Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Celebrating Canada {A Canadian Alphabet}

O is for Ojibwa just one of the tribes that spanned this vast country before explores and settlers arrived. Iroquois, Huron, Mohawk, and Sioux, Inuit, Metis to name just a few.


My mom and dad named me Mistahimaskwa. I was mighty glad the guys called me Big Bear. I was a Cree Indian and I hunted buffalo on the plains for food, clothing, and shelter. I also helped the fur traders. At first, I resisted the Canadian government's attempts to make treaties with my tribe in order to obtain our land for settlement. I knew my tribe must continue to care for itself in traditional ways. Eventually because my peop0le were hungry, I signed a treaty but argued that my people were not being treated fairly. I knew war would not accomplish any thing and tried negotiations with the government. When those negotiations failed and war came, I tried to talk my braves out of fighting, but they would not listen. My men did awful things. Along with Poundmaker, I surrendered to authorities and was tried for treason. Even though I had tried to stop the fighting,  and had helped save the lives of several prisoners, a jury found me guilty and sentenced me--mercifully--to life in prison. I pleaded with the judge to help my people who were destitute. Some years later, I was released when my health failed.

P is for politicians, perhaps statesmen is a better term for the men who helped shape our country's future. Men who dared to dream that we one day might be independent. Men who negotiated our Constitution and who today make our laws. "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it withersoever he will."


I served as prime minister of this great country from 1896-1911. I was the first French Canadian to hold the office. I had respect for people and their differences, and, as a result of this respect, I developed the ability to compromise thus balancing the beliefs of the English and the French. In fact, better relations between the two main language groups were at the heart of everything I tried to do. In 1897, I traveled to England to celebrate Queen Victoria's sixty years on the throne and became a popular speaker and even rode directly behind the queen in the Diamond Jubilee Parade! After all, I was the leader of England's oldest colony and a Frenchman! No wonder the queen also knighted me.
Affairs with Britain took up much of my time, but I was mainly concerned with Canadian issues such as attracting new immigrants to the wheat fields of the Prairies. It was the free trade issue that ended my years in the prime minister's office. I only hoped to help the western farmers. I did stay on to lead the Liberals, but many left the party over the conscription issue. I knew there would be problems if people were forced to serve. I stayed true to my convictions.

Did you know?

First person: Was Wilfrid Laurier the longest serving prime minister? Let's see 1896-1911...{calculates in her head}
Second Person: No, the prime minister who served the longest was William Lyon Mackenzie King, grandson of William Lyon Mackenzie who led the Rebellion of 1837. However, Prime Minister Laurier served the longest consecutive term. Mr. King served three separate terms.

Q is for Quebec where I always go to ski in "neige"--that's French for snow, and "suel" means that you're by yourself to lick "creme glacee" before it melts. Oh, pity the countries that must make do with just one language instead of two.

What to say?

First Person: {Looking at a map} Excusez-moi, comment puis-je arriver a Montreal?
Second Person: Just a sec! {holds up book and begins flipping pages seriously looking for the right answer in French...speaks in a really bad accent} Bonjour, Madamoiselle. Je m'appelle Ashley. Comment vous appellez-vous?
First Person: {surprised and a little frustrated} Eh?!
Second Person: What's the matter? Don't you know your own language? Eh?
First Person: {frustration showing} Excusez-moi, comment puis-je arriver a Montreal?
Second Person: {looks hastily through the book again and then speas ver slowly and deliberately} Comment ca va?
First person throws map in the air and stomps off stage. Second person follows saying, "What? I just followed the book!!"

R is Radisson and many other explorers who arrived in Canada before the settlers came. There was Cabot who sailed to Newfoundland; Cartier explored the coasts of the East and later took possession of the land for France and built several forts. Roberval established the first French colony but it only lasted two years. Samuel de Champlain established Quebec City in 1608 where the St. Lawrence narrows, the first permanent settlement in Canada.

S means stampede and Calgary is the place to see cowpoke and horses and the chuck wagon race. The world's greatest rodeo is held each July and includes a fine carousel with slower horses to ride. The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede was first held in 1912 and was called "Western Canada's greatest fair". 

T is for Toronto, a place where they say you can sped a year doing something different each day: riding at Ontario Place, watching the Blue Jays or Leafs, exploring Casa Loma, the Eaton Centre or Centre Island Beach--just to name a few.

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