Ojibways from Sault Ste. Marie fighting alongside General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm at the historic Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759.
Ojibway warriors massacring the English civilians at Fort Michilimackinac in 1763 – without laying a finger on the French.
Ojibways fighting alongside Shawnee Chief Tecumseh in support of the British during the war or 1812.
Indians forced off fertile land by greedy land speculators aided and abetted by corrupt government officials.
With the skills he honed as one of Canada’s top newspaper reporters and speech writers, Toronto author Robert MacBain profiles four Ojibway communities in northwestern Ontario.
Their Home and Native Land is well-researched, well-written and tells a very compelling story. It will change the perspective most readers have on the place of the Indians in modern Canadian society.
Several individuals talk about what life was like on those reserves from the 1950s through to June, 2013, and describe how the Ojibways organized the first Indian protest march in Canadian history in 1965 and the events leading up to it.
The reader is taken behind the scenes in the treaty-making process of 1871-77 with the Indians living between Thunder Bay and the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Quotes from official documents describe what Indian chiefs and representatives of the Canadian government – not of the British Queen – said and did during those negotiations.
The book documents the manner in which Indians who were making the transition from their lifestyle of hunting and fishing were forced off fertile land that had been reserved for them and their children by greedy land speculators aided and abetted by corrupt government officials. It also deals with the abusive manner in which generations of Indian children were dealt with in the harsh residential school system.
The book comes full circle and ends with a graduation ceremony in June, 2013, at the $25 million school the federal government built at the isolated Ojibway community of Whitedog on the Winnipeg River. The nearest stores are 1.5 hours away in Kenora. Most of the approximately 1,000 residents are on welfare.
Given that the book starts with a suicide epidemic at Whitedog in 1995, it is clear that very little progress had been made during the intervening years. However, all is not doom and gloom.
Their Home and Native Land features some truly remarkable and fascinating Ojibways, Mohawks and Crees and their positive approach to life – despite the conditions they live in — is truly inspirational. They have a story worth telling, worth reading.
Check out Chapter One of Robert MacBain’s Their Home and Native Land.
On Page 136 of Their Home and Native Land, I mistakenly wrote that Sir William Johnson negotiated the Treaty of Fort Stanwix with the Iroquois Confederacy in 1763.
I also wrote that the British Parliament passed the Quebec Act in 1763.
In fact, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix was negotiated in 1768, and the Quebec Act was passed in 1764.
The sons of a Scottish immigrant and a Blackfoot cook are separated after their mother dies giving birth to the second son at a ranch near Calgary in May, 1939.
Their widowed father is killed less than three years later during the hopeless defence of the British Crown colony of Hong Kong.
One of the orphaned brothers is raised as a Blackfoot at the Big Thunder Indian reserve southwest of Calgary. The other is raised white in a middle-class neighborhood in Toronto.
Bill Eagletail is taken to sweat lodges, sun dances, rodeos and pow wows. He is the first Indian to graduate from the University of Alberta and has a PhD in Sociology from Berkeley.
Gordon MacArthur is raised white in Toronto, regaled with stories about King Robert the Bruce and Bonnie Prince Charlie, and taken to the Highland games and other places where Scottish-Canadians celebrate their shared heritage.
Fast forward to 1974.
The brother who was raised as a Blackfoot is a professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and is the Director of the North American Indian Studies program.
The brother who was raised white in Toronto is a professor of Political Science at the U of T and will be the Conservative candidate in the upcoming 1974 federal election.
Neither brother has so much as a clue about the fact that he is adopted and most certainly does not have so much as a hint that they are brothers.
Days after Bill Eagletail and Gordon MacArthur get into a verbal spat on a live Toronto TV show, they are told about the true circumstances of their births.
The reunited brothers’ lives change in a very dramatic manner.
Check out Chapter One of Robert MacBain’s Two Lives Crossing.
During more than fifty years in journalism, politics and public relations, Robert MacBain built up a vast deposit of knowledge, experience and perspective. He intends to mine that deposit over the next several years for the benefit and enjoyment of his readers.
MacBain spent almost 28 years as a well-regarded public relations consultant providing counsel and service to the Chief Executive Officers of major corporations, financial institutions, government departments, hospitals, social service agencies and trade and professional associations.
A systematic approach to crisis communication management – which he developed and applied to the baby deaths investigations at the Hospital for Sick Children, the controversial municipal water contamination issue at the Uniroyal Chemical Ltd. plant in Elmira and other high-profile cases – was required reading at the School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University.
On the political front, MacBain was director of communications for the 1974 national Liberal campaign, central media adviser in the 1975 Ontario campaign, speech writer for Economic Development Minister Don Johnston in the 1984 Liberal leadership campaign and speech writer for David Peterson in the game-changing 1985 Ontario campaign.
MacBain dropped out of the Journalism program at the Ryerson Institute of Technology before finishing the first year and went to work for $40 a week as a reporter at the Barrie Examiner. He moved on to the St. Catharines Standard, Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald. He then became a senior reporter at the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and the Telegram. He topped off his successful career in journalism as news director of Toronto radio station 1050 CHUM.
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