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. Â We learn of the bravery demonstrated by Captain Tito LeLiÃ¨vre 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.
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,Â Missy Peregrym andÂ 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,Â 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 secondÂ 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 UsÂ 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.Â You can reach David on Facebookor Twitter.
This week’s episode of Canada: The Story of UsÂ primarily dealt withÂ the abundance of Canada’s natural resources and the men who sought to capitalize on them. We covered the history of William Hazen and his lumber companyÂ and the burgeoning competition between the Hudson’s Bay Company and The North West Company. We learned the history of the “Canada stove,” the fur trade on the west coast of Canada and the quest to find a land passage to the west.
But in a history as rich and as controversial as Canada’s is, stories are left out, and not every perspective will be covered to everyone’s satisfaction. After the warm reception that author and historian David Plain received last week, I thought it might be fun to get his perspective once again; one that mainstream Canada rarely gets.
As I watched this episode, knowing that we would likely have this conversation, I was wondering what your reaction would be with respect to the environment and natural resources? Elder David Plain: When you’re talking about natural resources you are talking about the environment. But [the producers] never acknowledged the environment. Instead, they accentuated the commercial aspect of natural resources. Nor did they present the difference in worldview between First Nations and the settlers.
Basically, the difference is First Nations understands our position to the environment is subordinate. Although we are a part of the environment its purpose is to nurture and support us. Settlers, on the other hand, see the environment as natural resources to be exploited for profit.
So where does this difference come from? Their creation stories inform their worldviews. The settlers look to their bible where after God creates everything he tells Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. They understand this to mean human beings are over and above the environment. It is theirs to use and abuse as they wish.
Individual First Nations’ stories all follow the same vein. For example, in the Anishnaabeg creation story after Gitche Manidoo creates everything he then creates humans. But he creates them naked, weak and vulnerable. Then he calls a council with the spirits of all the other things he has created. That’s the environment. He asks them if they will give themselves in order for the humans to survive. They agreed. That’s why we lay tobacco down as a thank offering whenever we take and use anything from our environment. So the environment is over and above us.
Were there any other items about the episode that you wanted to share this week? I was happy to see the show mention how differences are settled. First Nations in the west took coup. They use a war game where warriors tried to sneak up and touch the enemy with a stick. If they succeeded the enemy was out of the game. The side with no warriors left lost the argument. In the east, a lacrosse game was used. The field was huge and all warriors from both sides participated. The winner of the lacrosse game won the argument.
The European was quick to use the gun as seen in the story of trade on the west coast. The British and the Spanish were squaring off and shooting at each other over furs. The First Nations chief had to teach them the benefits of compromise and conciliation. Makes one wonder who were the civilized and who were the savages.
I was, however, disappointed that the program failed to explain the difference in the way First Nations traded and how Europeans do. It also goes back to the creation stories and where we fit in the scheme of things. First Nations understand everything we have as a gift. To try to profit on a surplus would be anÂ affront to the Creator. So we didn’t trade in the European sense but rather shared surpluses with each other.
Europeans, on the other hand, see their surpluses as products of their own endeavours owned by them and to be used for profit.
Chi Miiwetch to David Plain again. I look forward to hearing your thoughts again next week!
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 Plains of Aamjiwnaang, From Ouisconsin to Caughnawaga, 1300 Moons and has an upcoming book The Exmouth Chronicles: A Memoir due to be released April 2017 by Trafford Publications.Â You can reach David on Facebookor Twitter.
Stephen McNeil said the CBC program Canada: The Story of UsÂ was wrong to assert that the countryâ€™s first permanent European settlement was established in 1608 near what is now Quebec City.
The premier said the history of Canada started three years earlier, when French explorer Samuel de Champlain founded a settlement at Port Royal, N.S., now a national historic site in his riding. Continue reading.Â
Sunday night saw the premiere episode of Canada: The Story of UsÂ on CBC and with it came some controversy.
Throughout its history, the CBC has been the messenger of the government of Canada, promoting policy and ideology of the Canadian government. It has been guilty in the past, like much pop culture media has, of re-telling the Indigenous story to suit its own agenda. However, in light of recent events such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its Calls to Action, the inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and #NoDAPL, the public has become a little more savvy or has at least developed an awareness of CBC’s tendency for prejudicial perspectives with respect to the Indigenous story.
During the airing Canada:Â The Story of Us,Â Dr. Hayden King tweeted that he regretted his participation in this episode, stating he had tried to convince producers to include a critical narrative about Samuel du Champlain. What was included in Sunday’s episode was the following statement from King:Â “When the French initially came to North America, they came in small numbers. They undertook trade on Indigenous terms. Indigenous peoples dominated the relationship, and controlled the terms of the relationship.”
For the series to have a speaker with the gravitas King and his reputation brings, and to then edit his appearance, I must ask: “What is missing?” Followed by, “Why is something missing?”
We reached out to King to give him the opportunity to clarify and educate all of us as to this side of history. That request has gone unanswered. I, for one, would love for King to share his knowledge of Champlain and would welcome the opportunity to hear it.
In the meantime, I reached out to a colleague of mine, an Elder from Aamjiwnaang (formerly Chippewas of Sarnia, Ont.), historian and author David Plain to offer his knowledge of Samuel du Champlain that was not included Sunday evening. The following is his statement about the history many of us never have the opportunity to hear:
Hi David, could you please introduce yourself? David Plain:Â Aanii. I am an author and historian from Aamjiwnaang Territory. I am Oak Clan. My grandfatherâ€™s name was On the Plain, his fatherâ€™s name was Red Sky. His fatherâ€™s name was Little Thunder and his fatherâ€™s name was Young Gull. My grandfathers were all Aanishnabeg Chiefs. Young Gull was born around 1640.
Please educate us, and share with us the history of Champlain that has been passed down to you? Champlain did meet some natives on the southern shore of Georgian Bay when he was exploring that way. Champlain was the first to make contact with us [Aanishnabeg] in the early 1600s introducing us to some European trade goods by way of gifts, like an axe and a knife, but these people were not direct ancestors. He also gave us the name ‘High hairs’ because of the style we kept our hair. There are some historians that believe it was the Ottawa and some believe the Chippewa he met who were hunting on the southern shore of Georgian Bay.
The thing that I noticed in the film that I watched, they did not even attempt to describe the consequences of Champlain going up the Richelieu River and shooting those two Mohawk Chiefs. This was the first time the Iroquois had seen firearms.
Champlain was always trading with the Algonquin and the Wendat and not with the Iroquois. They talked about that in the episode but not the consequences of that action [the shooting]. It was a very rash thing that he did and it caused a rift between the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois] people and the French that still exists to today.
So all of the things that followed that, the fur trade and the fighting of the English and the French would have happened a different way if Champlain had not shot the Iroquoian Chiefs. All that he did was ensure the Iroquois trade with the English, and the Dutch before that. They would not trade with the French.
They did not mention the demise of the Wendat, which was also a result of that shooting of the chiefs. This was a consequence of the war and the trade policies that event established. There were three nations that were totally wiped out because of the French trade policies: the Wendat Nation, the Tobacco Nation and the Attawandaron Nation, all Iroquoian speakers. The French trading policy from theÂ early 1600s to mid-1600s said no guns to the Wendat. As a result of the no gun trade policy, the Iroquois were able to decimate the Wendat.
Later, in 1635, the beaver hunting grounds south of the Great Lakes had become depleted. The Iroquois were trading with the Dutch at Albany. When the Iroquois were trading with the Dutch near Albany, for 20 or 30 years, they were trading for guns and goods for the furs. Meanwhile, the Wendat north of the Great Lakes were trading their beaver furs only for goods with the French. The Bishop of Quebec and the Governor of Quebec had a policy of no guns for trade. With the depletion of beaver to the south, the Iroquois needed to expand their fur trade territory to meet the demand of the Dutch for pelts and easily did so with their guns, essentially wiping out the Wendat. The Iroquois started sending raiding parties north of the lower Great lakes, raiding the Attawandaron ‘the Neutrals,’ the Tobacco Nation in the Bruce Peninsula, and the Huron [Wendat] in Huronia north of Lake Ontario. All fell to the guns the Iroquois received in trade, and can all be traced back to that moment Champlain shot the Iroquois Chiefs ensuring the Iroquois ally themselves to the Dutch.
Chi Miigwetch to Elder David Plain of Aamjiwnaang for taking the time to speak about this aspect of Canada’s history so many of us never get to hear.
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 Plains of Aamjiwnaang, From Ouisconsin to Caughnawaga, 1300 Moons and has an upcoming book The Exmouth Chronicles: A Memoir due to be released April 2017 by Trafford Publications.