A Walk Around Town – Walk G

Excerpts from “Walk G” in “St. Catharines A-Z” by Junius, originally published in the St. Catharines Journal on June 19th, 1856.

In Walk G, Junius speaks at length about explorers who travelled from Europe and settled in Canada. He describes the rich bountiful land that is Canada.  He also goes on to speak of the issues and changes faced by native people who were here long before any of us or any of the settlers from Europe.  Junius was a product of his time, while today the language and sentiments expressed in the document would be considered offensive and racist, in 1856 when this was written, this language would have been commonplace.  It is interesting to see Junius’ perspective on the subject, especially since the treatment of indigenous people is of great concern even today. It is important in this year, the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Canada that we take time to reflect on this very sensitive issue.

The following excerpts are interesting in that they are thoughtful insights into the perspectives of both the native people who faced these foreign inhabitants and that of the settler who toiled and struggled to start new lives:

“Then our ship moves toward land! From out its sides pours forth, to them, a new and unheard of race, with faces pale, speech unknown, and garments of singular texture and brilliant in colors. The ring of the axe, or the grating noise of the saw, or the click of the hammer for the first time echoes through the wood. The habitations of the new race rise from the green earth. On the ocean border, hundreds of leagues apart, they cluster in detached collections; but far inland do not yet penetrate. There the Red Man roams through the vast solitudes, unconscious of the dark cloud rising in the east to overwhelm and sweep him from the land. A stranger suddenly appears before him.  A long robe envelopes his form. Pale and sad is his countenance, and in his hand he elevates an unknown symbol. It is the Missionary of the Cross! …  The settlements of the pale faces rapidly advance. They reach the oceanwards and Canadawards slope of the mountains and Lakes. They pass over their summits. The smoke of their cabins curl up in the Northern and Western valleys. The Red Man vanishes before them.  Civilization is his conqueror, and now the footsteps of millions of the new race press his grave here, and press the graves of his father’s everywhere.

…his (the settlers) hardships, and such too, gentle reader, have been the sufferings and hardships of many of the old, early pioneers of Western Canada, some of whom linger amongst us yet. These men truly should be gratefully remembered by us, who have indeed entered into their labors. For who but them, have chopped down our forests, logged and burned and cleared them up? Who but them have toiled and delved, and suffered, and left us such beautiful fields, verdant plains, and fruitful valleys? To them, in a great measure we owe our present comfort and happy homes! To them are we indebted for what we this day enjoy! … Little does the present generation know of what it cost our fathers and forefathers to clear up at the first, and to settle this country.”

Canada is taking steps towards recognizing the reality of the impact that European settlers had on the life of the indigenous populations of our country. What may have looked to be progress at the time, today looks like repression and destruction of the rich cultures that were already thriving on the continent.

A quote from the Reconciliation Canada website states: “Now is the time to move from this darkness into light, where all Canadians find a way to leave the past behind us and create forgiveness and cultural respect for our future.”

For more information on this subject, please visit the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s website:

http://reconciliationcanada.ca/?gclid=CM3Xz-q699MCFQKnaQod7ngGKQ

S1966-32-47-1
Totem pole, carved by Kwakiutl artist Douglas Cranmer of British Columbia, being installed at Centennial Gardens in 1966 in honour of the Centennial of Canada. St. Catharines Standard Collection, St. Catharines Muesum, S1966.32.47.1

 

 

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