Saturday, October 27, 2012

Buffalo Roundup: Montana Bison for Elk Island and Banff National Parks

Image No: PA-702-33
Title: Eleanor Luxton.
Date: 1928
The story of bison in Banff NationalPark is an interesting tale of the display of wilderness for both conservation and profitable tourism Like many aspects of Banff’s history, the story can be linked to the Luxton family. Eleanor Luxton’s  Banff Canada’s First National Park: A History and a Memory of Rocky Mountains Park (Banff: Summerthought, 1974, 2008) is a curious history of the town by an amateur historian and long-term resident.  It features a chronicle of Banff events, and reminiscences regarding the personalities and stories of the region. As an appendix to the work, a piece written by her father, Norman Luxton, “The Pablo Buffalo Herd”, tells the tale of the roundup of a large herd of bison from Montana destined for Banff and Elk Island parks.

The origins of the herd, can be linked to a 1873 hunting trip of  Walking Coyote, of the Pend d’Oreilles (or Kalispel) tribe. Coyote had killed a number of bison, and four calves followed him after the slaughter of their mothers. These beasts were kept as “pets” by the family and by 1884 had bred among themselves, expanding to a small herd of thirteen. Ten of these animals were purchased by Michel Pablo, and C.A. Allard, and these were supplemented by the purchase of twenty-six other bison along with eighteen cattalos.  Luxton learned of the possible sale of the herd through a letter from Alex Ayotte, a Winnipeg Free Press writer, and immigration agent at Missoula. After some discussion with the minister of the interior, it was decided to purchase the herd.
(Luxton, p. 145)
Eleanor Luxton notes the idea was to purchase the bison for shipment to Canadian parks for, “conservation, tourist attraction and a possible source of food for the Indians.” An agreement was made to ship them north to Elk Island Park, and in 1907 Banff Park's superintendent Howard Douglas joined Norman Luxton and Ayotte on the trip. In a characteristic nod to the "real ol' West", Luxton recalled nostalgic stops during the railway trip, “getting off at the stations to examine the bullet holes in the platform, put there by cowboys making tenderfeet dance.” 
(Luxton, p. 146)
Glenbow File number: NA-3581-10
Title: Buffalo cows and calves during Pablo-Allard round-up, Montana.
Date: [ca. 1906-1908]
Upon arriving at the Buffalo Camp, near Missoula, the men met up with a rough and ready crew of around thirty-five “mixed-blood” [presumably métis] cowboys. Eager to test the Canadians' mettle, one of the men asked Luxton to pick out a horse. A rangy grey was saddled for him, and he managed to stick to the bronc show that ensued. As Luxton recalled, “that lucky ride did me more good in the estimation of those cowboys than if I had presented them with a keg of liquor.”  Presumably, very few of the cowboys were teetotallers.
(Luxton, p. 146) 

GMA File number: NA-3581-1
Title: Messieurs Ayotte, 
Allard and Douglas after
Buffalo round-up Ravalli,
Date: 1908
Staying at the mission at the Flathead reservation, an incident occurred which casts light on Luxton’s opinion of Ayotte, his rough sense of humour, and his techniques of “conservation”. Luxton had decided to sleep in a tent outside the mission, but Ayotte opted to inspect the mission house for a bed. Luxton was none too generous in his description of the man claiming that, Ayotte “weighed 275 pounds, every ounce a tissue of selfishness added to an over-bearing manner.” It seems that Luxton knew that Ayotte would quickly discover that the beds in the mission were also inhabited by bed-bugs, and prepared to repel the man from his tent when the bites began to register. As Luxton records the event,
When I saw Ayotte leave for the house I hiked for the tent. I always carried a small twenty-bore shotgun on my trips to collect natural history specimens. Taking two shells I cut them in half leaving only the thin cardboard wad holding the powder. […]Ayotte [came] from the direction of the house, talking and swearing in French. […] Ayotte all but tore the tent-flap off, we saw his face splashed with dead bed-bugs, and I pulled one trigger. I fired the second shot as Ayotte was scrambling to his feet and running as he probably hadn’t done for some years. […] Alex slept in the stable from then on. Our night’s show amused the cowboys and raised us in their estimation.

(Luxton, p. 146)
Glenbow Museum Image No: NA-3581-5 Title: Cowboys circling during Pablo-Allard buffalo round-up, Montana. Date: [ca. 1906-1908] Photographer/Illustrator: Luxton, Banff, Alberta
As might be expected, rounding up a herd of bison is no easy task. The group formed a horseshoe of around forty cowboys, and slowly tried to drive them off their homelands. As Luxton recalled,
Just about the time we thought we would really get them off their regular ground, suddenly, the whole herd would halt as if by command. They would turn around and face the way we had come, stand, not an animal moving in perhaps the hundred we had been following. All the cowboy’s horses stood – no sound. Then from a jump start the buffalo would charge right into the horse-show of riders, never swerving, as if possessed with the devil riding them. Never once was this charge broken, nothing stopped them, not even the river. (Luxton, p. 147)
GMA File number: NA-3581-11
Title: Buffalo being loaded at
 Ravalli, Montana.
Date: [ca. 1906-1908]
The plan was to load the animals into boxcars at Ravalli station. Again, with the beasts weighing up to two tons, this was not quite the same as herding sheep. The cars themselves were custom-built with plenty of reinforcement. As Luxton put it, “the joke was to get the buffalo into the car, for that matter it was a joke to get a buffalo to any wanted place.” A system of ropes was designed to pull the animals into place, but the best laid plans do not always survive first contact with bison! “One bull went straight through the car, he just took the side out as if it had not been there. Another bull broke his legs – well, the Indians had a feast out of that.” (Luxton, p. 148) Eventually driving around twenty-five head at a time, a total of 200 bison were loaded and bound for Canada.

Up to 1912, Eleanor Luxton notes that Elk Island Park received 708 buffalo from Montana. In 1911, the Banff bison paddock received seventy-seven of the beasts. Techniques changed, but the task of rounding them up was never easy. Eventually a system of loading individual bison onto wagons to transport them to the Ravalli station. The results were not always successful.
 ...he strung these wagons together, the crates open at each end except the last one. Four cowboys were on top of each crate to let down a gate effect as soon as a buffalo was in that crate. Sure the buffalo went in – even to the end of the train. Then things happened no one could describe. Talk about cyclone pictures of a town blown to pieces. In minutes not a wagon was on four wheels, kindling wood and cowboys scrambling for ponies were all that one could see.
Glenbow Image No: NA-1241-806
Title: Norman Luxton at Banff Indian Days, Banff, Alberta.
Date: 1942Photographer/Illustrator: Gully, F., Calgary, Alberta
Remarks: At Stoney tipi village, Cascade Park, Banff.
Luxton would long foster a sense that the last vestiges of the old West could be found in Banff.  By promoting Banff Indian days, and keeping the bison paddock stocked with quintessentially Western game, the Wild West was safely on display. He insured that an experience of the romantic West familiar to readers of Fenimore Cooper and admirers of the art of Charlie Russell was obtainable by all who came to the park.  Few visitors who noted the bison grazing from the train would know the hard toil involved in procuring the herd!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Burning Passion: Venereal Disease in No. 6 Group RCAF

Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1985-35-8
Venereal disease was a serious problem for Second World War armed forces, which could just as soon render personnel ineffective as other sickness or calamity on the battlefield. When the Americans were sent to Britain, high incidences of gonorrhea and syphilis occurred.  The problem was particularly troublesome for the command staff of No. 6 “Canadian” Group during their aircrew's long stay in England.

No. 6 Group War Diary Sketch.
William Carter in Anglo-Canadian Wartime Relations, 1939-1945: RAF Bomber Command and No. 6 [Canadian] Group (Garland: 1991), noted that there were operational consequences to affections of English women. As Carter suggests, such liaison could have a “dark side to it.” (Carter, p. 96)  One unforeseen effect of the Canadian bases being established in Yorkshire was the rising prices charged byprostitutes.  Carter notes that the amount of time spent with each customer was decreased, presumably due to increased demand, and that the cleanliness of brothels declined.  Royal Canadian Air Force medical staff determined, however, as had medical officers in the First World War, that the predominate form of contraction was not from working girls, but from one-night-stands or "casual pick-ups". (H MacDougall, "Sexually transmitted diseases in Canada, 1800-1992." Genitourin Med. 1994 February; 70(1): 60. 
The Canadians seem to have been particularly effected by venereal disease from such encounters. In 1942 and 1943, the rate of the Canadian group was six to seven times higher than bomber groups generally. Bomber Command as a whole had a high rate of VD, and in August 1943, No. 6 Group doubled the average rates.The Canadian's aircrew rates were generally four times higher than ground crew, suggesting either that a culture of promiscuity had arisen among aircrew, or that the stresses of flying bombers at night over hostile territory lead to lusty forms of escapism.
Perspectives varied on the best way to combat VD. In December 1942, the British government passed Defence Regulation 33B which required those named by two sexual contacts to undergo examination and treatment. Apparently the Canadians pushed to have women examined if only one airman identified her, but they had to acquiesce to the British regulations. Problems getting enough identification on women who were often only passing relations soon arose.

Air Marshal Harris’ “characteristically ruthless” response in January 1943 was to treat all VD cases as malingerers, removing any flights recorded on their tour. (Carter, p. 97) Carter is sympathetic to Harris’ response, noting that “some personnel undoubtedly deliberately contracted VD in order to escape from operations temporarily.” (p. 97)
The RAF’s Director-General of Medical Services did not agree with Harris’ treatment. He argued in January 1943 that VD was caused by boredom and “removal of home influences, leading to drink and its consequences.” (Cited in Carter, p.98) Others were concerned that airmen would conceal their disease and further its transmission.
Explanations for the higher rate of VD within Canadians were also varied. Some noted that it was natural considering the higher rate of the disease in Canada. Higher wages also allowed Canadians to purchase hard liquor, some accusing them of spiking the English women’s drinks. Others chalked it up to the foreign charm, or exoticism of the colonials.
Aircrew of No. 433 (Porcupine) Squadron, RCAF [graphic material] : en route to their Handley Page Halifax B.III aircraft before taking off to raid Hagen, Germany. 
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence collection / Library and Archives Canada / e005176198
In October 1943, Air Vice-Marshal Clifford “Black Mike” McEwen apparently took a progressive attitude to the disease. As a Canadian base commander, he instituted a prevention programme, emphasizing education and the provision of more acceptable recreation options such as films, sports, and libraries. He wanted compulsory parades for all those leaving their station where men would be expected to carry condoms and and ointment (Carter, p. 101-102)
Unfortunately, No. 6 Groups rates never really lowered. In 1945, the RCAF’s VD rate reached its highest yearly incidence level yet at 7.6% of all personnel.  This being said, the sexually transmitted disease rate of Canadian servicemen in general had decreased from 2.2% in the Great War to only 92 per thousand in the Second. (H. MacDougall, "Sexually transmitted diseases in Canada, 1800-1992." Genitourin Med. 1994 February; 70(1): 60.) No. 6 Group clearly did little to bring the average down!

Friday, October 19, 2012

War is a Drag: Female Impersonators in the First World War

The phenomenon of the Great War drag show is somewhat perplexing.  Some argue that soldiers were not just laughing at the gender-bending performances but were actually aroused by the shows.  A broad array of explanations are offered for the cross-dressing phenomenon, ranging from desires for the portrayal of normalized femininity, to sublimation of homosexuality.
'The Dumbells' Concert Party. Formed from
 3rd Canadian Division in France.  'Marjorie'
(R.D. Hamilton), and 'Marie' (A.G. Murray),
the two girls of the Dumbells show,
 with the manager, Captain M.W. Plunkett,
 Credit: Canada. Dept. of National
Defence/Library and Archives Canada/
JG Fuller's Troop Morale (Oxford, 1990), notes the importance of music shows to the soldiers when they were at rest, and among these theatrical revues, drag shows were fairly common.  Analyzing a broad range of soldiers' journals, Fuller writes that , "curiously these female impersonators seem to have generated considerable sexual excitement.  He quotes one of the men in the ranks as claiming, "judging from the way [the men] sat and goggled at the drag on stage it was obvious that they were indulging in delightful fantasies that brought to them substantial memories of the girls they had left behind them in London, Manchester, Glasgow, wherever." (As cited in Fuller, p.105)
Apparently, many impersonators did not make a caricature of their roles, but played their parts with candour.  Fuller notes that many journals accounted for the realism of the concert party "girls".  One soldier wrote that, "it all seems to show that English beauty is essentially masculine."  Fuller is more critical of the illusion: "judging from the photographs, it shows the intensity of the desire to believe." (p. 106)

Big Beauty Chorus, Marie and the Boys.  Dumbells troupe.  Library and Archives Canada.  PA-005741
Fuller wonders why this desire to believe in the gender-bending charade was so strong with the relative ease of access to women in the rear areas.  It is true that after the spring of 1917, troops may have gone for weeks without seeing a woman in the farms, hospitals, shops and estaminets. Yet, Fuller suggests that the appeal of the entertainers was likely, "their emphasis put on glamour [not] the sheer fewness of females."  He notes that "peasant girls, working hard at practical tasks with their menfolk away, were often the reverse of 'feminine' in the restricted sense of the age."  A quote from an Australian journal lamented, "Women of shattered Picardy, Why are your boots so flat and vast?"

Of this desire for fancy femininity, Fuller writes
The trappings of elegance and luxury were the negation of war and squalor and, as such, a potent fetish of peace.  The female impersonators therefore took care over the fripperies, having lingerie sent out, or going on special leave to London or Paris to select the items themselves.  On stage they sang the sentimental songs which represented the greatest frippery of all, asserting the idealized stereotype of soft and vulnerable romantic femininity. (Fuller, p.106)

Historian David A Boxwell, in his article "The Follies of War: Cross-Dressing and Popular Theatre on the British Front Lines, 1914-1918" Modernism/Modernity 9.1 (2002) 1-20, disagrees with the thesis that drag performance was strictly a desire for  idealized heterosexual relations.  He identifies two forms of female impersonation which had already developed on British stages by 1914.  He notes that, "Mimicry was most visibly embodied in the pantomime "dame" tradition, a comedic effort to render the female form in its most hypercarnivalized manner: the grotesque, oversized, and voracious body of the raddled, "ugly" woman presented on stage out of a misogynistic animus" (Boxwell, p. 13).   The other form of impersonation was mimesis, which historians have traced back to the 1860s.  Mimesis represented "idealized femininity as closely as possible (Boxwell, p. 14).

'The Dumbells' Concert Party. 
 'Marie' (A.G. Murray)PA-005743
Boxwell argues, "the complex dynamics of men objectifying other men as women does not occur completely within a heterosexual matrix." (Boxwell, p. 16)  Boxwell's argument is formed in analysis of the HC Owen quote that, "it all seems to show that English beauty is essentially masculine."
[Owen] may well have intended to define female beauty in masculine terms, to suggest that British women were at their most beautiful when they most looked like men. The slippage that inheres in the statement effectively eradicates women's existence: male beauty not only exists, but cannot be conceived of in anything other than "masculine" terms. Thus there was an ineradicable trace of homoeroticism at the heart of drag during the Great War.[...] A man watching another man in drag must, at some level, self-reassuringly avow that the "woman" has a penis. But this act of speculation threatens to put the male spectator beyond the boundaries of the heterosexual matrix. (Boxwell, p. 16)
For Boxwell, enjoying a drag show was a cathartic way of releasing homosexual anxieties in a homophobic society.  As may be expected, other historians disagree.

Laurel Halladay, in "A Lovely War: Male to Female Cross-Dressing and Canadian Military Entertainment in World War II Journal of Homosexuality Volume 46, Issue 3-4, 2004 traces drag performances in the Canadian military, and identified in the Great War period, an attempt to reconstruct a heterosexual community.  (Hallady, p.  21)   For Hallady, drag performance was either comedic or dramatic, either mocking perceived female foibles or respecting femininity.  On the issue of sexualization, Halladay writes that, "Perhaps contrary to more modern expectations, drag performers were not the least bit threatening to the taken-for-granted heterosexual practices of their comrades and both contributed to and
enjoyed the homosociability of the battlefield." (Halladay, p.23)  For Halladay, it was only when women were recruited into the Canadian military in the Second World War, that female impersonation was broadly considered deviant.

The debate over the meanings of female impersonators in the First World War is by no means over.  How could it be when analyzing the subjective reception of gendered performances by a broad variety of men?  The work yet to be written on the complex nuances of drag performance is bound to be exciting historical work, addressing the overlap between social, sexual, and gender history.
From John to Jack, Susannah to Susie, Punch (1916).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Che the Failed Guerrilla

"Che" by Flick User JFabra. License
AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by JFabra
Che Guevara has become the ultimate symbol of counter-culture resistence and revolution. Ian Beckett in Modern Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies, (2001), however, has little praise for the actual success of Che as revolutionary.  Beckett's critique is founded on the failure of Che to spread global revolution.  Others have expressed ethical reservations about Che's pop-hero status.  Writing for Slate magazine in 2004 upon the release of the acclaimed biographical film "The Motorcycle Diaries", Paul Berman moves beyond effectiveness in his critique of "The Cult of Che", calling his fame, "an episode in the moral callousness of our time."  To Berman, "Che was a totalitarian.  He achieved nothing but disaster."  Berman suggests that Che was central to the "hardline pro-Soviet faction" in the Cuban revolution, and was neither tolerant nor discriminant when it came to violence.
Che presided over the Cuban Revolution's first firing squads.  He founded Cuba's 'labor camp' system - the system that was eventually employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, and AIDS victims.  To get himself killed, and to get a lot of other people killed, was central to Che's imagination.
Ernesto Guevara did not have a particularly revolutionary youth, beginning training in 1947 as a medical doctor at the age of nineteen, and spending summers working as a male nurse on merchant ships. Oddly, in 1950, he failed in an attempt to market an insecticide.  In his youth he travelled across South and Central America and observed the poverty there first hand.  Such experiences hardened his belief in Marxist revolution.
The 1954 American involvement in the overthrow of the Guzman government in Guatemala was a formative experience for Guevara. It was then that he received his nickname “Che”, which was Spanish for “buddy”, due to his frequent use of the term in his speech. In 1955, Che joined Castro in his revolutionary efforts, and led a guerrilla column into the Havana. With Castro's success over Batista in 1959, Che would become president of the National Bank of Cuba and minister of industry, working for the Castro government for a number of years.

One of Beckett’s main arguments is that insurgency is a product of its time and place, and theory developed to counter insurgents is also a product of its historical setting. He sees Guevara’s revolutionary theory, heavily influenced by the French Marxist philosopher Debray, as failing to note that corruption, inefficiency, military ineffectiveness, and unpopularity were the real causes in the end of the Batista regime  (p. 171) Beckett cites a number of attempts at rebellionin the 1960s which failed to replicate the Cuban revolution in countries such as: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.  Che would leave Cuba in 1965, due to friction there with certain leaders.  He hoped to foment global revolution, but attempts at training guerrilla forces in the Congo failed.

Beckett reserves the title of “the greatest failure of all” for that of Guevara’s attempts in Bolivia. (p. 173) In 1966 Guevara arrived there in hopes to organize resistance, but the 1950s had seen land reform and nationalization of the mining industry which denied Guevara the necessary bedrock of discontent. That Bolivia president Rene Barrientos, was of peasant origin did not help Che’s cause. Even the Bolivia communist party leaders objected to Che’s insistence on military control of the revolution, and abstained from support. Difficulties in the rugged terrain resulted in problems of manoeuvre, and as Beckett puts it, Guevara's force, "spent much of its time lost in the jungle.” (p. 174)
Guevara’s ultimate demise was a product of this lack of support, and the operations of a American Special Forces Mobile Training Team, under Major Robert “Pappy Shelton”. The Green Berets trained a ranger battalion for the Bolivian army which was deployed in fall of 1967. By 8 October 1967, Che’s remaining eighteen guerillas were surrounded at La Higuera. The wounded Che was captured and executed, and his body exhibited in Vallegrande.  Declassified American documents relate the final hours of his life.  A Lieutenant Perez was given the order to kill Guevara, but apparently did not have the heart to do so.   Perez asked Guevera what his last wishes were.
Guevara replied that he only wished to 'die with a full stomach'.  Perez then asked him if he was a 'materialist', by having requested only food.  Guevara returned to his previous tranquil manner and answered only 'perhaps'.  Perez then called him a 'poor shit' and left the room.  By this time, Sgt Terran had fortified his courage with several beers and returned to the room where Guevara was being held prisoner. [...]  'Willy', the prisoner taken with Guevara, was being held in a small house a few meters away.  While Terran was waiting outside to get his nerve back, Sgt Huacka entered and shot 'Willy'.  'Willy' was a Cuban and according to the sources had been an instigator of the riots among the miners in Bolivia.  Guevara heard the burst of fire in his room and for the first time appeared to be frightened.  Sgt Terran returned to the room where Guevara was being held.  When he entered, Guevera stood and faced him.  Sgt Terran told Guevara to be seated but he refused to sit down and stated, 'I will remain standing for this.'  The Sgt began to get angry and told  [...] him.  'Know this now, you are killing a man.'  Terran then fired a burst from his M2 Carbine, knocking Guevara back into the wall of the small house.  "Debriefing of Officers of Company B, 2nd Ranger Battalion"(

The order to kill Guevara was made by General Ovando, the Chief of the Bolivian Armed Forces.  Walt Rostow wrote President Johnson of the execution, "I regard this as stupid, but it is understandable from a Bolivian standpoint.On the 13th of October, Rostow wired the president that Che was confirmed as dead.  It was long thought the body was discarded into the jungles via helicopter, but in 1997 Guevara’s remains were found under an airstrip in Vallegrande and re-interned in Cuba.
Date     Photo taken on 5 March 1960;
Source     Museo Che Guevara, Havana Cuba
Author     Alberto Korda Copyright

Che's beret-clad and bearded head has been said to be the most repoduced image in the world.  It seems that given his success as revolutionary, that Che as symbol, the Che of the rock t-shirts, and flags adorning teenage bedrooms across the world, is a fairly unlikely figure.  Indeed, one might say that he has inspired many more revolutionaries merely through the religious passion that his idol has evoked, more than any actual savvy regarding guerilla war.  In speaking of the Che's portrayal in "The Motorcycle Diaries", Berman notes "the entire movie, in its concept and tone, exudes a Chistological cult of martyrdom, a cult of adoration for the spiritually superior person who is veering toward death - precisely the kind of adoration that Latin America's Catholic Church promoted for several centuries, with miserable consequences."  The romantic ideal of Che as martyred revolutionary will probably never be excommunicated from the public mind.
"Che Guevara Monument and Mausoleum_Cuba 224" By James Emery.  License
Attribution Some rights reserved by hoyasmeg

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

White Feathered Zeal: Accosting Shirkers in the Great War

In 1915, problems meeting the manpower commitments of the Borden government were quickly discovered by the Canadian army.  Jack Granatstein and JM Hitsman noted in Broken Promises(Oxford: 1977), their fundamental account of conscription in Canada, that standards were quickly lowered when men failed to flock to the recruiting stations.  Medical standards were reduced, the height restriction dropped an inch down to 5'2", minimum chest measurements were decreased, and married men no longer needed permission from their wives to enlist. (p.35)

Chief Justice TG Mathers noted that the strongest motivation to serve was the social pressures put on Western men who were still strolling  civvy-street.  Mathers, a Manitoban pro-conscriptionist, noted that
It is absurd to speak of enlistment at the present day as voluntary.  In the cities of the West the man who is not in uniform is made to feel that he is a sort of social outcast.  No man who joins the ranks today does so voluntarily.  He does so because he can no longer resist the pressure of public opinion.  (Granatstein, p. 38)
 Pierre Van Paassen NYPL th-60174
Patriotic souls took it upon themselves to organize pressure against those not yet serving.  Some women would search for workers and offer to take their place on the job if they would join the army.  As Granatstein noted, "often these patriotic ladies could get carried away."  The memoirs of Pierre van Paasen, a dutchman living in Toronto, testify to the fervour with which shirkers were sought out:
One afternoon I was accosted on the rear platform of a streetcar by a woman, who was dressed in mourning.  She told me that three of her sons had been killed at the front.  She showed me their photographs.  Suddenly she began to talk very loudly.  'Why aren't you in khaki?' She demanded.  'Why do you dare to stand there laughing at my miser? Why don't you go over and fight? Fight, avenge my boys!' she screamed.  'Madam,' I tried to calm her, 'I am not a Canadian.'  That remark set her yelling at the top of her voice.  She screamed that she, the mother of three heroes who had died for their king and country, had been insulted by a foreigner, a slacker, a German spy, a Red, and I don't know what else.
City of Toronto Archives      Fonds 1231, Item 508a
    Close up of 508, T.S.R. Car No. 6
   November 22, 1916
I pulled the cord to bring the street car to a halt.  I alighted. But the woman followed me off and she kept up her screaming about spies and Germans.  A crowd gathered....Somebody stopped me just at the moment when I thought of taking to my heels as the best way out of the predicament.  I was immediately surrounded by a mob.  A group of business men, who had managed to stay five thousand miles away from where the poppies grow, and who were at that moment emerging from the hotel, gallantly rushed to the woman's aid and forced me to submit, as she pinned a white feather through my coat into my flesh: the badge of white-livered cowardice. The last I saw of her was through a pair of badly battered eyes as she laughingly picked up some of the feathers which had dropped from her bag in the scuffle.
...The following day I enlisted.  (Cited in Granatstein, p. 39)
City of Toronto Archives Fonds 1244, Item 687
Title Mother of military personnel, World War I
Date(s) of creation of record(s)        [ca. 1916]
When in 1917, the Borden government finally acknowledged that the robust commitments of Canadian troops would necessitate conscription if the war were to continue grinding on, the position of Canadian women was far from clear-cut.  The attitude of women whose sons were still in Canada would, of course, be much different from that of the mourner Paasen encountered.  In February 1917, the journal Everywoman's World had organized a "woman's parliament", which stated that a 6:1 ratio of members were against compulsory service (Granatstein, p. 80).  The national women's organizations were broadly in support of Union government and conscription, but one should not assume this meant that half the nation's population to have a unanimous opinion on the matter.  The women's groups of feminist legend may not have had the influence on public opinion that historians at times ascribe to them.  It does seem clear, however, that women whose sons were lost in the war were given a status which was leveraged to promote conscription and shame "shirkers".

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Swamp Insurgency: Fighting Seminole Guerrillas in Nineteenth Century

The Seminole Wars show the problems that a conventional army can encounter when their enemies adopt guerilla tactics. Ian Beckett, in his survey work Modern Insurgencies and Counter-insurgencies(Routledge, 2001) describes the Seminoles as “particularly skillfulopponents” of the United States Army. (p.29)  Throughout the first half of the eighteenth-century, skirmishes, ambushes, and raids typified a conflict, where American's had as much trouble finding their enemies as defeating them on the battlefield.

The Seminoles were largely Lower Creek people which had been driveninto Spanish Florida, with other members from the Oconee, Yuchi, Alabama, Choctaw and Shawnee tribes. By the mid eighteenth century, familial links had also been made to runaway slaves which had found refuge in Floridian villages.  Their name has been variously suggested to derive from the Creek word simano-li, meaning "separatist" or "runaway", or the Spanish terms cimarron, for "wild" or cimarrones for "rebel" or "outlaw".  When Spain re-acquired Florida from Britain after the American Revolution, Spanish colonists, and American settlers alike aimed to settle in the area, coaxed in part by Spanish land grants.  Seminoles were allowed to take up land grants as well, as Spain hoped they would form a divide between the Spaniards and Americans.
Marines battle Seminole Indians in the Florida War--1835-1842. Defense Dept. Photo (Marine Corps) 306073-A

Causes for American-Seminole violence may relate to older British tactics of using Seminoles against American settlers.  In the war of 1812 the Seminoles had supported Britain.  Harbouring runaway slaves was one offence that later caused the Americans to seek punitive justice against the tribe.  Beckett suggests the First Seminole War (1816-18) was largely motivated by the need to fight back against Seminole raiding partiesElsewhere, the murder of several Georgia families by chief Neamathla has been suggested as the event that sparked the conflict. General Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish Florida with around 3,000 soldiers and pushed the Seminoles further south.  Jackson dispersed villagers, burnt towns and seized Pensacola and St. Marks.  The Seminoles, in turn, conducted hit and run attacks on towns and plantations.  American ambitions for control of the peninsula were another casus belli, and in 1819, Florida was ceded by Spain to the United States

In 1823 a large reservation was established for the Seminoles, but this four million acre tract was not to remain a sanctioned home for long. In 1830, with Jackson as president, the Indian Removal Act become law. The United States governments attempts to remove all Indians west of the Mississippi into "Indian Territory" was accepted by some leaders who signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing in 1832.  Others refused to leave and moved deeper into the Everglades.

Oseola (As-se-he-ho-lor, Black Drink),
 a Seminole; bust-length, 1837. 
The treaty of 1832 allowed for three years for the Seminoles to move west, and in 1835 the stage was set for conflict with the hold-outs.  In December 1835, a 108 man detachment of Major Francis Dade’s forces was ambushed in the Wahoo swamp of the Withlacoochie River. A contemporary heritage website notes that, "As Major Francis Dade marched from Fort Brooke toward Fort King, 180 Seminole warriors led by Micanopy, Alligator and Jumper attacked. Only one man of that army detachment survived the ambush."  That the Seminole War was "the fiercest war waged by the U.S. government against American Indians", would presumably be contested by some historians.  Florida Heritage claims that more than  1500 American soldiers died in the conflict.
The action would begin the Second Seminole War (1835-42), which would see a series of frustrating actions for American generals.  The Seminoles crossed the Georgia border constantly and established safe havens in the Okefenokee Swamp.  Megan Kate Nelson quotes Ware County militia commander Thomas Hilliard who complained in 1836 that the Seminoles, "go concealed as much as possible, and are committing depredations continually, robbing our corn fields and killing our stock."  Seminoles destroyed numerous sugar plantations in Florida, crippling the industry and freeimg numerous slaves.  In February 1836, Major General Edmund Gaines' force of over 1,000 men was besieged and forced to retreat.  Subsequent generals fielding even more troops could not even find the enemy.  Campaigning in the summer months was difficult due to torrential rainfall and disease.

One noteworthy exception to American defeat is found in the campaign of future president Zachary Taylor, who benefited from the Seminoles abandonment of guerrilla tactics. At Lake Okeechobee in December of 1837, the Seminoles defended a fixed position in the everglades, and the Americans triumphed. The tribe did not make the mistake again, and Taylor’s counter-insurgency techniques divided the area and patrolled from outposts. It may have been racial conceptions of superiority which led American forces under General T.S. Jesup to ignore military custom and capture leader Osceola while under a flag of truce.  Osceola died in confinement several months later.  Meanwhile, Taylor destroyed crops and removed livestock, to little effect, and Taylor’s war continued until April 1840 when he asked to be removed from his command.  Jesup had some successes establishing forts and using mobile columns to sweep the country.

Thomas Sidney Jesup (1788–1860), 

As Beckett notes the war ended in 1842, not through any military success, but “largely by the army announcing it was over.” (p. 29) While 3800 Seminoles had been removed, there remained 500 guerrillas left in the swamps. The Third Seminole War (1855-58) reduced this number to mere 100 who continued to hide out in ever more remote areas of the everglades. Beckett suggests that the Americans little learned very little about counterinsurgency these early actions.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Banff's Bison: Hooked horns history in Banff National Park

The bison is the iconic symbol of the West, and its associations with a bygone romantic age has long been capitalized upon by boosters, promoters, and the tourist industry.  In the early days of Rocky Mountains Park, (which would officially be renamed Banff National Park in 1930), bison were displayed by the railway in a deliberate effort to evoke feelings of nostalgia and awe over the wilderness.  As Pauline Wakeham argues in Taxidermic Signs (University of Minnesota, 2008), bison were kept as "another railside attraction that catered to the CPR's promotional agenda of enabling tourists to encounter wildlife from the safety and comfort of their coach or car." (p.52)

Whyte Museum V263 / NA - 2966     Buffalo
Animal paddock at Banff
[between 1903 and 1942]     Byron Harmon fonds
Byron Harmon (Banff, Alberta)
In 1898, a 300 acre paddock for nineteen bison was established between the Banff townsite and Cascade mountain.  Within a decade the numbers had expanded to seventy-nine bison and a host of roaming ungulates along with lynx, raccoons, and porcupine kept in cages.  Problems in these early years of the paddock included lack of pasturage and blockage of migration routes through the Bow Valley.   Restriction of the animals inside the paddock made for easy hunting for coyotes sneaking under the wire, which in one year killed seven deer.

In 1907, these problems, combined with concerns of tourist access, prompted a change in the display of animals in the park.  On the grounds of the Banff Park Museum, a "zoological garden" was established to house the animals safely.  The park superintendent's report of 1906 notes the added bonus of ease of access.  "Cages constructed of cement and iron...would be...much more convenient for visitors to the museum.... I am strongly of [the] opinion ...that in a few years the zoological gardens should become one of the leading attractions for visitors to this portion of the National Park." (Wakeham, p. 53)

Whyte Museum V263 / NA - 2906
   97. Polar bear, zoo Zoo at Banff
[between 1903 and 1942]
  Byron Harmon fonds
Byron Harmon (Banff, Alberta)
While originally designed to display a selection of the abundant local wildlife, the zoo expanded to include exotic Mexican squirrels, a Mongolian partridge and even, in 1913, a polar bear. In these acquisitions Wakeham views the zoo as serving a "doubled colonialist function: while it enabled tourists to encounter frontier wildness as a controlled spectacle, thereby dramatizing civilization's mastery of the west, it simultaneously symbolized the Dominion's enduring connection to empire and 'the conquest of all distant and exotic lands.'" (Wakeham, p.53) Wakeham is particularly disturbed by the curious conservationist justification for keeping animals in the zoo and collecting their taxidermic counterparts in the Banff Park Museum.  She argues that these animals served as metonyms for the bountiful animal populations associated with the western frontier.  Paradoxically, the animals distanced the viewer from wildlife, heightening the animal's absence from the surrounding environment.  As Susan Willis argued,
zoo animals are body doubles, stand-ins for the real animals existing (or becoming extinct) elsewhere.  Visit a zoo and you walk through a living cemetery of all that is diminishing, disappearing, and soon to be gone.  Look at the animals...they are living taxidermy." (Quoted in Wakeham, p. 56)

V469 / 2792     Banff National Park Museum
Pertains to Government Museum, Banff
[ca.1918]     George Noble fonds
The animals in Banff, however, had more than a symbolic connection to taxidermy.  The Banff Park Museum, like many other Victorian natural history museums, featured stuffed animals which sought to educate and entertain visitors.  While a rhetoric of preservation surrounding these "artifacts", Wakeham argues that, "the traffic in animal bodies that connected the spaces of the natural history museum, the paddock, and the zoo hinged upon the consumption rather than conservation of nature." (p. 57)  This interconnection of these sites is highlighted in the superintendent's report of 1904.  "A fine four-year-old was killed in June last [year] while fighting with another bull. His head has been mounted, and now adorns the walls of the museum, where it attracts the attention of admiring visitors." (Quoted in Wakeham, p. 57)  In 1908, an elk that died while fighting and a bison which succumbed to pneumonia were also added to the museum's specimens.

While the Banff zoological gardens were closed in 1937, when the expansion of urban zoos across the world made the site seem out of place, the paddock continued to operate until 1997.  Then it was determined that the paddock, (along with an airstrip, horse corrals, and army cadet camp) were impededing wolf and bear migration between the Vermillion Lakes and the Cascade Valley.  The last ten bison were moved to Elk Island Nation Park in October, 1997. (Wakeham, p. 59)

Pauline Wakeham,
 Taxidermic Signs, (2008)

These animal's eventual demise, while not proven by irrefutable evidence, serves as a surreal post-script to the macabre story of animal display in the park.  Wakeham noted that when the bison were transferred to Elk Island, Parks did not intend these beasts to chew cud happily there until the  end of their days.  The herd was instead to be sold off, with the profits returned to Parks Canada.  Wakeham writes,
While the trail of Banff's bison becomes somewhat hard to track after this point, evidence suggests that the animals were purchased by the Oil Sands magnate Suncrude for display on the environmentally 'reclaimed' land north of Fort McMurray.  Although the 'Bison Viewpoint' just outside the borders of Suncrude's current mining sites deploys the animals as a symbol of ecological regeneration in the wake of industrial apocalypse, the herd has suffered form anthrax and tuberculosis due to environmental mismanagement.  Rather than constituting a triumph for conservationism, the closure of the Banff paddock set in motion further traffic in animal bodies that perpetuated the exploitation of wildlife. (Wakeham, p. 59)
A contemporary group, Bison Belong, wish to reintroduce bison into the park, and presumably would take issue with Wakeham's post-colonial critique.  While their plan would include the use of bison fencing to give the animals a much larger area to roam than the old paddock, Wakeham would still take offence to management of animals in this way.  Problems with disease, and visitor safety work against the group, but great demand for the bison may enable these to be surmounted.  Should the plan go through, however, it is highly unlikely that the heads of these woolly beasts will be hung in the Banff Park Museum.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

General James Dickon's Indian Liberating Army

"General" James Dickson, the so-called "Liberator of the Indian Nations", is a curious character, who goes down in Western Canadian history as a fleeting sojourner with more passion than sense.  Dickson's lineage is vague, but he has been claimed to be the "mixed-blood son of a British trader and Toto-win, sister of Sisseton Sioux Chief Red Thunder."
 [1](Thomas Ingersoll, To Intermix with Our White Brothers , p. 104) 
The governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, George Simpson described him as "covered with huge whiskers and mustachios and seamed with sabre wounds."  Elsewhere it has been noted that,
a bizarre character appeared in fashionable circles in New York and Washington in the winter of 1835-36, endeavoring, as he then said, to secure recruits to aid the Texans in their struggle for independence.  He called himself General James Dickson and told fascinating stories of his life in Mexico and of his service in the Texan army. His striking military dress and a very nice attention to the amenities of social life secured recognition for him but seem to have brought him few recruits.
(Nute, p.352)
Dickson's claim to fame was an attempt at gathering support for the establishment of a indigenous state stretching from Rupert's Land to Texas. 
Banner from Martin McLeod's "Attestation Papers", Nute

In 1836, Dickson recruited around thirty men from Montreal to join him in his quest.  All were apparently made officers in his army, and granted dress uniforms complete with "showy uniforms and glittering epaulettes."
(Lyman C Draper)
George Simpson would call these men, "wild thoughtless young men of good education and daring character, half-breed sons of gentlemen lately and now engaged in the fur trade."
  (Jennifer Brown, Strangers in Blood, p.190) 
Elizabeth Arthur, writing for the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, noted that he may not have told these recruits the full story of his plans to travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico, attack the fort and continue on to California, where he would establish a "utopian state in which Indians would hold all the property and where only a few white officials would be permitted."
McLeod County Minnesota.  Wikipedia.

One of Dickson's party was Martin McLeod, whose diary has survived the years.  McLeod was born near Montreal, but would later become a member of several councils in the Minnesota territorial legislature.   His presidency of the fourth council may be the reason why McLeod County, Minnesota was named for him.  Once in Minnesota, he would long function as a booster for the area, writing Canadian newspapers in praise of Minnesota.
 (Grace Lee Nute ed., The Diary of Martin McLeod, Aug 1922)

As McLeod made his way from Montreal to meet Dickson, he traveled Lake Ontario to Toronto, where he spent the day.  From his diary entry of 20 July 1836, it may be said that he did not enjoy his stay:
Remained one day at Toronto, do not like the place.  Saw Al[exander] Robertson of Inverness (an acquaintance at Montreal).  People kind enough apparently, but I think some what pompous.  Why?  God only knows.  What have they to bost of.  Their town or city (as I believe it is call'd) is a muddy hole - but then it is the Capital of [Upper Canada] and they are up to their ears in politics (damn politics) and they have Sir [Francis Bond Head] (whom by the by I saw a cheval) who is very popular &c &c and all that, so you see they are a people of some consequence, and not to be sneezed at, - that is if the d-------d stench of their town would allow a person to take his finger from his nasal organ long enough for that pleasant exercise.
(McLeod, p.355)
It was in Black Rock several days later that McLeod would meet General Dickson.  McLeod seemed slightly skeptical of the "General's" abilities noting that Dickson,
privately, informed me of his plans &c relative to the intended expedition to the north via  the great lakes and onwards God only knows where; and where and when it may end.  D[ickson] appears quite sanguine of success. As yet I know little of the man, but if I may judge from so short an acquaintance, he is some what visionary in his views - n'importe I wish to go north & westward and will embrace teh opportunity, but must "look before I leap."
(McLeod, p.359)

As Dickson had learned of Cuthbert Grant and the militant abilities of the Métis, he intended to gain recruits for his army in Red River.  He set out from Buffalo with only sixty of the 200 men that were initially proposed for the force.  As they had no money or supplies to speak of, they resorted to stealing and slaughtering some cattle near Detroit.  Unfortunately a sheriff's posse caught up with them, and they were made to pay a fine after some tricky negotiating.

The traveling was hard, and made particularly difficult by Dickson's questionable command decisions.
 (Anne Hyde, Empires, Nations, and Families, p.132)
Dickson could not help the damage done by a storm to their schooner on the Great Lakes which almost swamped them, but his decision to press ahead of his party in northern Minnesota without adequate supplies was highly questionable.

On the 27th November 1836, McLeod noted the difficulties crossing Cass Lake after the winds had polished the ice.  The party travelled 30 miles that day.  The next day McLeod noted, "Obliged to rest as a number of the party are unable to proceed from the fatigue of yesterday's march and the bruises which they received from frequent falls upon the ice. Indeed all our men were so "done up " that they did not arrise yesterday till near dark."
(McLeod, p. 388)

It was when the party's Sioux guides left them on the 9th of December, that Dickson's leadership began to crumble.  They had left Thief River that day and were still around a week's walk to the Red River settlement, yet were not at all familiar with the open prairie.  As McLeod wrote in his diary:
Saturday 10th Decr At day break we were summoned together,and informed by Gen1 D[ickson] that as our guides had desserted and as we had but five days provisions, and had yet to travel near three hundred miles in a strange country of which we had not an accurate map, he left us all to act, each man for himself, to either follow him, as it was his determination to trust to fortune and push forward, or return to Red lake and there wait untill they could procure a guide. I had previously made up my mind to continue my route at every risk, and all the rest with the exception of two preferring to follow Gen1 D., we made immediate preparations to start.
It was several days later that Dickson left the main group without blanket, food, nor means to light a fire. Dickson arrived in Red River, starving and frost-bitten.  As Lyman Draper noted, "the cold weather set in before their arrival at Red river [sic], and Dickson had his toes frozen off, which crippled him as well as the whole enterprise."

Sir George Simpson, Governor of the
 Hudson's Bay Company, 1857.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No.
1978-14-3 Source: Manuscript Division,
 W.W. Campbell Collection (MG30 D 8)
Governor Simpson was none too amused with the party, refused his bank drafts and quickly employed the men who had been recruited.  Several of Dickson's recruits were in fact the mixed-blood sons of HBC officials.  Their sense of adventure was probably supplanted by their common sense, after the hard travelling in the company of Dickson.  In the spring of 1837, the Indian Liberator left Red River, incredibly, worse off for resources than when he arrived.
 (Pannekoek, Snug Little Flock, 90).
  As Grace Lee Nute put it in 1922, "America has been the land of roseate dreams; but, among all its visions of wealth and power, where is the equal for novelty and adventure of this mad product of Dickson's disordered mind?"
 (Nute, 352)