Did you know slavery was legal in Canada til 1834? The ad above was one of many placed in Canadian newspapers by owners looking for their runaway slaves. In the Art Gallery of Ontario ‘s exhibit Every. Now. Then: Reframing Nationhood artists Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai have tried to restore humanity to these runaway slaves by dressing them up and photographing them in modern day costumes that compare to the 1800s style clothes the slaves are described as wearing in the ads.
This woman is sheathed in a calico gown, holding a silk hankie and wearing a dress hat just like the runaway slave described in the ad. But the black woman in the photograph is free and no one’s slave. Camille Turner and Camal Pirbhai hope portraying the runaway slave this way will make people more aware that slavery was part of Canada’s history.
A Man Affectionately Deplored By His Wife
A Black and White Religion
Deeds are not accomplished in a few days, or in a few hours, a century is only a spoke in the wheel of everlasting time. – Louis Riel
This quote in the shape of a wheel is displayed as a touchstone at the heart of a groundbreaking exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario called Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood. Louis Riel who spoke the words that make up the wheel design was a Metis leader who fought to preserve Metis culture and land rights. He was accused of high treason by Canada’s first prime minister Sir John A. MacDonald, convicted and hung.
Entrance to the Every. Now. Then. exhibit -Art Gallery of Ontario
This year Canada celebrates its 150th birthday. The Art Gallery of Ontario wanted to give voice to groups like the Metis in Canada who might feel they have little to celebrate. The exhibit Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood gives Metis, First Nations, black, Asian, transgender and other marginalized Canadians a place to tell their story.
Metis men with a Red River Cart, a mode of transportation for the Canadian prairies invented by the Metis. Could this be the kind of wheel Louis Riel was envisioning when he talked about the spokes in the wheel of time?
I spent an enthralling afternoon in Every.Now.Then: Reframing Nationhood and will be doing blog posts about what I saw and learned in the coming weeks. One hopes the exhibit and others like it will help to speed up Riel’s one wheel spoke forward a century pace towards greater inclusion and equality for all Canadians.
A Controversial Statue
Treaty One Land
Manitoba is Metis
I saw the play The Doctrine of Discovery on Wednesday night. It used drama to explain why those of us whose families immigrated to North America from other countries, must look at our history on this continent from the perspective of the indigenous people who had been here for thousands of years before we arrived.
I found two contrasting scenes in the play particularly powerful. One tells the story of a widowed Mennonite woman coming to North America as a refugee from Russia. During her harrowing march across Europe to freedom she loses three of her children. She is so relieved to finally arrive in her new home. Now she can begin again on her own land. What she doesn’t realize is the property she acquires in North America once belonged to indigenous people who have been forced to move to a reservation.
A subsequent scene tells the story of a First Nations woman evicted from her ancestral lands and forced to take up life on a reservation. On her trek to her new home the indigenous woman says over and over again, “and the children die.” There is sorrow and hardship awaiting her family as they are forced to adjust to a very different life governed by the harsh rules of colonizers.
Both women have made difficult journeys… both have lost children… but one woman’s hopeful story comes at the expense of another’s tragic story.
The Dakota Boat by W. Frank Lynn. Indigenous people observing the arrival of a boat carrying immigrants at the Upper Fort Garry site in Winnipeg.
The play prompted me to do more research on The Doctrine of Discovery. It was a 15th century edict that said Christians could lay claim to any lands they discovered that were not already inhabited by Christians. If that land was home to ‘pagan’ people, attempts could be made to convert them. If these conversion attempts failed the ‘pagans’ could be made slaves or killed. The impact of this horrific doctrine is still being felt today and has been cited in court cases within the last decade.
The Doctrine of Discovery made slavery or death the only options for indigenous North Americans who didn’t convert to Christianity.
In July of 2016 the national body of Mennonite churches to which I belong, voted to officially and publicly repudiate or divorce itself from this doctrine. The play The Doctrine of Discovery is one way to help church members think about our participation in the enactment of that doctrine and to consider what steps we can take towards repentance, truth, and reconciliation with our indigenous neighbours.
Residential Schools- The Hiroshima of the Indian Nations
A Different Perspective
Filed under Canada, History
I have been spending most of my time in the last couple weeks working on a history book about my husband’s parents and not getting too much else done. I am discovering many interesting things about my in-laws as I comb through family photos, diaries and records. I learned that both my husband’s father and grandfather did alternate military service in a lumber camp.
Abram Driedger is to the far left in the back row.
Dave’s grandfather Abram Driedger served in the Asov Forestry Camp in Ukraine in 1913 just prior to World War I.
Cornie Driedger is in the centre.
Dave’s father Cornie Driedger worked in a lumber camp in Montreal River Ontario during World War II.
Luxury Car A Family Story
So Many David Driedgers
Filed under Family, History
I am working on a history book about Dave’s parents for an upcoming family reunion. Dave’s cousin John who is the true Driedger family historian has been helping me by providing some wonderful photographs. My very favorite is this one of Dave’s Oma Margaretha Friesen, posing with her siblings and cousins in the village of Schoenfeld where they all lived.
Dave’s Oma is standing against the tree with a balalaika in her hand. One cousin with a very fashionable hat is riding bike and Margaretha’s brother Cornelius and another man are up in the tree. I think the photo reflects what I heard so often from my own grandparents about how almost idyllic and prosperous a life the Mennonites had in Ukraine before the revolution. There was time for leisure pursuits, farming was financially rewarding, Mennonites ran profitable businesses and established good schools and enjoyed music and other cultural endeavors. And then within a decade everything had changed and this whole way of life was gone.
I think this photo was probably taken around 1913. It is a reminder that a seemingly stable and good way of life can disappear dramatically.
Dave’s Christmas Present
Thoughts on Refugees
Portraits in Hope
Filed under Family, History
“The women are all bigger and well rounded.”
Three Women at the Fountain by Picasso from Creative Commons
I was showing a group of teens through the Picasso exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. After the students had spent some time examining a group of prints by Picasso I asked them what they had noticed. One girl said, “The women in Picasso’s art works are often bigger and well rounded. Why?”
I asked if she knew who Twiggy was. She didn’t. Neither did any of the other teens on the tour. I told them the current notion that women must be thin to be beautiful hasn’t always been the norm. In the 1960s a super skinny model named Twiggy popularized the idea that women should be thin. Before that women with more rounded figures were considered attractive. Picasso painted ‘well rounded’ women because in the early 1900s that was more the norm.
The teens on my tour were surprised. Tbey weren’t aware that what is considered the ideal body shape for women has changed over time. I’m glad they know that now. Perhaps it will help them become more accepting of their own body shapes in all their variety and unique beauty.
Pray Naked in Front of the Mirror
Modeling Career- Different Perceptions
Heinrich Enns and his wife Gertrude
In 1912 my husband’s maternal grandfather Heinrich Enns bought a new car. It was a German made Opel. The average car at the time was priced at around $700. The Opel’s price tag was double that at $1,500 which gives you some idea of the wealth of Enns family.
Heinrich and Gertrude Enns lived on his family’s large estate in Kowalicha, near the Schoenfeld Mennonite settlement in Ukraine.
My husband’s grandfather and his family on the lake in front of their estate
The Opel Heinrich bought was an open touring car and was a deep red color.
A car exactly like Heinrich’s is in the Museum Sinsheim in Germany- Photos of the Opel by Kai Gruszczynski.
When the family went driving through their home village of Kowalicha or went down the road to neighbouring Schoenfeld, where they attended church and where their children went to school, Heinrich sat behind the wheel in a full driving costume complete with goggles.
This map of the Schoenfeld settlement was made by Henry B. Wiens in 1912. Kowalicha where the Enns family lived is marked by a star.
Beside Heinrich in the front seat of the Opel were his two older sons Peter and Henry. In the back seat was his wife Gertrude and his two younger sons Johann and Diedrich as well as the boys’ nanny.
Dave’s grandmother Gertrude Enns with her four sons outside their house in Kowalicha. Their nanny is behind the fence.
If rain threatened a canvas was pulled over the top of the car and fastened down with buttons. People in the village would come out to see the beautiful automobile. The village dogs were especially intrigued by the car. They would run behind it barking and howling. It must have made quite a picture!
The car as well as all the family’s wealth was lost during the Communist Revolution in Russia. After Heinrich’s family immigrated to Canada they were beset by a series of financial, agricultural and health difficulties that meant they were never able to afford another luxury car like that magnificent red Opel.
Who Owns Family Stories?
Dave’s Christmas Present
Filed under Family, History