborough in 1834 (Désy and Castel). As depicted in the etching that serves as a frontispiece in the book, "Peter, the Chief" of the band, wears a feathered hat, a neat cravat, and a buttoned jacket that mark him as a civilized Indian, and Traill’s account of an entertaining and educative visit to his family, while dwelling on their otherness, emphasizes their friendliness to whites and the "deep reverence" of their Christianity (173-77; and see Elizabeth Thompson 46-48). Moreover, Traill supplements her account of Peter and his family with a "Story of an Indian" set "[s]ome twenty years ago, while a feeling of dread still existed in the minds of the British settlers towards the Indian, from the remembrance of the atrocities committed during the war of indepenence"(177). Situated in one of the "thinly-settled townships…of Ontario," this "Story" recounts the transformation of a widow’s terror at "the sudden appearance of an Indian within the walls of her log-hut" to "surprise and joy when he gently la[ys] [his] rifle, knife, and tomahawk beside her" to signify that she and her children have "nothing to fear at his hands" (177-178). Thereafter the Indian became a frequent visitor to the vicinity and "[t]he children, no longer terrified by his swarthy appearance and warlike weapons, would gather round his knees, admire the feathered pouch that contained his shot, finger the beautiful embroidered sheath that held [his] hunting-knife, or [his] newly-worked moccasins and leggings" (178-79). To this Traill adds that most of the Rice Lake band to which "Chiboya (for that was the name of the Indian)" belonged are "now converts to Christianity, and making considerable advancement in civilization and knowledge of agriculture (178). "Hunting and fishing" still "appear to be their favourite pursuits," however, and the prospects for their survival are dim: "it is generally considered that their numbers are diminishing, and some tribes have become nearly if not totally extinct in the Canadas. The race is slowly passing away from the face of the earth, or mingling by degrees with the colonists, till, a few centuries hence, even the names of their tribes will scarcely remain to tell that they once existed" (178).
Both the moral and the implications of Traill’s "Story of an Indian" and the surrounding account of her visit to Peter’s family are clear: for two decades at least the Native peoples of "the Canadas" have ceased to be even a perceived threat to European settlers and have become instead a safe source of vicarious literary thrills, vanishing wilderness lore, entertainingly educative, diversions, and—not to forget Chiboya’s "beautiful embroidered sheath" and "newly-worked moccasins and leggings"—attractive handicrafts and souvenirs. Indeed, it is this last merit that frames the Peter episode and its interpolated tale. "The Indians dress…deer-skins for making moccasins, which are greatly sought after by the settlers in these parts…. I wore a beautiful pair last winter," Traill tells her mother by way of prelude, and in conclusion: "[t]he hunchback Maquin," a sort of Indian Flibberty-gibbet" attached to Peter’s family, "has made me a miniature canoe of birch-bark, which I send; you will prize it as a curiosity, and token of remembrance" (170, 136, 139-80). In the eighteen thirties, as today, some Native handicrafts were produced and valued for practical purposes while others were and are made and purchased as objects of interest and aids to memory—souvenirs of past times. During the Victorian period, however, the growing perception of Indians as, in Traill’s words, "a race slowly passing away from the face of the earth," led Europeans to acquire their material creations not just for their practical value and personal interest but as artefacts and memorials of peoples and ways of life that were becoming extinct through destruction and assimilation. When Pauline Johnson decided to capitalize on her Native ancestry by wearing an "Indian costume" to recite "The Song My Paddle Sings" she both wore and became "a curiosity" and "a token of remembrance," an exotic yet authentic product of a supposedly vanishing race and culture.
As Daniel Francis has pointed out in The Imaginary Indian: the Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture (1992), the desire to study, record, and collect evidences of the "vanishing Indian" was a driving force in Canadian art and literature from the eighteen forties onwards. Paul Kane’s Wanderings of an Artist (1859) was largely ghost-written, but there is no reason to doubt that he travelled west in the summer of 1845 in order to make a reputation by sketching and painting people(s) whom he believed were "fast being obliterated" (Kane qtd. in Francis 16). Some twenty-five years later, William F. Butler observed of the Natives of the Northwest that they were "passing away beneath our very eyes into the infinite solitude," and in 1889 John Maclean heard the songs of the Indians of the "western plains [as]…the dying requiem of the departing savage" (qtd. in Francis 47, 23). In 1909, critics reviewing an exhibition of Edmund Morris’s Indian paintings and artefacts in The Globe and Saturday Night praised Morris for his "fine…souvenirs" of what they variously called "rapidly vanishing Indian Chiefs," "the sole survivors of the great race of redmen in Canada," and "a race which will soon be no more than a tradition," and in the nineteen thirties two of Canada’s most distinguished ethnologists, Marius Barbeau and Diamond Jenness, gave the imprimatur of modern science to the view that the Native cultures and peoples were doomed to go the way of the passenger pigeon: "the indications point convincingly to the extinction of the race" (Barbeau); "[d]oubtless all the tribes will disappear" (Jenness) (qtd. in Francis 27-28, 56). The testimonials of Barbeau and Jenness in 1931 and 1932 are all the more surprising in view of the fact that, although the Native population of Canada was, indeed, in decline until after the First World War, it actually grew in the nineteen twenties: "[t]he 1921 census counted 110, 814 registered Indians; ten years later, the number had climbed to 122, 911; and, as Francis observes, the trend continued until "[b]y the 1950s the Native population was growing at an annual rate of four percent, faster than the general population" (53-54).16
Among the most emotionally charged treatments of Native people(s) as relics of vanishing races and cultures are the Indian paintings of Frances Anne Hopkins and the Indian poems of Duncan Campbell Scott. Justly well-known in the post-Confederation period for her luminous paintings of voyageurs, Hopkins produced three large paintings with Indian themes in the eighteen seventies and ’eighties: Left to Die (1872), a depiction of a warrior who has been abandoned by his band on the prairie, Minnehaha Feeding Birds (undated), a portrait of the heroine of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Hiawatha (1857), and her masterpiece in the genre, Relics of the Primaeval Forest (circa 1885). "There is an eerie yet serene quality to th[is] painting, imparted by the burnt forms and the old gnarled roots, the darkness of the still water in the bay and the forest in the background," observes Janet Clark; "the question arises as to whether, by ‘relics,’ the artist is referring to the forest primaeval or to the Native fishermen, or to both, as she herself perhaps realized, in 1885, that she had witnessed the end of an epoch"(33). Like Hopkins’ beloved voyageurs whom they resemble17 in all but one crucial respect—the few voyageurs who remained in 1885 were remnants of a dying breed, not a dying race—the Native fishermen of Relics of the Primaeval Forest subsist in a manner that is all but impossible in agricultural and commercial Canada: for them, as for the trees of the primaeval forest whose roots have been eroded and exposed by "changes in the water level" (Clark 33), there have been devastating alterations to the element and environment in which their ancestors had their being.
Much the same elegiac mood, though not always with the same serenity, emanates from the "portraits of doomed figures" (Dagg 182) that Scott published in his Labor and the Angel and New World Lyrics and Ballads volumes of 1898 and 1905.18 Since he had been a clerk in the Department of Indian Affairs in Ottawa since 1879 and occupied the position of Secretary of the Department when he wrote "The Onondaga Madonna," "Watkwenies," "The Forsaken," and "On the Way to the Mission," Scott may safely be assumed to have brought to these poems a knowledge not only of what Barbeau calls "[t]he popular notion about the vanished American races" (qtd. in Francis 55), but also of the actual decline in the Native population of North America in the nineteenth century. Both "The Onondaga Madonna" and "Watkwenies" use the form of the Petrarchan sonnet very effectively to draw attention to the contrast between the heroic past and the diminished present of the Native peoples. The octave of "The Onondaga Madonna" focuses on a "woman of weird and waning race" whose "blood is mingled with her ancient foes" and the sestet on her "Paler"19 son who "sulks" and "will not rest" "in the shawl about her breast." With "The primal warrior gleaming from his eyes," this baby is a parodic type of the infant Christ, a gloomily angry presence who represents, not hope and peace, but "The latest promise of her nation’s doom" and a smouldering threat of future violence (Poems 230). The octave of "Watkwenies" focuses on the violent past of a woman whose "nation’s lore and law" was "Vengeance" and the sestet on the contracted present in which she "weighs the interest-money" of a government agent "in the palm" that once held a "long knife" and "Hears, like the war-whoops of her perished day," the young men of her nation playing an innocuous game in the snow that nevertheless recalls their warrior traditions (Poems 230). Neither poem is simple-minded about the current situation of the Native peoples: much may have been gained by the eradication of tribal warfare, but much of the warlike spirit abides, and the resulting psychological and physical frustration, compounded by the effects of intermarriage and the loss of identity, may yet have more explosive consequences of the sort represented by the Red River and Northwest Rebellions of 1869-1870 and 1885. No doubt, Scott saw one his principal tasks as Secretary and, later, Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs (1913-1932) as the prevention of such consequences—a project characteristic of his milieu but no less excusable for that in the eyes of such critics as John Flood and Brian Titley.
More sympathetically than "The Onondaga Madonna" and "Watkwenies," "The Forsaken" and "On the Way to the Mission" look back to the North American past to celebrate Native courage and spirituality. In "The Forsaken" a "Chippewa woman" endures enormous physical hardships when she travels to a distant fort to save her infant son and finally dies with great dignity and serenity after that same son and his children, now evidently servants of the fur-trade, have displayed a troubled mixture of traditional pragmatism and Christian morality by guiltily abandoning her to perish in the snow "Because she [is] old and useless" (Poems 30; and see Meckler). In "On the Way to the Mission," a Montagnais "trapper" is murdered by two "whitmen servants of greed" who mistakenly believe that his toboggan is laden with valuable furs when, in fact, he is carrying the body of his Christian (and, possibly, European) wife "down to the Mission, / To bury her there in the spring, / When the bloodroot comes and the windflower / To silver everything" (Poems 25-26). Neither of Scott’s two later and most substantial Indian poems, "A Scene at Lake Manitou" (1935) and "At Gull Lake: August 1810" (1935), offers any indication that the conflict of Native and European races and cultures has any prospect of resolution in the foreseeable future or, indeed, on this side of the grave. At the conclusion of "A Scene at Lake Manitou," the hunting grounds that would once have sustained "The Widow Frederick / Whose Indian name means Stormy Sky" have been "Charred by the fury of fires" that are still "smouldering and dying out in the West / At the end of the day" and in "At Gulf Lake: August, 1810" the half-French, half-Saulteux woman Keejigo appears to achieve release from racial conflict only in a spiritual realm that lies above and beyond "all blemish of colour" (The Green Cloister 58; and see Bentley "Alchemical Transmutation" and "Duncan Campbell Scott"). So far, history has not proved Scott wrong.
After Father Ragueneau has burned the Jesuit mission in Huronia to the ground at the conclusion of the historical narrative in E.J. Pratt‘s Brébeuf and His Brethren (1940), the fate of the Jesuits and Hurons who survived the Iroquois attacks of 1648-1649 is briefly summarized:
Although the last line of this passage strikes the same elegiac note as the "Indian" works of Hopkins and Scott, its primary sympathy lies, not with the Hurons, but with the missionaries. As the very title of Brébeuf and His Brethren makes clear, it is the "will and courage" of Jean de Brébeuf and his fellow Jesuits that are chronicled and celebrated throughout the narrative and, in the resounding coda that follows, reckoned to be rekindled in the Martyrs’ Shrine—that is, the Roman Catholic church that was built near the site of the Jesuit Mission in 1926 and, when Pratt wrote, was being augmented as a sacred site by the excavations that would lead to the full reconstruction of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons in the nineteen sixties.
Some readers, most notably Vincent Sharman in "E.J. Pratt and Christianity" (1964), have found irony and even cynicism in the coda to Brébeuf and His Brethren, but there is no reason at all to doubt that Pratt was as sincere in his admiration for the Martyrs’ Shrine as he was for the "Huronia martyrs" themselves, a group whose "story" he considered "a great act in the national drama…a chapter in the history of religion…[and] a saga of the human race" (E.J. Pratt on His Life and Poetry 120, 114). Less obviously than Dunkirk (1941), which was published a year later, Brébeuf and His Brethren is part of Pratt’s war effort: an intentionally stirring and epical treatment of "certain expressions of the human spirit" for which, as his remarks at a recital from the poem in 1940 make explicit, he recognized "magnificent" contemporary equivalents—"courage, faith, self-effacement, endurance…[and a] sheer holding on at solitary outposts in the darkness of an approaching catastrophe"(114). At the time when the Nazis seemed poised for victory in Europe and in the North Atlantic,20 Canada’s unofficial poet-laureate found in the "Huronia martyrs" a "lesson of courage" and will that did not need to be "enforced" but could valuably be remembered as an example of heroic self-sacrifice for a "great end" (E.J. Pratt 114; Collected Poems 249).
If confirmation were needed of Pratt’s conception of the "Huron martyrs" as Canadian culture heroes, it could be found in the remarks with which he prefaced a recital from Brébeuf and His Brethren in 1942. Describing the Jesuit Relations as "the most accurate and illuminating history ever written about the beginnings of a country or a civilization," he credits the government of Ontario with realizing the importance of sites such as Sainte-Marie among the Hurons as "national monuments." "Even before the work" of restoring the Jesuit Mission was started, he observes, "people would visit the shrine at Midland from all over the continent, and in the summer of 1939 as many as 400,000 pilgrims passed through the place" (E.J. Pratt 120). In a manner that anticipates Victor and Edith Turner’s conception of pilgrimages as "liminal" experiences in which "a community…sharing a tradition of ideas and customs may bend existentially back upon itself" and participate imaginatively in "the culturally defined experiences of [its] founder[s]" (On the Edge of the Bush 124; Image and Pilgrimage 11), Pratt envisages the ultimate purpose of the excavation and restoration of Saint-Marie among the Hurons as the awakening of imaginative and emotional experience:
(E.J. Pratt 121)
That Pratt was continually concerned for the health of his sickly daughter, Claire, adds poignancy to his reference to a bereft parent and to his conviction that historical monuments and restorations located on the exact spot of the events that they commemorate can generate emotions that transcend distinctions of religion and, by implication, race. Like Brébeuf and His Brethren, Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was for Pratt "a revelation of the deep roots of Canadian history, where French and English differences disappear in common admiration of sacrifice and courage" (Klinck and Watters 225).
As testified by the pungent sarcasm of F.R. Scott’s "Brébeuf and His Brethren" (1941) and the puerile blasphemies of Eldon Garnet’s Brébeuf: a Martyrdom of Jean De (1977),21 not everyone has shared Pratt’s admiration for the "Huronia Martyrs." Much more congenial to sensibilities steeped in decades of hostility to Christianity and other forms of Eurocentrism is the view that, far from being examples of "sacrifice and courage," Brébeuf and his ilk were maniacal imperialists whose quest for martyrdom and converts contributed to the destruction of the Native cultures that constitute the real "roots of Canadian history." From such a perspective, shamans are preferable to priests, and "sacred ground" and spiritual "revelation" are no more to be sought at the Martyr‘s Shrine than at Old Fort Henry or Upper Canada Village. Thus, by way of introduction to The Imaginary Indian, Francis recalls a liminal visit "on a sunny Thanksgiving day" to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, the archaeological museum on the "cliff over which Native people stampeded the great herds of Buffalo hundreds of years ago" (1). (In addition to being an Alberta Historical Resource Site, Head-Smashed-In is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in recent years it has attracted more visitors than any other museum on the Prairies.) As he "looked out from the clifftop across a vast sweep of undulating prairie," Francis decided that Head-Smashed-In is one of "the holiest places in Canada…if by holy you mean a place where the warm wind seems to be the earth breathing, a place where personal identity dissolves temporarily, where you can feel the connectedness of lives back through time to be a reality, and not just opinion" (2).22 After discovering to his astonishment that "the facility was staffed entirely by Indians (Blackfoot, it turned out, from a nearby reserve)" who "didn‘t look like…the Indians…[in] school books and…movies," Francis "left Head-Smashed-In dimly aware that [he] had changed [his] mind about something. It had been an encounter not just with an important place in the history of the continent, but also with an idea, [his] own idea about what an Indian was…. And perhaps that is where [The Imaginary Indian] began" (2-3).
A similar experience of awakening at a place associated with Native culture is recorded by the Alberta writer George Melnyk in Radical Regionalism (1981). Carefully setting apart the place in question—"Ribstones" near Wainwright, southeast of Edmonton—from sites marked by European settlement (such as "Father Lacombe‘s mission") and, as bad, easily accessible from the "main highway" ("‘ribstones’…[is] situated several miles up a gravel road"), Melnyk recalls that:
(In telling contrast to this, Pratt observes in "The Martyr’s Shrine" that the "trails…[that] frayed" the cassocks of Brébeuf and his brethren have "blossom[ed]/ Into the highways that lead to the crest of the hill/ Which havened both shepherd and flock in the days of their trial" ([Collected Poems 298]). At the sacred place itself, Melnyk beholds "infinity" and recognizes the interpretive violence, done to the ribstones (or, more accurately, "the place of the ribs" ) by the educative cairn nearby:
To Melnyk, the key to the "place of the ribs" lies in the "smallness" of the stones, for it is this that creates a sense of "[t]he great contrast between…the puny products of man and all life," a contrast that "glorifies life…[and] makes nature monumental" (50). "Those who are blind to ‘cult’, to a ‘thousand years old’ and ‘tribes’ can absorb the place of the ribs into their humanity," concludes Melnyk; "[w]hen they no longer see the brass plaque they will become mirrors of the horizon. They will have been touched by the deer" (50).
Very obviously Pratt and Melnyk have radically different visions of the relationship between the present and the past that can occur on "sacred ground," but if Canada is to survive as a pluralistic nation with one and many histories it is essential for Canadians of all religions, races, and regions to travel both the "main highway" and the "gravel road[s]" of their country’s rich heritage—to look at the "brass plaque[s]" and, if they can, "become mirrors of the horizon." Only with insight rather than blindness to "cult," "thousand years old," and "tribes" can Canada be seen for what it was and is: a home to the Hurons and the "Huronia martyrs," the Blackfoot and Father Lacombe.23