Saturday, August 6, 2011

Celebrating Canada {A Canadian Alphabet}

Since the majority of my education has been about America, I'm sad to see this series end. I have enjoyed learning about the history--and even geography--of Canada.

A Canadian Alphabet
by Mike Ulmer
Adapted by Sue Fountain and Tracey Unger

U speaks to a time when there was a need to shelter human beings from the slave owner's greed. The Underground Railroad helped American slaves find in Canada the safety and freedom they craved.


I am Josiah Henson, and my story of horrifying experiences as a slave inspired the American novelist to write Uncle Tom's Cabin. I guess you could say I'm the real Uncle Tom. True enough, I knew about separation from my family, physical suffering from beatings, hard work to secure my freedom and the freedom of my family, but I also knew the Lord as my Savior. My Lord enabled me to do the right thing when I was mistreated and cheated out of hard-earned money. I escaped from Kentucky with my wife and 12 children and in 1834, in Chatham, Ontario, established the Dawn settlement so black people could find refuge, receive an education, and start new, productive lives here in Canada.  The settlement  had its own flour mill, sawmill, and kiln for bricks. I believe it was the first example of adult-education and technical-training school in Canada. I also served as the pastor of the Methodist church in Dawn. Unfortunately, the community died out in the 1860's, but my home in Dresden was still turned into a museum.

"Look everyone! It's the Queen!" {Queen Victoria comes to the front slowly; she stops at the front and the girls curtsy while the boys bow}
Victoria in Canada is the most common name for cities and roads all named in her reign. Parks and great mountains and the capital of B.C. are lasting reminders of this long-ago queen. Please rise as we sing, "God Save the Queen". {Everyone sings song}

W is for the War of 1812, often called "the war that nobody won". The treaty that ended the war basically put things back as they were before the war began. The 49th parallel became the boundary between the US and Canada and both countries were forced to keep only four warships to patrol the waters of the Great Lakes to prevent smuggling and make shipping safe.


I am Laura Secord and that little speech really oversimplifies the War of 1812. Oh, the times were dangerous. Most of Europe was caught up in the Napoleonic wars. Great Britain often stopped American ships to be sure they weren't carrying anything to Napoleon so the Americans--fed up with this kind of British intervention--decided to declare war on Britain. Well, they had no intention of going all the way to England to fight so they tried to invade Canada! I was living near Niagara Falls at the time with my husband James and our five children. We were Americans.

First Person interrupts to say: Hey! Was he one of those Royal Empire Loyalists who migrated to Canada before, during, and after the American Revolutionary War leaving everything they had and carrying with them what was left of their worldly possessions and settled along the north shores of Lake Ontario?

Second Person: There were so many of these English-speaking people that the governor of the territory feared they wouldn't fit in with the French who lived in what was known as Quebec, so Upper Canada {which would later be called Ontario} and Lower Canada {which would later keep the same Quebec} were created.

Laura: My husband's family were loyalists, but my father, a veteran of the Revolution, heard that the governor of Upper Canada was offering free land so he promised to settle a large section on the Thames River.

First Person: London!

Second Person: No, but not far from, right? Your dad's last name was Ingersoll, and that's where the up the road got its name.

Laura: Exactly. Now, if I may continue about my husband and the War of 1812 and why I'm famous in my own right. My husband was wounded in the Battle of Queenston Heights. When I travelled to the battlefield in order to bring him home, our house was looted by the Americans. Later while I was still nursing my husband back to health, American soldiers appeared at our door and demanded that we feed them. While they were eating, I overheard their plans. Horrified, I walked 32 long, dangerous kilometers to warn the British. If I had been caught, I would have been hanged as a spy. I managed to convince the Iroquois lookouts to take me to General Fitzhibbon. Oh, was I a muddy, bedraggled sight standing before the general's lieutenant, but he believed me.
The Battle of Beaver Dam, as it was called, was a serious loss for the Americans. At the age of 85, I was presented to the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, and son of Queen Victoria. I still remember writing him:

"I am now advanced in years, and when I look back I wonder how I could have gone through so much fatigue, with the fortitude to accomplish it. I am now a very old woman--a widow of many years...I feel that it will be gratifying to my family and a pleasure to myself that your Royal Parent the Queen should know that the services which I performed were truly loyal and that no gain or hope of reward influenced me in doing what I did...I trust that your Royal Highness will convey to your Royal Parent, Her Majesty the Queen the name of one who in the hour of trial and danger--as well as my husband--...stood ready and willing to defend this country against every invasion..."
A few months later, the prince sent me a hundred pounds in gold--the only financial reward I was to ever receive.

X marked the spot where the Last Spike was driven; it was done with a hammer, not the cut of a ribbon. And with the Last Spike we could finally proclaim that we were a nation united by train: for the railroad now linked the East and West. When Sir John A. Macdonald and his lovely wife took the train, he liked the comfortable passenger cars, but Mrs. Agnes preferred the front of the locomotive to see the Rockies best. Soon the cowcatcher became quite a fad and promotional tool for train travel.

Y is for Yoho, one of 39 sites with fast running rivers and dizzying heights. Our national parks belong to all who would hear the splash of the salmon and the rustle of deer.

Z stands for zipper, which everyone knows is very important in tents and in clothes. A US inventor had a zipperish notion, but it took a Canadian to get the zipper in motion.

God bless Canada!

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