Tag Archives: David Plain

Another Side of Canada: The (Multicultural) Story of Us

The final two episodes of CBC’s controversial Canada: The Story of Us aired on Sunday night, and covered a good deal of territory. Episode 9, entitled “A New Identity,” takes us from Newfoundland’s journey to join Canada, to Rocket Richard’s influence on the Separatist’s movement and the emergence of the FLQ. Episode 10, “The Canadian Experience,” covers the Vietnamese Boat people, the Oka Crisis and the creation of Canada’s third territory: Nunavut.

The segment in “A New Identity” featuring Viola Desmond’s role to further civil rights in Canada and the segment on the Indian Residential School System (RSS), featuring the story of Blue Quills, were, I am sure for many, an eye-opening experience. Canada and Canadians often elide over the not-so-pretty aspects of our history, particularly those involving racism.

My own personal involvement with Indigenous communities, and the many residential school survivors I come into contact with, pretty much ensures I am particularly sensitive to the telling of the RSS. The public protests that challenged Blue Quills Residential School, was the impetus to close the schools across Canada. The government planned instead to send all Indigenous children to local public schools. But, First Nations communities fought for and won the right to run their own community schools; one of the first steps to self-government. My only problem with the telling of this story (and yes, time is still an issue) is producers told only the beginning of the end. They neglected to note this form of abusive structural racism had gone on for upwards of five generations, and as a result of the abuses perpetrated on innocent children, the survivors and their offspring now suffer multi-generational traumas that oft-times present as lateral violence in communities.

Further, because of current funding regulations and guidelines in Canada and the provinces, instead of providing mental health services to survivors, social service agencies strip children from communities for their protection, and pay families outside of the child’s home community to raise Indigenous children. This practice is commonly referred to as The Millennial Scoop.

The final episode of Canada: The Story of Us takes a look at Canada’s multiculturalism, tying nicely to current Trudeau policies regarding the Syrian refugee crisis. This, however, presents difficult challenges for long-standing institutions like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as demonstrated via Baltej Dhillon’s desire and proven ability to serve as an RCMP Officer whilst accommodating his religious and cultural need to wear a turban.

The creation of the Nunavut Territory tells the “how to” for Indigenous relations done right. However, the Oka Crisis is the “how to” for getting it miserably wrong.

The series close is filled with irony. The guest narrators, particularly Lorne Cardinal, Waneek Horn-Miller and Hayden King, discuss the chasm that still exists between mainstream Canadians and the Indigenous populations in Canada today. The primary complaint: there is a large part of Canada’s history that is missing from the textbooks; the very complaint that viewers and reviewers of Canada: The Story of Us have repeatedly bludgeoned producers and the CBC for.

Perhaps the best “Take Home Lesson” for Canadians is the recognition of our own deep seeded need to see our story told—an impossible task in just 440 minutes. It is interesting to note that those who were most upset were those who failed to see their own histories told, or they were told in ways that were not recognized to the lived experience that is theirs in Canada. However, this lack is the lived experience for many who continue to be marginalized in Canada; they have yet to see their stories told. They have never seen their own “Story of Us.” Maybe now the majority of Canadians who were upset at not seeing themselves adequately portrayed here in one television series might translate that experience and place themselves into the “othered” shoes for just a moment. Perhaps then the underlying bitterness that persists between cultures could be understood.

Elder David Plain of Aamjiwnaang, weighs in with his final comments about the final two episodes of Canada: The Story of Us.

The last two episodes of the series were much more balanced. If the whole series were like these two, it would have been first class. There were “feel good stories” like 1979’s Vietnam boat people and Baltej Singh Dhillon’s turban. But, there were also some “not so feel good stories.” I was pleased to see the producers tackle some of the country’s blights, such as Viola Desmond, a black Nova Scotian, and her story of discrimination, which was compounded by the courts. “English Canada’s” treatment of “French Canada”, was also related, both stories from the 1950s. However, some of them spoke to me louder because they affected me in a more personal way, like the story of Blue Quills and the residential schools.

When my parents married in the late 1920s, they were both widowed. Each had families and their own homes. My father’s house was on the reserve and my mother’s house was in the city. They had to choose where to live and they chose the city. When I was a boy, I asked my mother why we didn’t live on the reserve with our relatives. She said, “because I didn’t want you kids to go to ‘Indian school.’” I just assumed that she was talking about the quality of education, so I didn’t ask any more questions. That was the only time and all I ever heard about the horrors of the residential school system until I was in my 40s, and stories began to surface in the general public. But in our family and in the reserve community, it was just not talked about.

When the news of the trouble at Oka broke it spread, as they say, like wildfire through the native community. My sister, Muriel and myself were living in Toronto at the time. She asked me if I wanted to go to support the Mohawks, but I was employed at the time and could not get the time off work. However, that didn’t hold her back. She left the first night and was there for the duration. That was one of those decisions in life, which makes me wish I had a do-over.

The story about the creation of Nunavut was particularly heartening. I see it as recognition of Indigenous people’s sovereignty over their own land base and the right to self-determination. It’s what should be happening throughout the country. Until it does reconciliation will remain just a dream.

But the relinquishing of power doesn’t come easy. In our last election, a lot of grand promises were made to the Indigenous community. Now a lot of them are being broken. The current government promised to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights for Indigenous Peoples. Now they say they can’t but with no plausible explanation. The real reason is that if they did, it would give Indigenous peoples a seat at the table, a right to veto anything affecting traditional territories. Canada would much rather keep us at the “right to consult” position, whatever that means.

Nunavut is an example of the meaning of the treaties. We need to start moving towards this direction if reconciliation is ever to become a reality.

Chi Miigwetch to David Plain for his insight during the airing of  Canada: The Story of Us. I am sure our readers learned a great deal from your shared thoughts.

On Tuesday, May 16, at 8 p.m. on Facebook Live, CBC Montreal host Mike Finnerty will be hosting a live round table to discuss Sunday’s episodes.

David Plain B.R.S., M.T.S., is the author of five books with a sixth, The Exmouth Chronicles: A Memoir due out later in  2017 . You can reach David on Facebook or Twitter.

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Another side of Canada: The Story of Us — When things go BOOM!

This week and next, CBC is airing back-to-back episodes of Canada: The Story of Us … perhaps due to the negative press the show has received? We can only speculate. Even the Canadian Teachers Federation has jumped on the hate bandwagon and notified “the CBC ombudsman of their deep concern about the educational value of the series The Story of Us,” citing “historical omissions” with respect to the “near-absence of comments by Francophones.”

As a teacher, I find this particularly hypocritical given the decades-long absences of historical details in the various curricula across the provinces. I also feel that as a tool for educators, this program does, in fact, merit a place in our schools NOT as a replacement of effective teaching, but rather a good introductory piece for units in an effort to engage students with new topics. Cinematically, Canada: The Story of Us is extremely well done; each segment is short and gives enough information to interest students. Yes, there are omissions, but a well-trained teacher can and should be well able to fill in the blanks.

The first episode this week, entitled “Boom/Bust,” focuses on the collective effort exercised by Canadians when faced with difficulties. That strength in a common purpose which is explored in this episode is then tested in the next entitled “United at War.” “Boom/Bust” covers the Winnipeg General Strike (1919), the Turner Valley Oil Field (1914), the poverty of St. John’s Ward in Toronto (1911), Montreal’s part in Prohibition (1926) and The Great Depression (1929-37). I was struck by the story of St. John’s Ward. This was an entirely new piece of history that I had never heard about, and I was particularly intrigued by the use of photography to document this story, a practice that would have been very expensive at the time.

The second episode, “United at War” begins in 1940, and Adolf Hitler’s army has already dominated Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Hitler’s threat to the rest of Europe is felt worldwide and Canada comes to our allies’ defence. To support that effort, aircraft factories such as that built in what is now Thunder Bay are developed, and once again, as in the First World War, it is women—1.2 million—who lead the workforce, enabling men to go to war. Spearheading the cause is Elsie “Queen of the Hurricanes” MacGill, Canada’s first female electrical engineer as there is high demand for Canadian built machinery. We also learn about the Battle of the Atlantic and the Capture of a German U-Boat (1942-1944), what it was like behind enemy lines (1944), the defeat of the Glide Bomb (1943-1944) and the Battle of Juno Beach (1944). Many of these topics have been covered before, but the way in which each was depicted gave new life to these familiar yet pivotal aspects of the war. I was particularly keen to learn about how Canadian Engineers at the National Research Council were able to reverse engineer the Glide Bomb in order to create new technology in order to defeat it.

Once again, Elder David Plain of Aamjiwnaang, weighs in with some comments about the time period—1911-1944—covered in Sunday’s episodes.

Episodes 7 and eight were not unlike the previous six episodes, centring mostly on the dominant culture and full of bravado. Episode 8 was devoted to the Second World War. I particularly liked the story of the Hurricane fighter planes but wished they had devoted a little time on the Lancaster bomber. That’s probably because I’m biased. My father flew one and was shot down over Holland in ’43. I was also pleased to see the story of the sappers near the end of the episode, and that they centred on Cree soldier George Horse from the Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan. However, I think they missed a great opportunity by not mentioning Tommy Prince and the Devil’s Brigade. But perhaps they thought that a little overdone and wanted something fresh, invigorating yet not as well known.

Episode 7 starts with, “Spring, 1911.” An interesting date. Let me tell you what was happening in the world of Indigenous peoples in the spring of 1911: we were being strangled by the Indian Act of 1876. Under it, we could not participate in any “Indian religious acts” under penalty of a two- to six-month jail sentence. Enfranchisement was in full force. That section of the act allowed First Nations people to gain full citizenship with all its rights if they gave up their birthright voluntarily. Their names would be struck from the Indian Register, and they would receive a small amount of cash. They would also lose all treaty and band rights. Enfranchisement could also be forced on any individual who earned a university degree, or gained a profession or became ordained.

Each reserve was overseen by a government-appointed bureaucrat called an Indian Agent. These were plum patronage appointments, and most were wholly unqualified. However, everything had to have his approval. Supplies could not be purchased, and products could not be sold without the Indian Agent’s signature. Band Council meetings could not take place without his authorization, and all minutes needed his approval. The Indian Agent had complete authority over every aspect of our lives. We even had to have his permission to leave the reserve for a short period of time.

But in 1911, things were about to get even worse. The Indian Act was amended again. This time it was with a piece of legislation that became known as the “Oliver Act.” It allowed for our lands to be expropriated if a reserve was located by a city of 8,000 or more, and the city needed reserve land for development or expansion.

In 1919, the same year as the Winnipeg General Strike, some land developers were eyeing nearly 1,200 acres of our reserve [Aamjiwnaang, formerly Chippewa of Sarnia] for a steel plant. They offered to buy. We had a general band meeting and voted not to sell. They tried again. Again, we voted not to sell. The developers, along with the City of Sarnia Chamber of Commerce, appealed to the Department of Indian Affairs. The Superintendent of Indian Affairs wrote a letter to the Chief and Council threatening that if we didn’t voluntarily sell the land for the steel plant, the Department would enact the Oliver Act and expropriate all of our lands and forcibly move us. We had a third general band meeting and under the duress of losing our whole reserve, we voted to sell. Of course, all of this was illegal. So, why didn’t we hire good lawyers you might ask? That too was forbidden.

Episode 7 was a story of boom and bust for Canada, but for First Nations, it was just bust. Episode 8 expounded upon Canada’s exploits in the Second World War. While the fighting raged on in Europe, a different kind of fight was taking place back home.

Aerial view of the former Ipperwash Army Cadet Camp located at Stoney Point (Photo from Army Cadet History)

The Department of National Defense (DND) wanted the Stony Point Reserve on Lake Huron to use for training. They went to the Department of Indian Affairs who encouraged the Stony Point Band to surrender their reserve. They had a general band meeting and overwhelmingly rejected the sale. So, the DND used their powers under the War Measures Act to expropriate the whole reserve. They forced the residents to move to nearby Kettle Point Reserve giving each a small plot of land. Although they paid them for improvements, they had made they did not pay them for unimproved land. The DND only had $50,000 in their budget for the acquisition so after they paid for moving and improvements that only left enough to pay the band $15 an acre.

It wasn’t much of a fight.

Chi Miigwetch once again to David Plain for sharing his thoughts!

The final two episodes of Canada: The Story of Us airs next Sunday at 8 and 9 p.m. on CBC.

On Tuesday, May 9, at 8 p.m. on Facebook Live, CBC Montreal host Mike Finnerty will be hosting a live round table to discuss Sunday’s episodes.


David Plain B.R.S., M.T.S., is the author of five books with a sixth, The Exmouth Chronicles: A Memoir due out spring 2017 by Trafford Publications. You can reach David on Facebook or Twitter.

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Another Side of Canada: The Story of Us — book-ended in gold

Episode 5 of CBC’s Canada: The Story of Us, entitled “Expansion,” is far better than what we have seen thus far, tackling Canada from sea to sea to sea.

Dr. Hayden King

We begin Sunday night with the story of B.C.’s gold rush and end with the story of the Klondike gold rush sandwiching the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a vital bargaining chip used by Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald to cement Confederacy. But we learn the expense of this iron road is paid not just by currency, but also in the blood of both First Nations people and Chinese immigrants. We also see the return of Dr. Hayden King, and this time he is not tokenized by the CBC, as he was in Episode 1.

Overall, I found the story of the Klondike most interesting and/or engaging. The reiteration of the grit and determination that those who explored and sought their fortunes for me always grabs my attention. What kind of person does this, and that so many were driven to do so? When David Plain and I spoke, he too was pleased by the retelling of the history of the gold rush, but did mention:

“I was surprised to hear, only four minutes in, a professor of anthropology said, ‘the quest for gold was something that almost all cultures shared.’ In the Indigenous cultures of North America gold didn’t hold any real importance as a ‘precious metal.’ Nor was it a thing that was necessarily sought after. It was a shiny metal that glittered and had some use in the making of jewellery, but was too soft to be of much use in the manufacturing of the really important things in life such as tools, weapons, arrowheads, etc. But Professor Davis is right if he was talking about western cultures. Gold drives them crazy.”

This episode also attacked a few of the darker episodes in Canada’s history. The treatment of First Nations and the unfairness of the Numbered Treaties, Louis Riel—despite being all too brief—and the importation of slave labour from China, all for the purpose of uniting this country. David also said he “was particularly pleased to hear admissions that those who resisted the railroad, and western expansions were only looking to protect their people and their way of life. The Metis leader Louis Riel is described as passionate about protecting Metis rights, and Big Bear is described as one of the true heroes of the new nation and as a man of peace.”

Was it right for the Canadian Government to do this? I think in hindsight most of us can say no. But we need to know about it and recognize it in a revealing light.

What I do have to applaud at this juncture is the scope of this undertaking. Canada’s history is as vast as the country itself, and no one person can be an authority on everything. While there are gaps, and there is a lack of depth on any one topic, I do feel Canada: The Story of Us deserves merit. Even the gaps and their repercussions have sparked conversations that may not have been had otherwise. Anyone unfamiliar with any one segment may be driven by curiosity to learn more. I know this episode motivated me to quickly review items of interest, particularly my own collection of reports from the North-West Mounted Police.

However, I have to wonder if this episode was re-cut and re-edited in response to the backlash that CBC has been receiving in its treatment of in particular First Nations’ history and the darker blemishes on our past. CBC is now hosting weekly online interactive chats with historians on Tuesday evenings in order to address omissions. The format we have taken here on TV-Eh to review the series was in response to address those same gaps. I noticed a marked difference in the positionality of the storytelling this week, as did David.

“This episode has made me feel thankful that I didn’t change the channel,” he said. “It was not afraid to cast government decisions and entrepreneurs’ actions in a bad light. Things such as the numbered treaties and the treatment of the country’s Indigenous people are called a stain on Canada’s history. And the exploiting of imported Chinese workers is called one of the several black marks on the nation’s past. However, all in all, I found this episode much more evenly presented than previous ones.”

That both of us noticed a change, but each of us from very different cultures, I would be very curious to learn if indeed this episode was somehow retooled at the last minute. Either way, “Expansions,” seemed to broaden its own ideological horizons with respect to the marginalized people in Canada’s past, and the blemishes upon our united history, and that is a good thing. That these black marks are sandwiched in gold I find rather ironic from a teaching perspective. When we assess, we try to “hamburger” an area that needs improvement with positives on either side. Bounded in gold indeed.

My thanks go out once again to David Plain for sharing his thoughts on this week’s episode.

Canada: The Story of Us airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC.


David Plain B.R.S., M.T.S., is the author of five books with a sixth, The Exmouth Chronicles: A Memoir due out  April 2017 by Trafford Publications. You can reach David on Facebook or Twitter.

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Another Side of Canada: The Story of Us—The Whitewashing has begun

This week’s episode of Canada: The Story of Us features some remarkable technological advances that were critical in joining Canada from sea to sea to sea: the Welland Canal, the Victoria Bridge and the first underwater telegraph cable. However, with a time span of 65 years, once again many things were left out. And I know, with a history as diverse and a show seeking to cover as much as possible in 44 minutes, I get it, things will be left out. But this week, David Plain and I were both overcome by the elephant in the room.

I should point out that David and I each watch the episodes and then share our thoughts, either talking about the show or simply writing down quick blurbs and sharing that; we do not collaborate so as to ensure we present our own opinions about each episode.

As I watched Sunday’s episode “Connected,” I was trying to see the big picture, where this portion of the story fits amid what we have already seen. Historically, at this juncture the territory that will become Canada had been ruled by Generals; jurisprudence has more or less fallen to the military, including the First Nations people who were considered military allies and instrumental in the defeat of the Americans. Following the War of 1812, control shifts from the military to civilian, and the utility of Indigenous people fades from importance.

That disappearance is also reflected in Canada: The Story of Us. Up until now, First Nations people have been present and a part of the story that CBC is telling, primarily one of mere survival of the elements and war. The role the first people played was vital to Canada before Canada even became Canada. Now that war is no longer an ongoing threat, ideologies change, warriors who are familiar with the topography are no longer a commodity required by the generals of the military and now the thrust becomes uniting Canada. But to what purpose, and at what expense?

Very early on we hear from Jim Balsillie, Chairman of Council of Canadian Innovators, “Canada was a vast open land and we needed transportation infrastructure to be able to harness the untapped potential of this country,” he says. But who and what would be the most significant objector to the commodification of the land and its resources? First Nations. How best to deal with this issue? Make them disappear. Canada: The Story of Us, made them disappear too.

A quick history lesson omitted by the show reveals that, in 1928, the Darling Report set the foundation for the process of colonization, outlining the Indian “civilization” program, that would include settling First Nations in communities where they could be educated, Christianized and made over into farmers. Then, later in 1844, the Bagot Commission recommended the assimilation of First Nations people by means of both residential schools and centralization of policy. In essence, these studies set the groundwork for The Indian Lands Act of 1960, and the Indian Act of 1876.

As I watched the segment on the Victoria Bridge, I wondered, “Where are the ironworkers from Kahnawa:ke?” Last fall, I covered Mohawk Ironworkers on APTN, so I have some familiarity with that portion of Indigenous history in Canada. A quick bit of research revealed that yes, the ironworkers from Kahnawa:ke were not only instrumental in the building of this bridge and many others, they were also hard at work in the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. But the CBC chose not to give them any credit. Just like the policy of the era, the CBC—at least in this episode—appears to be whitewashing history; perpetuating the idea that First Nations people are either just “gone” or did not contribute to the building of our country.

Yes the moments covered this week were vital to the story of what Canada is today, and yes it is important that we see how these innovations came to be, and no we cannot change history. However, in this era of reconciliation, I feel, particularly as a non-Indigenous person, that we as Canadians need to learn what we have missed, including the contributions of First Nations people throughout Canada’s history.

The remnants of my latte and David’s mint tea!

Once again I sat down with Elder David Plain of Aamjiwnaang and the following are his thoughts on this latest episode:

This episode was particularly hard to watch. So it’s very difficult to push past the old adage my mother instilled in me as a boy, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.’ But, I’ll try.

The theme of this episode is found in the title, “Connected.” But the producers seem to have forgotten to connect with the partners in this enterprise called Canada. As I watched the first 10 minutes—the building of the Welland Canal—I found myself wondering if others watching questioned where and how did they [builders] get this all this land to do all these great things in. The date is 1828, a year after we [Aanishnabeg] ceded the Huron Tract to Upper Canada. For a quarter century before that, we had ceded huge tracts of land for what would become Southern Ontario, our contribution towards the building of Canada. But not a mention of it. Do the producers subscribe to the debunked doctrine of ‘terra nullius’?

As I watched through each vignette, the building of the railroad in the east, the telegraph lines, the Montreal bridge, I wondered, ‘Where the hell are the Indians?’ Did the First Nations contribute nothing? About halfway through, a comment made by Marianne McKenna, founding partner, KPMB Architects, caught my attention. ‘…we as Canadians tend to act together.’ I thought, doesn’t she mean ‘we as settlers?’

Now I know that this is supposed to be a celebratory production in honour of Canada’s 150th sesquicentennial, but I really would have liked to see some balance. Some great accomplishments have been achieved in the last 150 years, but some not so great things were done as well, like the Indian Act of 1876 and residential schools. Of course, I don’t really expect pronounced negativity to show up, but a little realism would have been nice though.

And did the commentary have to be so syrupy? It made me feel ill. You could easily convince me it was produced in the United States. Anyway, the Indians finally show up for seven seconds at the very end, as the settlers are trying to build their railroad to the West Coast, troublemakers standing in the way of progress. If this keeps up, I am going to have to change the channel.

Chi miigwetch to David Plain for sharing his thoughts!

Canada: The Story of Us airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC.


David Plain B.R.S., M.T.S., is the author of five books with a sixth, The Exmouth Chronicles: A Memoir due out later this month April 2017 by Trafford Publications. You can reach David on Facebook or Twitter.

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Another side of Canada: The Story of Us — The War of 1812

First off, I will admit that I am woefully lacking when it comes to the era covered by Sunday’s latest episode of Canada: The Story of Us: The War of 1812. I grew up in London, Ont., and know that troops marched through that area. And what Canadian has not heard at least something of the history of Laura Secord? Beyond that, I am tabula rasa. My elementary school history teacher found me utterly hopeless.

We begin the episode with the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh at the point when he recovered vital American intelligence. Now he has leverage with the British; support for Indigenous lands in return for the information he holds. Partnering with Major General Isaac Brock, Tecumseh and the men he has following him create a front of fear that works to psychologically defeat their opponent. Hull surrendered.

Next, we turn to a re-enactment of the battle for Fort York and its stockpile of munitions and black powder.  We learn of the bravery demonstrated by Captain Tito LeLièvre to ensure the stockpile does not make it to the American military. However, we also learn the Americans retaliated against the civilians of York, destroying the York library and the Parliament buildings of Upper Canada.

We cover the pivotal acts of Laura Secord and her alliance with Cayuga warrior John Tutela in her quest to warn the British encampment on the Niagara peninsula of an impending attack by the Americans. Their actions helped to thwart the advance of the Americans into Upper Canada.

Missy Peregrym, Roberta Jamieson, Clement Virgo, Jennifer Holness, General Rick Hillier (retired), Lieutenant Colonel Frédérick Pruneau, Candy Palmater, Kristin Kreuk and Ann-Marie MacDonald.

We also learn of the effects of the privateers have on the American war effort by essentially cutting off their purse strings and, finally, we cover the Battle for Montreal. All of these events prove to the American military that Canada will not fall easily despite the lack of support from Britain due to their preoccupation with Napoleon. And once again, the show’s narration is assisted by commentary supplied by several celebrities and notaries including Candy Palmater,  Missy Peregrym and  Kristen Kreuk.

Overall, I found the episode to be just more of the same (perhaps this is why, for me, history was not a strong point), but I did enjoy learning more about both Tecumseh and Laura Secord.

As I promised last week, I again spoke with Elder David Plain of Aamjiwnaang to get his thoughts about this week’s episode.

Anaii. This week we explore The War of 1812, an era I know you have done a great deal of research on. Can you share with us your initial impressions this week?
David Plain: The turning points they [producers] chose were good ones but their presentation of them did leave me wondering. The Chippewa weren’t mentioned as being at the surrender of Fort Detroit [by Hull to Isaac Brock]. But they were. One hundred from the Thames [Chippewa of the Thames] were there and Aamjiwnaang [formerly, Chippewa of Sarnia] warriors arrived the day after the surrender.

Nor did they [producers] give any credit to the Mohawks with the victory at Beaver Dams [Niagara Peninsula]. They always present Laura Secord as the heroine that rushed over through the bush to get to the British Lieutenant FitzGibbon and warn him so he could meet the Americans and he took all of the credit. Laura Secord did not give her warning to FitzGibbon first but to Dominique Ducharme, an Indian agent from Montreal who was leading 500 Mohawks from Kahnawa:ke. They headed out first and attacked the Americans, neutralizing them, then the British arrived later to help out and Chief John Norton’s Grand River Mohawks [now Six Nations] arrived at the end of the battle just in time to loot the supply wagons. The Kahnawa:ke Mohawks got incensed and withdrew back to Montreal. Norton would later say, ‘The Kahnawa:ke warriors did the fighting, the Grand River warriors got the booty and FitzGibbon got the credit.’ To this day, it is still James FitzGibbon who gets all of the credit.

Perhaps the producers should have devoted two episodes to the war. I know when you have such limited amount of time you can only hit the highlights. Highlights would be turning points of the war. Those times when something extraordinary happens or is done by someone and if it didn’t the whole war would have taken a different direction. It’s those times that present the opportunity to play the ‘what if’ games.

What do you feel were a couple of the significant ‘turning points’ that were critical in the War of 1812?
Two major turning points occurred. One was the Surrender of Fort Detroit. That resulted in what is now the State of Michigan being annexed to Upper Canada for a year. This turned the advantage to the British.

The second turned the advantage back to the Americans and played a significant role on the western front: The Battle for Lake Erie in 1813. Tecumseh wanted to go back to Fort Meigs, located at the mouth of the Maumee River in Ohio. The British, led by Major General Henry Procter and Tecumseh with his warriors had tried to take the fort in April but failed. Tecumseh wanted to go back in July and try and take the fort again. He insisted on it. Procter said that he did not have the right size of guns. They needed heavier artillery to defeat the fort. But they went anyway, and they wasted a lot of time and effort along the way.

Meanwhile, the Americans were busy building a fleet of ships at what is now known as Erie Pennsylvania on Lake Erie. In August of 1813, the ships were ready and they sailed out. The British fleet sailed out of Amherstburg and they met and had a naval battle on Lake Erie. The British lost.

Because of this loss, the Americans now controlled Lake Erie. Lake Erie was how the British supplied the western front of the war; the Detroit theatre. This cut the British supply line off. Without supplies, Tecumseh and Procter decided to retreat. They destroyed Fort Malden at Amherstburg, and then they retreated up the Thames River. The Americans were chasing them and caught up with them just west of what is now London at Moraviantown. This is where they had the Battle of the Thames and where Tecumseh lost his life on October 5, 1813. As a result of this, the Indian Confederacy lost its leader and they disbanded. This loss basically took the natives out of the war, at least on the western front and meant that the independent state as promised to the Indian Confederacy by Isaac Brock never came to pass.

If Tecumseh and Procter decided instead to attack the naval yard in Erie, there never would have been a battle on the Lake and the British supply line would never have been closed off by the Americans.

Once again, chi miigwetch to Elder David Plain for taking the time out his schedule to speak with us.

Canada: The Story of Us airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBC.


David Plain B.R.S., M.T.S., is the author of five books with a sixth, The Exmouth Chronicles: A Memoir due out later this month April 2017 by Trafford Publications. You can reach David on Facebook or Twitter.

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