Saturday, March 4, 2017

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

Returning to George Woodcock's Ravens and Prophets (1952), which sits at my bedside atop Chantal Mouffe's The Democratic Paradox (2000), I read how the author and his travelling companions Audrey, David and Inge turn west at Prince George, where they come to Fraser Lake, just west of Vanderhoof.

Fraser Lake's Fort Fraser was established by the Northwest Trading Company in 1807 and is one of the oldest colonial settlements in B.C. However, unlike some outposts that grew into towns, Fort Fraser did not. According to Woodcock:

"...there is little except an indefinable kind of English village atmosphere and a still functioning Hudson's Bay store to indicate its special antiquity or its important role in the early settlement of the far west of Canada." (57)

Those familiar with 2010 Olympics CEO John Furlong's unofficial years as a teacher at Immaculata Roman Catholic [residential] School at nearby Burns Lake in the late 1960s/early 1970s will know of complaints filed against him by some of the school's students. Additional complainants include a student from another Roman Catholic Church operated residential school at Fraser Lake, known as Lejac, where Furlong was not employed but may have had contact with, given his work in physical education.

Of the Lejac school, Woodcock describes a "red-brick collegiate building," and on an adjacent field, "a swarm of little Indian boys" with burlap sacks following a mechanical potato picker. From there we learn of Father Morice, "a notable pioneer in the study of Carrier customs and languages," and from whose writings we learn of "the rough treatment of the Indians by the Hudson's Bay Company representatives -- details which might otherwise have been unavailable to history students anxious to make an objective study of British colonization in Western Canada." (57)

As mentioned in my previous post, Woodcock's trip was undertaken at the end of the 1940s. Something the author does not mention is that on January 1, 1937, four Lejac students -- Allen Willie (age 8), Andrew Paul (age 9), Maurice Justin (age 8) and Johnny Michael (age 9) -- were found frozen to death on a lake six miles from the school -- and a mile from their home reserve, where they were running away to.

What remains of Woodcock's passage on Lejac includes the complaints of Inge and Audrey, who feel the deployment of Indian boys as farm workers constitutes child labour. As for Woodcock and David's position:

"We admitted that, being fanatical devotees of their own way of thought, [the priests] could not be expected to do anything other than attempt to transmit it to the children under their care, [that these priests] might individually be very just and humble men, who acted not from a desire to dominate, but out of a genuine love for the people among whom they worked, that they might indeed be men whose sincerity and goodness should inspire our respect for them, however we might disagree with their creed and detest some of the church's social manifestations." (58)

And with that, they continued westward.

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