2.6 : Reading Between the Lines of “Roughing it in the Bush”

2] Read Susanna Moodie’s introduction to the third edition of Roughing it in the Bush, 1854. I use the Project Gutenburg website which has a ‘command F’ function that allows you to search the entire document by words or phrases. Moodie’s introduction is often read as a warning to would be emigrants as well as an explanation of why her family emigrated from Britain. See if you can find echoes of the stories discussed above: a gift from god, a second Garden of Eden, an empty/wasted land, the noble but vanishing Indian, and the magical map. By echoes I mean reading between the lines or explicitly within Moodie’s introduction. Discussing what you discover, use your examples as evidence to write a blog that explores what you think might have been Moodie’s level of awareness of the stories she carried with her. And accordingly, the stories that she “resurrects’ by her appearance in the Dead Dog CafŽ in Green Grass Running Water.

With my previous studies in art history the theme of the vanishing Indian is one that presents itself quite often in nineteenth century art. From looking at paintings of American landscapes by artists like Thomas Cole or Asher Durand you can see a lot of different hints that point to a dominant belief that the Natives were a disappearing race, and this was accepted as a fact that was as natural as the changing seasons in the landscapes that they painted. The landscapes with their wild beauty, and with no traces of Native settlement reflect the belief that was held by these painters that the land was the remains of the biblical garden of Eden, given as a divine gift by God for the Europeans to colonize. The American painters of the day who took up the vanishing Indian theme were also heavily influenced by literature that addresses the same theme. Novels like The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper and poems like “A Walk At Sunset” by William Bryant Cullen were instrumental in painting a romanticized picture of the situation for Native Americans at the time. The reality was that the Indian Removal act which was implemented by president Jackson in 1830, was forcing Native settlements to move further and further westward and away from their homeland. However, it is clear from viewing the works of landscape painters, and reading the works of the poets and novelist at the time that the situation for the Natives was seen as a natural occurrence, comparable to changes in nature, like the setting sun in Bryant’s poem. With regards to Susanna Moodie and her book Roughing it in the Bush, I’m uncertain if the works of Cole, Cooper, and Bryant would have influenced her awareness of the situation for Natives in Canada at the time, but her introduction betrays many of the same patterns of thought that influenced American art and literary circles.


In Moodie’s introduction for her third edition of Roughing it in the Bush there are some implicit mentions of themes that the American painters and writers took up in their work. Until the last paragraph where these themes can be identified explicitly, Moodie’s introduction requires some reading between the lines to find the colonial discourse that Dr. Paterson has introduced us to this lesson. Moodie’s introduction takes the tone of a warning for those considering immigration to Canada. She stresses that the life of an immigrant is tough, and not for those whose “hand has long held the sword”. No, Moodie makes it clear that the immigrant life is not suitable for the privileged, but it is for the ordinary and underprivileged citizens who will be able to escape the burden of class hierarchies and make “the land of their adoption great”. Even the use of the word “adoption” puts the settler in a position where they are in a position of control. But in control of what exactly? Moodie’s introduction never makes any mention of the Native inhabitants of the land. This is where reading between the lines is important, because sometimes omissions speak volumes, and Moodie’s omission of the Natives in her text about their land supports the Vanishing Indian theme. Clearly Moodie is suggesting that the immigrants will have control over the land, and she is also suggesting that Native inhabitants are barely distinguishable from the land, and therefore not worth mentioning. Perhaps her awareness of the belief that the Natives were doomed to extinction influenced her omission of them from her introduction.

Works Cited

Avery, Kevin J. “Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886)”. The Met Museum. October 2009. Web. June 27 2016.

Avery, Kevin J. “Thomas Cole (1801-1848)”. The Met Museum. August 2009. Web. June 27 2016.

Cole, Thomas. Shroon Mountain, Adirondacks. Oil painting, 1838; in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Web. June 27 2016.

Cullen Bryant, William. “A Walk At Sunset”. The Idle Man 1 no. 3. 1821. Web. June 27 2016.

Fenimore Cooper, James. “The Last of the Mohicans”. Book Cover, Photograph. n.d. Web. June 27 2016.

Moodie, Susanna. “Roughing it in the Bush”. Book Cover, Photograph. n.d. Web. June 27 2016.

Moodie, Susanna. Roughing it in the Bush.. Project Gutenburg, 18 January 2004. Web. June 27 2016.

2.4 : Obstacles in Understanding

2) In this lesson I say that our capacity for understanding or making meaningfulness from the first stories is seriously limited for numerous reasons and I briefly offer two reasons why this is so: 1) the social process of the telling is disconnected from the story and this creates obvious problems for ascribing meaningfulness, and 2) the extended time of criminal prohibitions against Indigenous peoples telling stories combined with the act of taking all the children between 5 – 15 away from their families and communities. In Wickwire’s introduction to Living Stories, find a third reason why, according to Robinson, our abilities to make meaning from first stories and encounters is so seriously limited. To be complete, your answer should begin with a brief discussion on the two reasons I present and then proceed to introduce and explain your third reason from Wickwire’s introduction.

This question asks us to elaborate on how our capacity for understanding first stories is limited. I will briefly discuss two reasons Dr. Paterson has provided, one being the disconnect from the social processes of storytelling, and two being the barriers imposed by cultural genocide. Considering both of these reasons, I will discuss a third reason which I believe has a similar effect on our understanding of first stories. The third reason I suggest is the salvage paradigm.

Before this course I didn’t know much about “first stories,” the stories told by Natives before contact with non-natives (and I still don’t know much), so my first introduction to these stories that have traditionally been told orally, were experienced through reading them in print and on a computer screen. Although I have never heard these stories told orally and therefore have nothing to compare it to, it seems to be clear that our capacity for understanding these stories are limited when they are experienced through a different medium than what they were originally intended for. I think that Wendy Wickwire, in her compilation of Edward Robinson’s stories, Living By Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory, recognizes this barrier and did a fantastic job at translating the stories that were told to her into a book format in a way that captures the quirks of storytelling that you don’t often see written down.

Photograph:Without written languages, American Indians relied on storytellers to pass down myths, folktales, and tribal histories through the oral tradition.

Another way our capacity for understanding these stories is limited is through the impact of cultural genocide. The Indian Act which was responsible for the initiation of a 75 year ban on potlatch ceremonies, where the first stories were traditionally told, as well as the implementation of the residential school system, both had severely detrimental effects on the tradition of storytelling. Years without opportunities for the storyteller to tell, or the listener to listen, has created a barrier or a gap in what our understanding of these stories can be today.

A third barrier that limits our understanding of first stories is one that I found in reading Wickwire’s intorduction. This third barrier has to do with the term the salvage paradigm. Being an art history major I’ve come across the term “salvage paradigm” in the context of art, but Wickwire made me aware that it also applicable to the treatment of First Nations stories.

As artist Janice Gruney discusses in her artist statement for her own exhibit titled “The Salvage Paradigm,” the term simply describes the “belief that it is necessary to preserve so-called ‘weaker’ cultures from destruction by the dominant culture”. This type of thinking is called up in Wickwire’s introduction when she brings up the work of ethnographers like Charles Hill-Tout and Frans Boas who only saw Native stories as having any value if they were pre-contact stories and had no “impurities” that suggested a post-contact historical setting (23). As Wickwire mentions, this type of thinking prevented the exposure of so many good stories that had non-traditional characters like cats, horses, and cows, and non-traditional elements like motor boats and guns. These stories were not pre-contact stories but they are important for the ways that they show how Native culture is not purely rooted in the past, but it is constantly changing and evolving.

The salvage paradigm seems to be the flip side of the detrimental effects of the indian act. Instead of ensuring the erasure of Native culture, the salvage paradigm fights to preserve it, at the risk of making it something that has no value in our contemporary society. Thankfully the salvage paradigm is something that has been resisted by museums, art galleries, and authors since the 1980’s, as Wickwire points out, and we have more or less moved past the dangerous thinking that brought about the Indian Act, however these barriers are not far enough in the past that they don’t effect how we understand Native stories today.

What do you think are some ways that first stories can be privileged more in our society?

Works Cited

Grandish, Shaunna. Storytelling Important to Preserving History and Tradition. April, 2011. Photograph. Web. June 17 2016.

Gurney, Janice. “The Salvage Paradigm”. Panya Clark Espinal. 1990. Web. June 17 2016.

Robinson, Harry, and Wendy C. Wickwire. Living by Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory. Vancouver: Talon, 2005. Print.

Whiskeyjack, Tan’si Lana. “What are Oral Traditions?”. Native Drums. n.d. Web. June 17 2016.

Weiss, E. William. Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming/The Art Archive. Photograph. n.d. Web. June 17 2016.

2.3 : List of Common Shared Assumptions, Values, and Stories About Home

Assignment 2:3 Read at least 3 students blog short stories about ‘home’ and make a list of the common shared assumptions, values and stories that you find. Post this list on your blog.
Reading my classmates’ stories about home was a very enjoyable experience. We are such a diverse group, with a lot of great stories to tell. Each story was uniquely different from the next in the way the story was told, or in what the story was actually telling. I noticed that despite differences in where we grew up, our family structures, or our traditions and values, there are some commonalities that were shared among quite a few of us. Here’s the list of my discoveries of what our common shared assumptions, values and stories are about “home”.
1. Home is not always a place, but it can be a specific person or a few people.

The word home generally has positive connotations because it is associated with what makes us feel safe, and gives us a sense of belonging. However even before reading my classmates’ stories I knew that home isn’t always a safe place where we can grow and thrive. This prompted me to think that home doesn’t always necessarily have to be a place, sometimes its people who give us this sense of comfort, safety, and belonging that we expect home to give. Heather’s story about how she finds a home through her close relationship with her brother was very touching. Her perspective on feeling alienated in the land that she lives on, and how its a person she connects a sense of home to is something that I noticed among a few other blogs as a similarity. Like Christy, who says that home is where “my parents, husband, and plush toys are”. Home is not always land, or a house, or a specific place, but its a person, or a family.

2. On the flip side, sometimes home is a certain place!

Danica’s story about her home in Prince Rupert, and Deepak’s story of his home in New Westminster really made me think that home can be associated with a city, or a house, or a familiar park in the neighborhood. Reading both stories I noticed that the sense of home as a place was also linked to other things like childhood memories and spending time with family.

3. Language has an impact on how we feel at home in a place.

This connection was one that I made between my own experiences and Claudia’s story about how language and labels were tied up in her sense of belonging in Canada. Spending my childhood in Quebec and then moving to British Columbia at the age of 11, I can relate to the struggle of living as an “anglophone” in Quebec, and then experiencing some alienation as being an “Easterner” in Western Canada. When I lived in Quebec, my French was not great, as I explained in my previous post, and that deeply affected my sense of belonging, and not feeling like Quebec was my home. Language barriers can be a scary thing that make us feel vulnerable and like we don’t belong. I think its awesome that Claudia has been working with immigrants for the past 18 years as an ESL teacher to help people feel like they can find a home in Canada.

Assignment 2.2 : Home

Write a short story (600 – 1000 words max) that describes your sense of home and the values and stories that you use to connect yourself to your home and respond to all comments on your blog.

“Home may be in another time and place, and yet it holds us in its power here and now. Home is like our language, compelling us to think and feel in certain ways and giving us the freedom to imagine other ways and other places. It is who we are and where we belong. Home both binds us and liberates us” (Chamberlin 76).

I like this quote from Chamberlain because the idea that home can be another place, but at the same time holds us in the “here and now” resonates very much with how I grew up here in Canada, and how I see this country as my home. My “life story” I guess, is pretty neatly divided by chapters of living in different cities in Canada. From birth to early childhood home was in Ottawa, Ontario. From kindergarten until the sixth grade my home was in Beaconsfield, Quebec, a city about forty-five minutes east of Montreal. My teenage years were spent in Surrey, BC, and now my adult life so far has been evenly spent in both Ottawa (a lot differently than how I remembered it in my childhood), and Surrey again while I go to UBC. In every place I have lived I always felt that home was where I was was at that point, but it was also where I had lived before. Even now typing this post in my family’s house in Surrey, I feel at home, yet if I think about Ontario or Quebec, I also feel like those places are home too. Home is another place, but at the same time home is also this place. Although there have been times in my life when I distinctly remember feeling that home was always another place, and definitely not this place.

When we lived in Quebec I had a very hard time in school, mostly because the French language did not come easily to me. Homework was always frustrating experience, but school itself was worse. Subjects like math and science that were not easy for me to begin with, and were made even more difficult by the fact that I had to do them in French. Whenever I would get tired from not understanding French I would feel so strongly that Beaconsfield was not my home. Home was in Ottawa, where I liked school, where my grandparents lived, where I had happy memories.

But Beaconsfield wasn’t all bad, and not always as dramatic as I’m probably making it sound. I made some great friends there, and I have so many great memories of us riding our bikes around town, swimming at the neighborhood outdoor pool in the summers, and skating at the park in the winters. These were the times when I felt at home in Beaconsfield, and they were also the things I would remember when I first moved to BC, and went through another transition period when the place I lived did not feel like home.

Moving from Quebec to BC was a huge change for myself and my family. We had never been to Western Canada, and we had no family there. Family is very important to us, so moving to a place where visiting them was no longer a 20 minute drive like it was in Ottawa, nor a two hour drive like it was in Beaconsfield was very hard for us. Seeing our family was now only possible in the summers, when we could all get together at the family cottage in Ontario. Of course with the added drama of being a twelve year old about to start high school where I didn’t know a single person, I did not feel like Surrey was where I belonged. It took a while before it did.

I can’t tell my story about home, without talking about our family’s cottage on the lake. Since I can remember, my family has always gotten together at my grandparent’s cottage in the summer. The cottage is on Lake Kashwakamak near a small town in Ontario called Harlowe (fun fact: my dog is named after this town).

harlowe at the lake

My dog Harlowe at the lake.

My family had this tradition where every summer we would all get together and compete in the “Cottage Olympics” for a weekend. We would have different events like canoe racing, scavenger hunts, and the odd creative event that my grandpa would come up with like “bird house decorating”. These fun times at the lake with my family are some of my best memories, and even though its hard to get us all together now with all the cousins getting jobs or going to school, I still consider the lake to be the place where I feel like my sense of home and belonging are strongest.

Do you have any family traditions or a special places that define your sense of home?

Works Cited

Chamberlin, J. Edward. If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?: Finding Common Ground. Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim, 2004. Print.

“Education in Montreal, Quebec”. Living in Canada. n.p. n.d. Web. June 6 2016.

“Kashwakamak Lake”. Kashwakamak Lake Association. n.p. n.d. Web. June 6 2016.

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