There were news items this week with reference to a couple of iconic Canadian characters: Anne Shirley and Sam Steele. This is the 100 anniversary of the writing of the book "Anne of Green Gables," by Lucy Maud Montgomery. This week a great treasure trove of historic artifacts once owned by Sam Steele were bought from his English relatives and returned to Canada. In their own way, each has helped to shape Canada's image of itself.
For those who have not read "Anne of Green Gables". . . .shame on you. If you are American, you are forgiven but I encourge you to correct this situation, particularly if you have a young person to share it with.
Anne Shirley was an orphaned girl who grew up in the home of the strict and hardworking Cuthberts. ( Presbyterians no doubt.)The red headed Anne is a delightful, smart, talkative, imaginative, young girl growing up in rural Prince Edward Island. While she occasionally got into mild trouble for the most part she her life was very civilized and charmed.
I like to think Anne Shirley is to Canada what Tom Sawyer is the the United States. Both stories are about coming of age in rural small towns or their respective countries.
Anne of Green Gables is widely loved and enjoyed across Canada. It has beeen the basis of a movie and a couple of series of TV programs. On PEI it is a virtual tourist industry where you can visit the House of Green Gables and in the summer attend a production of the play of Anne of Green Gables in Charlottetown.
Anne of Green Gables is a book read around the world. For reasons not clear to me, the Japanese, in particular, love Anne of Green Gables and the other "Anne" books. They come by the thousands to visit Prince Edward Island, a beautiful and most civilized place, and many even get married in the land of Anne Shirley.
A doll of Anne Shirley
In my family we have our own Anne Shirley. This is my niece Andrea. If she were an actress, What a wonderful Anne she would make. She is the youngest of my brother's girls. She is the funniest, most talkative, athletic and fun loving. She is presently in graduate school at the College of William and Mary studying psychology toward a career in University teaching.
The happy couple
Then again, perhaps Laura could be an Anne Shirley. Laura is my brother's oldest daughter, currently living in Australia, working as a lawyer. This picture I just got with an invitation to her wedding to the fellow standing beside her, Dominic. The wedding will be in Charlotte, NC, this fall. Since I just got this lovely photo I thought I would post it.
But I have digressed.
Sam Steele the other Canadian character I started out to mention was a real person an early North West Mounted Policeman, (Now the Royal Canaadian Mounted Police, (RCMP). He was sent to western Canada in the early days of settlement and came to represent law and order, fulfiilling the goal of Canada for "peace, order and good govenrnment."
As a young person Sam Steele was very interested in native North Americans and apparently read James Fenimore Cooper's books. His interest in and sympathy for the aboriginal peoples of Western Canada no doubt help him resolve conflicts among them and the settlers. Canada is did not experience the wars against the Indians waged by the Americans to our south. In fact, he met will the American Commander Alfred Terry. Sitting Bull when he and his tribe fled North into Canada after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. They were allowed to stay as long as they maintained the peace. He did try to encourge Sitting Bull to return to the US, which he did after a few years.
We have the mythic image of Sam Steele, thought strength of character, fairness and insistence of the rule of law, keeping the peace in the west. He, first went west to put down the Metis North-West Rebellion. Later he confronted the American whiskey traders, resolved issues between natives and settlers, turned back gun toting Americans wanting to go the the Yukon in the gold rush of the 1890's. Sam Steele, no doubt, help to establish the reputation of the Mounted Police in the early days if it deployment.
Sam Steele went on the have a military career after his years in Western Canada.
If the Americans can have their iconic western lawman, Wyatt Earp, Canada can have it's lawman, Sam Steele. Each came to represent how the West was won.