On this date, 15 July 1854 – Cuthbert Grant died after being thrown from a horse.
Whilst Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont may be better known, many Metis in Canada and the United States trace their ancestry to Cuthbert Grant.
Grant was a farmer, the father of thirteen children, an employee of the North West Company and a commander in the Battle of Seven Oaks. You can read more about his life here.
This article describes a historic visit in 2012 by Sir James Grant of Scotland, also known as Lord Strathspey. The occasion formally acknowledged that Cuthbert Grant was a clan member, making his descendants an official sept (branch) of the Grant clan in Scotland.
“My sins of omission and commission I do not deny; but I trust that it may be said of me in the ultimate issue, ‘Much is forgiven because he loved much,’ for I have loved my country with a passionate love.”
— John A. MacDonald.
I created this piece of art a few years ago during a period of pain, anger and despair as I examined the historical roots of my country and wondered how something founded on murder, eugenics, deception and flawed beliefs could ever have a good future. Despite what the UN has to say about us, Canada still certainly isn’t a good or safe place for everyone.
Yet, the liberty afforded to me as a woman in this land is almost unheard of in other nations on this earth. I can choose who I want to vote for. Being the bold lassie I am, I’ve at times bluntly told a visiting politician that I didn’t vote for them! With no thought of reprisals to me and mine — for the person did what I expected them to do, put another stack of pancakes on my plate and told me to call their office or come to visit them any time to discuss my concerns.
So, today I want to celebrate, with a thankful heart. Tomorrow, I promise to get back to work to make sure that the next 152 years are a heck of a lot better than the first 152 were.
Frontier Farewell: The 1870s and the
End of the Old West
the great plains were inhabited by European fur traders, Metis settlements, Plains
First Nations people and millions of buffalo. By 1880, the landscape was unrecognizable
– the First Nations people were settled on reserves, settlers were beginning to
stream into western Canada, and the planning and construction of the great
spine of the railroad was underway. The North West Mounted Police had the
American whiskey traders on the run and were dealing with the delicate matter
of American refuges. Perhaps most significantly of all, the buffalo were gone.
This triggered the biggest ecological and humanitarian crisis that you’ve never
heard of, but the landscape was open for the settlers that the Canadian
government were depending on to make good on its investment in buying the North
West Territories from the Hudson’s Bay Company.
This is a great read for the 152th anniversary of confederation and is vital knowledge for any Canadian. I had no idea that smallpox had played such a huge role in the shaping of western Canada. Did you know that the law in Canada often applied very differently in the eastern part of the country? Garrett Wilson breaks down the contracts the Canadian government signed with indigenous people, exploring differences between the individual treaties and the needs and motivations of the people signing them. The book reveals that the important decisions made by a removed and detached government in Ottawa were to have a profound effect on the relationship that Canada has today with Metis and First Nations people. And what really happened to the buffalo?
Thrilling, engaging, frustrating, with many moments of clarity along the way, of finally getting it – why things are the way they are. That was my experience of reading this book. It clocks in at 527 pages so let your friends know that you love them and bid them a fond farewell. Stock up on all the groceries you could possibly need for the next two weeks and tell your family not to interrupt you unless the house is on fire. Then climb into your time machine (I sat in a patio chair on my back porch with an iced coffee) and prepare to disappear into the magnificent world of western Canada in the 1870s, a journey not so much through space as through time.
Deeper into France: So what happened the day after D Day? On June 7? And 8? 9? Whilst the D Day Landings on June 6 get the focus, landings on the coast of Normandy were ongoing and were often referred to in the notations as D+1 or D+2 (in other words, June 7 or 8).
The perception is that the first wave guys got the worst of it and it’s easy to forget about the risks taken in the ongoing push towards victory. Many don’t realize that beginning on June 7 more than 150 Canadian soldiers were captured and executed by the Hitler Youth under the command of the S.S., a total violation of the rules of war. Some men were sprayed with machine guns whilst others were shot in the back of the head with a pistol. A priest was bayoneted. The victims included Private Howard Angel, a father of four who was only thirty years old.
The commanding S.S. officer was Col. Kurt Meyer of the 12th Panzer Division. He was captured and sentenced (and incarcerated in Canada) but when it became apparent that his skills were needed during the Cold War, he was released in 1954.
When you are proudly told that Canadians were the only ones to meet our objectives on D Day this is super important and not just for bragging rights. That inland push was absolutely vital because German strategy was always to dig in and counterattack. As we were discussing the days after D Day on Twitter my friend @ElsbethMehrer made this comment:
“Love this thread. We were so taken by the cemetery at Beny-sur-mer and how far inland Canadians moved so quickly.”
Thank you so much for this comment, Elsbeth. Here’s a map showing Courseulles-sur-Mer (where Juno Beach is) and the place Elsbeth is talking about called Beny-sur-mer which is about six kilometres away. They have a Cimetière Canadien there too. The guys buried here died in the days and weeks after D Day.
Read more: Conduct Unbecoming by Howard Margolian.
I definitely don’t feel qualified to weigh in on D Day as a historian. What I am going to do is share a few images and thoughts.
The journalist and historian Elinor Florence shared this image on her Twitter feed. Thank you @florencewriter for this map — it is awfully “primitive” looking as she says. It’s also the actual map used on D Day. (Wow!)
This German gun had a great view of the beach, and it caused havoc on Juno All. Day. Long. It’s still sitting there on the coast of France, scowling across that beach, silenced.
Here’s what our Canadian boys were looking at and attempting to cope with on 6 June 1944, whilst being shot at. I have brothers in the age range of the majority of these young guys, and with love and respect, I wouldn’t necessarily count on them to pull of making a reservation at a restaurant for my parents’ anniversary, or to cook a meal for more than one person. Clearly, I underestimate them.
Here in Calgary, the afternoon edition of the Calgary Herald reported that as news of the successful invasion in Normandy was emerging, thousands of Calgarians offered prayers of gratitude and relief. June is an odd time to quote a Christmas carol, but “a thrill of hope” is the phrase that comes to mind as one scans the articles. And already, the great pride that Canada would take in its contribution was growing in Canadian hearts. This young country had gone into battle with the biggest superpowers in the world, had done what it set out to do, and done it with valour.
I know we have times when we feel frustrated and resentful of our American neighbours. But I want to shout out to them, because in the integrated mission that was Operation Overlord, it was American pilots who were overhead in the skies protecting our infantry. Thank you, Americans. (Canadian pilots were at the British beaches, FYI). Whilst Canadians can be rightly proud of our accomplishments at Juno, the price paid on the American beaches of Utah and Omaha was exceptionally sobering. Juno had to be used in American propaganda photos because their own beaches were littered with corpses and deemed inappropriate for public consumption.
340 Canadian families were to receive the news that a beloved person had been killed.
574 Canadians were wounded (or, is that number — total. The brain of every single person who participated in and witnessed that battle was wounded and cursed and destined to remember. For life.)
47 Canadians had the terrifying experience of being captured.
Seventy five years later, I am a Canadian woman who lives in a peaceful, first world country. I have never fallen asleep to the sound of gunfire (unless my brothers were shooting gophers). I have known nothing but peace, and safety, and freedom.
And far away at a beach in France there’s a tide that will always set a rhythm for my heart.
June 1, 1873: on this day the Cypress Hills Massacre occurred. A party of drunken American wolfers (men who were paid to travel around southern Alberta poisoning wolves, and the absolute lowest on the scale of social order) decided to attack a camp of Assiniboine First Nations people whom they (incorrectly, it turned out) accused of stealing horses. A man called George Hammond led the attack, saying, “Let’s go clean out the camp.”
The attack only killed a few Assiniboine warriors. The rest of those murdered were women and children. Some of the women were taken prisoner and sexually assaulted. This horrible event finally forced the Canadian government to turn its attention to a situation that had gotten increasingly out of hand in its new domain of the North West Territories and inspired the creation of the N.W.M.P.
Two murder trials were held, one in the United States and one in Canada. Ultimately, no one was convicted, with the philosophical position of both juries seemingly, “What is the problem here? All they did was kill a bunch of Indians.”
What an interesting start we got off to, huh? Many of the conditions we have in western Canada, with ongoing resentment at the federal government when it is slow to respond to a crisis were present from day one, with First Nations being the lowest priority of all.
Read more: Firewater by Hugh Dempsey, The North-West Mounted Police: 1873-1885 by Jack F. Dunn or Frontier Farewell: the 1870s and the End of the Old Westby Garrett Wilson.
Something funny and cute happened at the historic library/archive where I work yesterday. Every year, we are in charge of a display of historic photographs that is showcased in the Western Oasis at the Calgary Stampede, so it’s quite a big deal.
We are getting ready for our show this year, which is featuring small towns, and yesterday three of us were gathered round trying to decide which photographs we’d like to have enlarged. There was an aerial photograph someone had donated of the roundhouse in Hanna that we all quite liked so we were then deciding on what captions we wanted on it, i.e., dating when the roundhouse was built and when the photograph was taken and by whom, etc.
“It’s such a great photograph; we’ll just do some research and find out,” I said decidedly. Just then, my colleague picked up the envelope the photo had come in. On it in neat script, the donor had written the date the roundhouse was built (1913), the year the photograph was taken (1947) and who the photographer was! We looked at each other and burst out laughing. We are observant, tenacious and visionary historians and researchers, and I’d like to celebrate that.
So apparently southern Alberta could be a pretty lawless place before the N.W.M.P. got here. I was doing some unrelated research this morning when I came across this story.
Here’s a letter that a man living in Helena, Montana, received from a friend who lived in Fort Whoop Up.
“Dear Bob. I am enjoying good health. The winter’s trade was quite brisk, and for want of more exciting scenes I am now engaged in the peaceful occupation of raising a garden. My partner, Bill Akorn, got to putting on airs and I shot him and he is dead. My potatoes are looking well. Yours truly, Sandy.”
Thank you for the story, Hugh Dempsey! Taken from: Firewater by Hugh Dempsey.