Sky Walker Tehawennihárhos
The Battle of Vinegar Hill
Weird Tit-for-tat: the game of our lives
Culture Clubs: the art of living together
Weird Tit-for-tat: the game of our lives for ordinary people
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, one learns 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 the Union Hotel in Ancaster (hangings take place on Burlington Heights), in 1815, or the antics of the Markham gangsters, who run an organized crime ring 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 (if you’re fortunate) 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). Hill is a treasure! 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 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. Dianne and Anita, more than anyone, hoped I’d chug along to finish book three, but, being grand, they just quietly stuck with the program. Anita is a brilliant editor. Many know this, but I have been lucky enough to see, first-hand, what an editor can do to improve a manuscript. Thank you, AJ. Dianne, in her gentle way, queried and tweaked and made the story a much better read. Dianne, your friends and family all are lucky to have you in our court. My gratitude goes beyond words.
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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