Sky Walker Tehawennihárhos
The Battle of Vinegar Hill
About the author
Susan Minsos lives in Edmonton with her husband, the good-looking and excellent Ove Minsos. Minsos’ family is from Brantford and her maternal ancestors hail from the Rotinonhsyonni/Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Confederacy).
In imagining the life and times of the eponymous Squire Tehawennihárhos Davis, Minsos draws on her background as a Canadianist at the University of Alberta. From this institution she holds a PhD in English, specializing in the Canadian novel and the opus of Sara Jeannette Duncan, and an MA, in Canadian Drama, with focus on James Reaney’s Donnelly Trilogy. Minsos has theorized on and studied and written about Canadian drama and literature and novels of manners over her entire career – both in her academic life and while wearing her writing hat.
Until 2001, she was coordinator of the Canadian Studies program at U of A. She lectured (the Universal I) to the Japanese Association for Canadian Studies at Meiji University, Tokyo, in 2000, and previously acted as a U of A consultant to Chandra Mohan, president of the Indian Association of Canadian Studies at the Shastri Institute. She was the Canadianist representative from U of A to the British Centres of Canadian Studies at the conference in Stoke-on-Trent. For NeWest Review she wrote numerous articles on Canadian performance drama.
Post 2001, Minsos has written five books: two of which are theoretical, with a revised edition of Weird Tit-for-tat upcoming. MacEwan University, fall 2014, appointed her as writer-in-residence.
After years of volunteering at various theatres in Edmonton, including holding directorships on the boards of Theatre 3 and the Citadel Theatre, she remains an avid theatre-goer.
With pleasure, Ove and Susan Minsos honour the Canadian Studies graduates of the multicultural, interdisciplinary program (north campus) by donating to the annual Mel Hurtig lectureship on the future of Canada. The Minsos’ are the co-founding sponsors and the principal donors of the lectureship, which the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta hosts to great acclaim. Minsos values Canada and engaged citizenship and received a 150th anniversary, service-to-Canada award.
In the Sky Walker books, she writes about conflicting manners in the 19th-century province of Canada. Action covers one year as the four seasons settle on the spaces between Uxbridge, and Brantford and Indiana on the Grand River within the Haldimand tract.
Her theory about instinctive team-building being the fount of socialization (outlined in soon-to-be-released Weird Tit-for-tat: the game of our lives for ordinary people), informs the ongoing motif of the novels, which is about individuals and culture clubs. The Mohawk Trilogy alludes to stories from Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Skunny Wundy and Brooklea-on-the-Grand to create a narrative of Canada’s past – a saga, which, if one listens to the message in the #IdleNoMore movement, also relates to the present.
With gratitude I acknowledge some remarkable people, who, when asked or when needed, read manuscripts, give either plot advice or editing help or that most elusive of all great gifts – encouragement: Paige Ainslie, Faye Boer, Kaela Caron, Mary Danskin, Lisa Davis, Eric Evius, Murray Dorin, Nancy Foulds, Elijah Lucian, David Mills, Franklin Miller, Malinda Smith, J Mark Smith, Kathy van Denderen, Gary Whyte.
The Canadian Studies’ graduates from the University of Alberta are fine people, exceptionally fine. For sure, they have taught me more than I ever taught them. To each student I say thank you, and Je me souviens.
Writers are forever beholden to special readers, the likes of Jane Ainslie, Janine Brodie, Elly Buck, Lesley Clarke and Laraine Orthlieb, who attend to manuscripts with intelligence, hope and generosity. You make the difference. You’re awesome. I simply can’t thank you enough.
In all modesty, one would be remiss in not acknowledging the numerous authors who write the valuable books and dissertations and articles, which continue to inspire and inform us about Chief Joseph Thayendanegea Brant, Uxbridge Township, the Home District, the Haldimand Tract, the City of Brantford, the Navigation Company and the Grand River. Thanks especially to Constance Backhouse, David Faux, Barbara Graymont, Heather Ibbotson, Isabel Thompson Kelsay, Bruce E. Hill, James Laxer, James Paxton, A. C. Parker, F Douglas Reville, Barbara Sivertsen, Donald Smith, Laura Quirk, and many others on the readings list.
From Douglas Reville, I learned of the Brantford clearance of “coloureds” in the 1840s – but in the Sky Walker books I pick the exact date and the particular hue of the people whom the community clears. The effects of the War of 1812 and the uprisings in Upper and Lower Canada, 1837, are very much felt in 1845. Characters in the Sky Walker books refer to the big disturbances and their offshoot events, such as the Bloody Assize, which takes place in Ancaster in 1815, or the antics of the Markham gangsters, who are active in the early 1840s. The most informative historian, however, is Bruce Hill. You simply cannot write about the Grand River, mid-19th century, without consulting Hill: reading his book or chatting in person.
Bruce Hill, author of The Grand River Navigation Company (the Navigation), is an intrepid historian who, some decades ago, decided to dig into a cold case no one else had touched – certainly not from the perspective of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Confederacy: Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga and Tuscarora).
The story of the Navigation contains depths of deceit. To this day, many Canadians avoid facing the reality of colonial malfeasance with a self-serving observation: corruption before Confederation is not our business. It is. Forgetting the past dooms the present – to paraphrase Santayana – and Hill clears the path for those who want to remember the past and want to know how events of past and present connect.
What are the facts behind the rise and fall of the Navigation? And, in addition, how does an old story about river transportation lead to modern complications between the Haudenosaunee and Canada?
As the primary expert on the Navigation, Bruce E. Hill deserves national attention for his timely compilation. Nonetheless. The historical site, Ruthven Park, Cayuga, is awesome in its deficiency. There is nothing said about Ruthven’s shaky foundations during the Navigation era. Without Bruce Hill we might never have learned what happened.
Because of their insight and research and collegiality, professors Janine Brodie and Ian MacLaren and the late author/publisher Mel Hurtig have been role models, whose commitment to learning encouraged me to finish this series.
Writing for educators, Jane Ainslie, long-time member of the EPSB, offers, with my gratitude, a kind and positive review of Charter for the Friesen Press book catalogue. Lillian Brown writes for Clarion Foreword Review and I’m grateful for her five-star assessment of Charter.
Never high enough praise goes to award-winning artists Gerry Dotto, who designed jacket covers for the trilogy, and Brantford’s resident artist genius, Michael Swanson, who designed the Crazy River jacket and who allowed “Autumn’s pastime” and “Sugarbush Road” to be reproduced, and who created the imprint of the house Thompson built. Swanson painted the “Scouting Party,” the feature image of this post.
Anita Jenkins and Dianne Gillespie are fellow flyers on Sky Walker’s crazy-river carpet lo! these many years. Deepest thanks to these two accomplished women.
Special kudos to family researchers, most particularly Stephen Heeney, who digs out the life-story of Squire Davis and Janet Ferguson and who, with Shelagh Heeney and their DNA tests, verifies the family’s research re: Bert and Wilford’s grandchildren. Stephen, Nancy, Peter, Martha, Shelagh, Sally and me.
Without boundless support from Sally, and our parents, and without Ove and his parents, and our children, Jennifer, Gillian, Clark, Chris, Jen-G, Tyghe, and all the super, kind and vastly talented grandkids, each of whom we love to distraction, there would be no muse, and certainly no inspiration to leave a fictional but researched account of seminal events in pre-Confederation Canada West.
The Mohawk trilogy is fiction. For histories and non-fiction sources see readings. The Sky Walker books, aka the Mohawk trilogy, cover one-year-in-the-life, 1845-1846, and emerge from intensive research.
For more details, information and opinion about Squire Davis and Jennet/Janet Ferguson Davis, please see Stephen Heeney, Scratchings Across cultures: a memoir of denial and discovery. 2011
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