Category Archives: History

Why Did You Say That?

At the beginning of each tour we give at the Winnipeg Art Gallery we provide this welcome.

” We acknowledge the Winnipeg Art Gallery in located on Treaty One land, the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, Dakota and Oji-Cree Nations and the homeland of the Métis.”  

Treaty One by artist Robert Houle

At the beginning of November I gave a drop- in guided tour to about twenty five gallery visitors and after the tour was over one woman stayed back to ask me a question.  She was from a small rural community some distance from Winnipeg.  “I was just wondering,”  she said, “why you made the statement you did at the beginning of the tour.”

The Delegate- Portage and Main by indigenous artist Jeffrey M. Thomas

 I said that kind of acknowledgement was now common place at many Winnipeg venues.  I told her I’d heard similar statements before concerts at the Centennial Concert Hall, at Winnipeg Jets games at the MTS Centre, at plays at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, before morning announcements at public schools I visit and that in my church such an acknowledgment was either announced or printed in our church bulletin each week. She seemed surprised to hear this. 

Treaty Map of Canada

I told the woman indigenous people had lived on the land where the art gallery stands for thousands of years, long before settlers from other parts of the world came to Canada.  I explained the importance of respecting that and recognizing that although treaties regarding land use were negotiated with indigenous groups their understanding and the settlers’ understanding of those treaties was very different. I said acknowledging the original inhabitants of the land was a way to work towards a more respectful relationship with indigenous Canadians and to actively pursue a path of reconciliation.  

Treaty medal on display at the Glenbow Museum

The woman thanked me for my explanation.  She said she had learned something new.  I had too because I’d really had to think about how I could best answer her question.  And maybe that’s exactly why we acknowledge our presence on Treaty One land before every tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery………… because it makes us all take a moment and think about something really important. 

Other posts……..

Gone But Not Forgotten

Ojibwa in Paris

Build Your Own

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Canada, History, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Yellow Bellies

Last Friday I saw the play Yellow Bellies put on by the Theatre of the Beat drama troupe. It told the story of Mennonite conscientious objectors during World War II.  One scene made a personal connection for me.  Rudy the young man in the play has received a notice telling him he must appear before a judge to defend his request for conscientious objector status so he can do alternative service rather than join the military.  

Rudy appears before the judge.

There is a scene in the play where he appears before a judge who has a reputation for being pretty hard on conscientious objectors and he asks Rudy some tough questions.  

Dad as a young man

This reminded me of a story my father-in-law Cornelius Driedger told me.  He received a similar letter in the summer of 1942 just after he had announced his engagement to my mother-in-law Anne. Dad took his letter to his uncle and the pastor of his church N.N. Driedger who said he would help Dad fill out his application for conscientious objector status and he would go to court with him.  Since Dad was a baptized member of the Mennonite Church he didn’t think he should face too much opposition.  

Dad’s family in 1924 when the immigrated. 

Dad had come to Canada from Ukraine with his family in 1924 and while an earlier migration of Mennonites in the 1800s had been promised automatic exemption from military service the later group of which Dad was a part had to have their cases heard before a judge. Dad’s court case went well and he received conscientious objector status . 

Mom and Dad on their wedding day

Mom and Dad had only been married for four months when Dad received word he would have to report to Montreal River where conscientious objectors would be put to work for the duration of the war by the Department of Highways helping to finish the construction of a link of the Trans Canada route.

Dad in the centre cutting lumber. 

Dad’s job was cutting lumber to clear bushland. 

The men in the conscientious objectors camp with Dad in Montreal River

His time in the conscientious objectors’ camp was an experience Dad never forgot.  You can read more about it in the link below. 

The Theatre of the Beat’s production of Yellow Bellies provided a good reminder of an important part of Canadian Mennonite history.  It also brought back personal memories for people in the audience whose family members had played a role in that history. 

Other posts……………

Autograph Book From A Conscientious Objector’s Camp

5 Comments

Filed under Family, History

Thank Goodness for the Battle of the Sexes

battle of the sexesIt was far more than a tennis match! Dave and I went to see the movie The Battle of the Sexes. It tells the story of a famous tennis game between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973. Bobby Riggs an aging tennis professional claimed that men were far better tennis players than women. To prove male superiority he challenged Billie Jean King the reigning star of women’s tennis to a publicity match. Billie Jean accepted and won! At the end of the match Riggs said “I underestimated you.” In 2009 Billie Jean King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her role in achieving greater pay equity and enhanced recognition for female athletes. Her activism brought attention to the need for gender equality in many areas of society. 

billie-jean-king-bobby-riggs-battle-of-the-sexes

Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs before their match in 1973.

I had just gotten married in 1973 when the famous Battle of the Sexes match was played and the movie reminded me of  how far women have come since that time.  

In 1973………

American women could not apply for their own credit card.  Employers did not have to grant maternity leave.  Women couldn’t run in the Boston Marathon.  Women could not get a legal abortion. The ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) guaranteeing equal rights for men and women only passed for the first time in some American states in 1972.  But it would be 1982 before every state ratified the amendment. 

And Canada wasn’t much different. 

In 1973……………

The RCMP did not recruit women. Women could not fly planes in the Canadian Air Force and Air Canada had no female pilots. Women’s incomes were 60% lower than mens. Pregnancy was reason for dismissal by an employer and sexual harassment was not legally wrong. Women had no guaranteed property rights after a divorce. 

The Battle of the Sexes tennis match was symbolic of what was going on in the 1970s as women fought to gain a more equal footing with men.  Billie Jean King was just one of many, many women who took on the fight for greater recognition and rights for women.  I’m so grateful for their courage and bravado!

Other posts…….

The Famous Five

Are You This Determined to Vote? 

The Bechdel Test

 

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Sports

She Always Found Time for Creativity

The Lost Diaries Of Susanna Moodie

I just finished reading The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie in which author Cecily Ross provides a fictionalized account of the life of one of Canada’s first authors.  Susanna Moodie’s book Roughing it in the Bush was published in 1852.  

Susanna left her comfortable home in England to  accompany her husband John as he set off for Upper Canada where he was convinced their family would have a great future.  While he pursued one money-making scheme after another, none successfully, Susanna was often left alone with her small children to manage a household, crops, gardens and  livestock and to deal with blizzards, fires, illness and injury.  Yet despite her endless days of grinding work and demanding child care she somehow found time to write poetry, make journal entries and paint water colors. 

Her need to write and paint was no doubt partially motivated by the fact that she was sometimes able to sell her work and use the small amounts of money she received to help her family survive, since her husband was so woefully inept as a family provider.  But I think her creative work was also a way for her soul and spirit to survive the physically harsh and endlessly demanding life in her adopted country. She is an inspiration to those who might think they don’t have time to explore their creative self.  

Other posts……..

When Did You Stop Drawing?

When Do We Have Time? 

Creative Students

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, History

Thomas Times Two

This coming Sunday I will be giving the sermon at the United Church in Steinbach.  I will be looking at two saints of the church who share a first name- Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More.  Thus the title of my talk and this blog post- Thomas Times Two.  The reason I’ve chosen that title is because I have to speak the following Sunday in my Winnipeg church and that’s the topic they gave me.  I wanted to use the same sermon in both churches.  Each Sunday in summer our congregation Bethel Mennonite is looking at the lives of two saints and examining what we can learn from them for our own lives.  

thomas more by Hans Holbein the Younger

Thomas More

I won’t give away too much of my talk just in case you are planning on hearing it at either location, but I will tell you I’ve learned lots of interesting stuff about both Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More as I’ve researched their lives.  Like the fact Thomas Aquinas was a gifted musician as well as a famous thinker and writer.  And that fact that Thomas More aside from serving as an advisor to King Henry VIII, loved animals and lived with a house full of interesting creatures.  

thomas aquinas

Thomas Aquinas

I didn’t know Thomas Aquinas was best friends with Saint Bonaventure or that Thomas More has more than a hundred  educational institutions named after him.  I also gleaned plenty of good life advice from the two men named Thomas. 

I do wish at least one of the saints I had been assigned to speak about was a woman. They are sadly neglected in the church’s catalogue of saints, but I have learned a whole lot as I have studied two men who lived the most interesting of lives, one in Italy and the other in England almost two centuries apart. 

Other posts………….

More Visible But Not Equal

My Husband and the Pope Are On The Same Page

Sunday Morning Worship with Quakers in Costa Rica

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Religion

Giving Slaves a Modern Humanity

turner and prbhai

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.   

photo turner and prbhaiThis 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. 

Other posts………..

A Man Affectionately Deplored By His Wife

Jamaican Slavery

A Black and White Religion

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, Canada, History, Toronto

A Century is Only a Spoke

louis riel quoteDeeds 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 public domainLouis 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.  

Métis_and_Red_River_carts public domain

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. 

Other posts………

A Controversial Statue

Treaty One Land

Manitoba is Metis

Leave a comment

Filed under Art, History, Toronto