Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Thursday, July 19, 2012
War of 1812, Fort Michilimachinac
It was July 17, 1812 the first battle of the war was fought at the far reach of the North West Frontier, at Fort Michilimachinac on Machinac Island. This fort had been built by the French and come into the possession of the English. It was a fort to protect the fur trade route through the Great Lakes. The British several years later earlier had turned it over the the Americans as part of the settlement of the War of Independence. The British built another fort 50 miles away of St Joseph Island in the mouth of the St. Mary River. As it turned out the Americans had not heard that the war had begun (we must remind ourselves that it would take several weeks for a messenger to reach this frontier post from Washington.) The British had gotten the word to Fort St Joseph first and left it up to the local commander whether or not to attack the American fort. They did. With the small group of British soldiers, local Métis residence and several hundred Indians the voyage across the lake was made and the fort was taken.
There are many understanding as to the significance of the War of 1812. One that is put forward is that the British North Americans decided, consciously or unconsciously, that they wanted a different way forward.
In simpler terms, they knew they did not want to be part of the American experiment. The American's thought that the Canada's would be easy picking. Why not, three out of five residents of Upper Canada (Ontario) we recent immigrants from the United States, United Empire Loyalists. This was a miscalculation for this group has already suffered and sacrificed to not be a part of the United States. There were also loyal British subjects, Indians (First Nation's people ) who had know a long history of abuse by Americans and there were fugitive slaves who feared they may be sent back to their former masters if the Americans won. And, there were French who may have dislike the English for many reason but who distrusted the Americans even more. The assemblage of French, English and First Nations people were to fight alongside each other to turn the Americans back at the border. Perhaps the different vision of what was to become Canada was there in its nascent form.
One aspect that interests me is the different relationship British North American and the United States had with the First Nations. In the Northern part of the continent the European, French and English has a 250 year history of living with, learning from and sharing in the fur trade with the First Nations. It was the First Nations that taught them how to live and survive in the harsh territory with the use of their technology: the canoe, snowshoes, toboggan. There was a respect between the First Nations and the Europeans as they gained from each other and shared in the basic industry, the fur trade. The ultimate cooperation resulted in the emergence of the Métis Nation (recognized in Canada's Constitution as one of the First Nation of Canada. Metaphorically , Canada has been called a Métis nation.
It was not always a perfect harmonious relationship but it was far better that the continuous war against the Indians by the Americans up until the end of the 19th Century. We now recognize that Canada's values were shaped by the values of First Nations people as well as the British and French. It has been written that we are a Métis nation. We learned more than how to survive in the wild . We learned how to live with one another. There are Canadian value today such as sharing with each other "eating from a common bowl" and accepting others into the community. ( First Nations People often made foreigner, even former enemies, part of their tribe.) This happened to a Kentuckian militia man during the War of 1812 near Detroit. He was captured after a fierce battle and taken capture by a tribe of Pottawatomie Indians. He was then accepted as a member of their tribe and shared their sometimes meager food. When he decided he had to leave they sadly saw him go and surrender to the British at Detroit. This is part of the story of William Atherton. He wrote an interesting journal you can read in the Internet Archive I recommend it. He was treated more harshly by the British. He walked from Detroit to Montreal where he was imprisoned, fed on food sold the the British by American farmers over the border. When he was released he walked the 1000 miles home through American territory in Upper New York State that had many Tory (pro-British) residence that he could not count on for help.
On the American side of the border, the treatment of Indians, was a 350 year genocidal war from the Trail of Tears of the Cherokee to the slaughter of the buffalo to deprive the plains Indians of their food and way of life. The land was not be be shared, the Removal Act was to have the Indians vacate so that American settlers could move in.
In the North West frontier this different relationship between the Europeans and the Indians was already being lived out. The British were on good terms with the Indians, thought their fur trade dealings. They had held out the hope the the Indian would eventually have a territory of their own in the North West Frontier.
There was talk of moving the Indians out of the area of the United States to the Indian territory west of the Mississippi. Most of the Indians sided with the British. The Great Chief Tecumseh, who had been trying to united the tribes saw the best hope for the tribe was with the British. Sadly, as it turned out, it was just a hope. When the war treaty was negotiated they did not have a place at the table and the British did to negotiate and territory in the North West Frontier for the Indians. As a Canadian, looking back on the negotiations between the British and the American, the British too easily gave in to the Americans. The result of the end of the War of 1812 was that a commission was formed to settle the actual border between British North America and the United States. You only have to locate all the communities along the Border, particularly between the New England state and BNA and see how the border divided communities that were one before there was a border. One can only dream how different our two countries would be if a large part of Northern New England, Upper New York State and all of the Great Lakes were north of the border. Not to mention if what is now Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin had become a home for First Nations People.
Sadly, the First Nations people were the big losers in the War of 1812. Some settled in Canada, where there are several tribes on the Six Nations reserve, including some Delaware Indians from further south. The Indians of the Three Fire Confederacy: Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Pottawatomie, resettled Manitoulin Island, which they had been driven from by the Iroquois. Canada continues to this day to try to make things right for the First Nations People. Progress is slow ,but occasionally dramatic, in settling disputes, honouring treaties and making large financial and territorial claims. These are obligations of the crown and not any particular government in power at the time.
Monday, July 16, 2012
The Best Laid Plans. . . .!
I just had a email from my brother, Richard saying he and Carol were ending their hike of the Mountain to Sea Trail in North Carolina. Ever since they started it has rained in the mountains and Carol's continuous wet feet has been a problem. Due to her cancer therapy her feet and hands were left sensitive and the wetness made the problem worse. They began the hike knowing that this could be a problem.
If this was the only problem, I suspect they might have rested until the weather cleared and continued but they learned that their daughter, Heather, was also having a crisis in her life. Here beloved Rottweiler dog has been diagnosed as having bone cancer. They must have learned this when the contacted her to give her information to post about their hike. Richard and Carol wanted to be with Heather at this time.
Heather's dog is not only a much love companion and pet it is a trained "therapy dog" which Heather could take into schools, hospitals and nursing homes as therapy for clients.
I can only imagine how badly Heather must feel. If the three Robinson girls I have always considered Heather the sensitive one. Laura, is the serious one, (the fate of all first born children) and Andrea is the silly one, as the youngest to be free to be funny and playful. Heather I am sure would appreciate the support of her parents. She is trying to do the final polishing of her doctoral dissertation in the field of counselling and therapy.
I suspect the time will come when Richard and Carol will return to finish the hike from the mountains to the sea.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Today my brother, Richard ,and his wife, Carol, are beginning another hike. Some may remember that a couple of years ago they did a through hike of the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, all 2200 miles of it. This time they are going to hike across North Carolina on the Mountain to Sea Trail. It is 950 miles. It is a relatively new trail not fully developed yet. It begins at Clingmans Dome (The highest point on the Appalachian Trail ) , a wonderful lookout spot in the Great Smokey Mountains and ending at Jockey's Ridge State Park in Nags Head on the Atlantic Coast. It is roughly a diagonal crossing of the state from Southwest to Northeast. I wish them well, while this is less than half the distance of the Appalachian Trail and not over as challenging a terrain, for them it has additional personal challenges they did not face doing the AT.
There is a story here. Richard is two years younger than I am and Carol is older, about my age I think, so long distant hiking is a physical test I admire and only wish I was up to such an effort. In their past, they have both been marathon runners but have had to condition themselves to begin long distant hiking in their retirement. The hiking of the length of the Appalachian trail was a once in a life time achievement.
Upon finishing the AT adventure Carol found out she had breast cancer. In the last couple of years she has been fighting this condition. At one point she thought she had defeated the cancer and the two of them went on a recreational hike and vacation in Florida. They returned to learn that there we cancer cells in Carol lymphatic system. The battle against cancer was to be fought once again.
Recently, Carol was told she is cancer free. This hike, which they had been hoping to do was now going ahead.
My brother, a few weeks ago had a new knee joint installed. I think he wore the last one out on the Appalachian Train.
So you see this hike has some personal challenges and it will bring some special rewards whether of not they are able to ultimately finish all 950 miles. They earned the designation of the "Canadian Geese" while on the Appalachian Trail, so now we can say the Canadian Geese are taking flight once again.
PS: I don't have to tell you that the weather has been very hot. They are hoping for fewer 100 F degree days.
I will be following their Trail Journal where they will post entries and picture of their progress. from time to time. I look forward to sharing in another great adventure.