Category Archives: Montreal Heritage

Colonial Lachine: The Unnamed Realities of Montreal’s First Suburb

The old Lachine is celebrated for the beauty of its historical buildings and of the natural landscape at the end of the St-Louis Lake and the beginning of the rapids. For this post, I concentrated my efforts in highlighting the fact that Lachine, one of the boroughs of the west of the city of Montreal, was constructed and populated with different activities relying on colonial relations primarily with Indigenous people.

Contact:

The western history of what we now call Lachine starts with travels of Jacques Cartier (1535) and Samuel de Champlain (1603). The main feature of the territory for both explorers is the terrible rapids that block the route towards the West. The Grand Sault, as Cartier calls it, or the Sault Saint-Louis for Champlain, is a critical landmark for both Europeans and Indigenous people.

18th century map of Montreal
18th century map of Montreal

The most western point of those rapids, the site of my interest in this work, rapidly becomes a privileged point of meeting for colonizers and their commercial partners. This point is crucial for strategical reasons. What archeologists call site BiFk-6 is a hill at the confluent of the Saint-Pierre River, the rapids and the Saint-Louis Lake that is easily recognisable, thus ideal as a commercial point. Indigenous people knew of this site long before Champlain dreamt of using it. Artifacts predating by more than 400 years the arrival of Cartier were found on the hill (Buteau and Chevrier 2001, 16).

Maison LeBer-LeMoyne, Lachine, constructed in 1669 on the sit BFK-6 (picture by Jean Gagnon). Now The Lachine Museum
Maison LeBer-LeMoyne, Lachine, constructed in 1669 on the sit BiFk-6 (picture by Jean Gagnon). Now the Lachine Museum

Another proof of the use of this site pre-contact comes from Champlain. In the accounts of his travels, the 4th to be exact (1613), Champlain, through a conversation with Tessouat, chief of the Kichesipirini, delivers some crucial information about the status of the future Lachine. Speaking with his host on L’Ile-aux-allumettes at the modern-day border of Quebec and Ontario, he asks why does his people try to cultivate such an inhospitable land while better lands like the one near the Sault Saint-Louis were “deserted and abandoned”. Tessouat answers that the unattractiveness of his lands makes it safer to live on and that if the French were to build a fortification, as they promised, he would consider moving there, assured that his enemies would not attack (Champlain 1908, 191). From this exert, we can understand that this land was known outside of the Iroquoians to which the Island of Montreal is usually associated to since the Kichesipirini passed through.

Name:

I also want to underline that colonial history is also topographical and connected to the writings of the colonial power. The oldest name we know today for the site I am investigating was given by Europeans. I was unable with my research to find the name used by any Nation to designate Lachine. Prior to its modern name, Lachine had been called Sault Saint-Louis in correspondence to the rapids and then Côte Saint-Sulpice in honor of the religious group, the Sulpician, who had claimed the Island of Montreal as theirs. The name Lachine alludes to another aspect of the colonial history of the Americas. As we all know, Europeans set sail westward I hopes of finding China through the sea since the Ottoman had taken control of Constantinople. Even after finding North America and acknowledging that it was not Asia, some explorers were still obsessed with finding the route to China. It is the case of Robert Cavelier de LaSalle who obtained the Seigneurie from the Sulpician. His many travels down the Mississippi in hopes of finding China were becoming so famously a failure that the settlers on his lands began to call the Seigneurie La Chine (literally China) to mock the explorer. The name then becomes another embodiment of the commercial colonialism of the Europeans.

 Lachine Massacre:

While Lachine started as a meeting point between the French and the Algonquin people, it rapidly became a settler village as I just mentioned, the first arriving in 1667. The Seigneurie consisted in three fortification of wood across a territory that spanned from the modern day border of Pointe-Claire and Dorval to the one between LaSalle and Verdun. In 1689 happened an event that became a deep traumatic experience for the people of Lachine. The memory of this event carried on into the 20th century. The commission of the historical site and monuments of Canada erected in 1935 a small monument with a plaque to commemorate this tragic event. On it can be read information taken from a letter of Governor Frontenac reporting that in the dead of night, Iroquois warriors attacked and burned all the residences of the Lachine Seigneurie killing 200 people and abducting 120 (Parkman 2005, 113).

Lachine Massacre monument
Lachine Massacre Monument (1935)

This plaque is problematic in many ways. What this monument and Frontenac fail to say is that the reality was closer to 24 deaths and 60 prisoners and that this attack (Moussette 1978, 44). Also, this event occurred in the context of the French and Iroquois wars encouraged by the British. If French settlers and authorities were allied to the Algonquin, the British were allied to the Iroquois. A peace treaty signed between the French and the Iroquois in 1667 calmed the relations in New France for 20 years. The situation deteriorated following two events. The first one occurred in 1687. At the demand of a new Naval Minister in France, the Governor of New France broke the peace and prepared a trap for the Onnontagués Iroquois by inviting them to some festivities at Fort Frontenac where they were imprisoned and some sent to the King’s galleys (Moussette 1978, 44).  The other event is the Glorious Revolution in England that chased James II, ally of Louis XIV, shifting the relation with France in Europe and in America. In short, the attack on Lachine was not an act of pure cruelty but a response to a direct attack on a part of the Haudenosaunee Confederation and it was encouraged by a change in alliances. Factual information is not the only problem about this plaque. Two medallions are decorating the upper part on the right depicting men working in what looks like a dock and the other on the right depicts “Indians” in the wood, naked except for the feathers on their head looking at a 17th century ship on a river that we guess is the St. Lawrence.

Lachine Massacre Monument (1935) détail
Lachine Massacre Monument (1935) (detail)
Lachine Massacre Monument (1935 (detail)
Lachine Massacre Monument (1935) (detail)

This representation is problematic like many others we seen in America because it reinforces this opposition between Nature and Culture, present and past. It also creates a devise that is particular to Lachine. Because of the context of the Lachine Massacre, we assume the Indigenous men we are seeing are Iroquois and because of Kahnawà:ke being so near, we associate them more precisely with Mohawks. This association is dangerous because it damages the relationships between modern day settler descendants and Mohawk people. The medallion depicts these men of the 17th century looking at the other side of the river creating this image that Mohawk people are still in this “primitive state” and that they are still a threat to the inhabitant of the other side of the river.

Fur trade official site:

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As a transitionary space between the St. Lawrence valley and the Pays d’en haut, Lachine quickly became a pivotal point in the fur trade. Already a key geographical point in the meeting between French and Algonquin, it became an official commercial point with the construction of a hangar by the North West company in 1803.

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The North West compagny Hangar (1803) now the The Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site

The economy of the small village relied on the fur trade. Taverns and hostels were built to accommodate the travelers who would come and go with the seasons. The competition raged between the Scottish North West Company and the English Hudson Bay Company. Following the annexation of the NWC by the HBC in 1821, Sir George Simpson, General Governor of the HBC, built a mansion in Lachine to assess his power over the fur trade. Rarely present in this residence, he left the manor to his second, Edward Hopkins and his wife the painter Frances Ann Hopkins. Thanks to her depictions of the fur trade, we know that indigenous people stayed an important part of the commerce well into the 19th century. As a side note, it is in this Manor that the Hopkins and Sir Simpson received the Prince of Whales in 1860.

picture of "Simpson Manor", oil on Canvas by Marie-Aquila, s.s.a. (Germaine Leclair)
picture of “Simpson Manor”, oil on Canvas by Marie-Aquila, s.s.a. (Germaine Leclair)

Lachine Canal:

Between the manor and the hangar lies the Lachine Canal dug between 1821 and 1825, then enlarged from 1843 to 1848. As the 19th century progressed, the economy of the canal passed from fur to industrial goods. One of those resources passing through was sugar coming from the Caribbean. Ending in the Redpath refinery in Pointe-Saint-Charles or in the molasses factory in Faubourg à m’lasse, it is important to mention that Canada passed from a resource colony to an actor in economical colonialism outside of its borders.

Lachine Canal between the Fur Trade Historical Site and the Sainte-Anne College, Lachine

Missionary site:

At the death of Sir George Simpson, Les Soeurs de Sainte-Anne, a religious order founded in 1850 in Vaudreuil,  bought the manor and used it as a convent and as an all-female boarding school. The establishment of this group in what we call today the Old Lachine was the start of the population movement from the rural areas around the Seigneurie towards a “downtown” Lachine.

Collège Sainte-Anne, previously, Convent of the Sisters of St. Ann
Collège Sainte-Anne, previously, Convent of the Sisters of St. Ann

It is also from this Mother-house that Sisters left on evangelisation missions to British Columbia (1858), U.S.A. (1867), Alaska (1886), Japan (1934), Haiti (1944), Chile (1965) and Cameroun (1968). In Canada, the sisters established schools in Quebec and BC. Arriving in Vancouver in 1858, they were the first missionaries in the West and participated to the establishment of the first schools and hospitals. Their involvement in the education of the indigenous youth was inscribed in the evangelisation frame that has characterised the history of education in Canada but they took great pride in giving good education to white and indigenous girls in B.C.  Later, with the Indian Act, they participated in two schools that were part of the Residential school system, one of them being in Kamloops (TRC 2016, 692). In parallel, they continued to give classes in non residential schools in B.C. and Quebec.

In conclusion, my goal was not to only show the darker sides of the history of Lachine but to try to write a nuanced version of a history that is usually euro-centric. Only by knowing and understanding the imbalances in the colonial power can we hope to decolonize the relationships we have with the first people and non-western immigrants.

Bibliography:

Buteau, Hélène and Daniel Chevrier. 2001. D’audace en mémoire : Le lieu dit Lachine, un regard archéologique, Collection In Situ. Montréal : Art Gestion Inc.

De Champlain, Samuel. 1908. Les Voyages de Samuel de Champlain au Canada 1603-1618. Québec: Édition populaire.

De Champlain, Samuel. 2009. À la rencontre des Algonquins et des Hurons 1612-1619. text in modern french annotated and presented by Éric Thierry. Collection V. Québec : Éditions du Septentrion.

Moussette, Normand. 1978. En ces lieux que l’on nomma “La Chine”…. Lachine : Ville de Lachine.

Parkman, Francis. 2005. Count Frontenac and New France under Louis XIV. Raleigh: Hayes Barton Press.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 2016.  Canada’s Residential Schools : The History, Part 1, Origins to 1939. Montreal; Kingston : McGill-Queen’s Press.

“The Masters Tools” : Inuit Art Collection at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Entrance to Takuminartu: Contemporary Inuit Art, 1948-Present.
Entrance to Takuminartu: Contemporary Inuit Art, 1948-Present.

Audre Lorde’s statement that “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”[i] becomes an interesting provocation for cultural heritage institutions and the ethical roles they inherit as repositories, preservers, and distributors of knowledge. Consequently, are fine arts museums as ritualized remnants of imperial history and Western aesthetics somehow exempt from, as Amy Lonetree argues, historical context or the “hard truths of colonization”[ii] as national and tribal museums? These are some of the questions that guide an interest in the curatorial judgement, exhibitionary protocol, and aesthetic consciousness that tend a collection of Inuit Art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, Quebec.

Wall text at entrance to Takuminartut: Contemporary Inuit Art, 1948-Present.
Wall text at entrance to Takuminartut: Contemporary Inuit Art, 1948-Present.

The museum’s first Inuit artworks were donated by collector and self-appointed curator Frederick Cleveland Morgan, who originally purchased three carvings from an exhibition sale at the Canadian Handicrafts Guild in Montreal[iii]. The Guild held annual exhibitions and sales that helped cultivate, promote and distribute Inuit art as an “authentic” and “pure” art form for local and international art markets[iv]. The purchase of Inuit items is significant in that both Cleveland Morgan and the writer James Houston held close associations with the Guild for many years.

 

As a Guild representative during the 1950s, James Houston helped establish a contemporary Inuit arts industry in the North which facilitated a commoditized taste for Inuit carvings and prints. Importantly, the Guild formed part of a larger colonizing network in the Arctic with the Canadian Government and HBC during a period of rapid socioeconomic shifts for Inuit communities. Although the industry brought economic and cultural revival, the Inuit collection at the MMFA bears witness to a lineage of colonial and administrative activity, forced settlement, and assimilationist strategies in the North[v]. These conflicts are deeply embedded in the collection itself, yet are under-represented in the didactic structure of the current exhibition.

View of display cases at entrance to Takuminartut: Contemporary Inuit Art, 1948-Present.
View of display cases at entrance to Takuminartut: Contemporary Inuit Art, 1948-Present.

The Inuit Art Collection at the MMFA forms part of the Quebec and Canadian Art Collection, and located on the fourth floor of the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion. The exhibition of Inuit art is currently on display, since its inauguration in 2011, is titled, Takuminartut: Contemporary Inuit Art, 1948-Present. The collection’s history of acquisition and display underscore critical issues of representation, the problematic of historical collections, and curatorial judgement in display strategy.

Importantly, it lacks convenient public access, community engagement and critical reflexivity. Importantly, the exhibition omits critical historical context against the representation of Inuit voices and bios, and the diversity of contemporary Inuit arts, crafts, and performance today. These works, significantly, provide commentaries and narratives that represent art worlds, evidence of cultural survivance, and the ongoing legacies of colonialism through present-day socio-economic realities. and This can be seen, for example,  in the works of Annie Pootoogook (b. 1969); Jamasee Padluq Pitseolak (b. 1968); Heather Campbell; Tanya Tagagaq (b. 1975); and Shuvinai Ashoona (b. 1961); Oviloo Tunnillie (b. 1949) among many others.

Shary Boyle, Sea Change, 2015. At the exhibition, Takuminartu: Contemporary Inuit Art, 1948-Present.
Shary Boyle, Sea Change, 2015.

 

This textual-curatorial intervention uses promotional posters as historical gesture, institutional critique, and instrumental re-framing of the Inuit Art Collection. They emphasize some of the complex and divergent narratives, discourses, and intentions that a collection represents. As such, banners and superimposed text across each of the posters in this project are tools which create a textual dialogue and evocation with the historical context of the collection, critical exhibitionary issues, decolonizing language, and forms of Inuit arts practices today. It is meant to underscore the entanglements and cultural incommensurability that a collection represents.

Oviloo Tunnillie, Untitled Nude), 2004. In the atrium outside the exhibition Takuminartut;Contemporary Inuit Art 1948-Present
Oviloo Tunnillie, Untitled Nude), 2004. In the atrium outside the exhibition Takuminartut;Contemporary Inuit Art 1948-Present

 

It is my intention that these posters evoke the sensibility and reflection that collections themselves also serve as ideological and material monuments of colonial pasts.

Endnotes

[i] This particular essay was written under the purview of Black feminism, institutionalized racism and gendered forms of power in representation. See Audre Lorde. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” in Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader 25 (2003): 27.

[ii] Amy Lonetree, “Museums as sites of decolonization: Truth telling in national and tribal museums.” Contesting Knowledge: Museums and indigenous perspectives (2009): 322-339.

[iii] These include: a walrus by Levi Qumaluk (1919-1997) a seal’s head by Davidee Mannumi (1919-1979); and a snowy owl by Markusi Qalingu Angutikirq (1899-1979). See Louis Gagnon, “Contemporary Inuit Art: A Pioneering Collection”, in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Collection: Quebec and Canadian Art, Edited by Jacques Des Rochers, (Montreal: The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2012), 268-276.

[iv] This can be seen for example, through the use of promotional and instructional posters and pamphlets, primarily in the 1950s, in addition to artist co-operatives organized and designed to increase the marketability of Inuit Art and artists and the self-sufficiency of Inuit communities. See Emily Auger, The Way of Inuit Art: Aesthetics and History in and Beyond the Arctic, (Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, 2005), 125-128.

[v] The early twentieth century, in particular, witnessed the arrival of whalers, fur traders, missionaries, artists, and government that sought to institutionalize the North in an effort to secure arctic sovereignty. The erection of churches, hospitals, and residential schools was a governmental strategy that aimed to assimilate Inuit peoples through forced settlement and cultural displacement. The creation of dependent Inuit societies served to disrupt a traditional Inuit way of life. For a detailed discussion on the topic of colonization in the North, see Alootook Ipellie, “The Colonization of the Arctic,” eds. Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin, Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1992): 39-58.

References

Ipellie, Alootook. “The Colonization of the Arctic,” eds. Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin, Indigena:  Contemporary Native Perspectives (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1992): 39-58.

Auger, Emily. The Way of Inuit Art: Aesthetics and History in and Beyond the Arctic, (Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, 2005), 125-128.

Clifford, James. “Museums as Contact Zones,” in Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century,  (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997): 188-219.

Lonetree, Amy. “Museums as sites of decolonization: Truth telling in national and tribal museums.” Contesting Knowledge: Museums and indigenous perspectives (2009): 322-339.

Lorde, Audre. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” In Feminist Postcolonial Theory:  A  Reader 25 (2003): 27.

The Illuminated Crowd, 1985

The Illuminated Crowd is a sculpture located in downtown Montreal on rue McGill College created by Raymond Mason and erected in 1985. The statue is a bigoted piece that represents the ideology of western triumphalism and how those who don’t fall into that ideology are left behind and minimalized. The statue presents the literal light of the west as all powerful and that the farther away from the light you are the worse off you are, presenting those worse off as grotesque and the ones in the light as idealized westerners.

Picture208301_0010038729The intervention’s aims are to express silenced voices and combat ethnocentricity, engage and criticize the concepts of western culture and superiority. Additionally the hope is to remove focus from unsightly art.

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The intervention consists of creating a series of photographs and written stories that represent people from all over Montreal, aiming to represent people all walks of life. These photographs are to be placed on columns along the perimeter of the area, facing the statue, with small plaques telling the photos’ stories. By gathering people and their stories, we hope to combat the ideology of the statue, additionally the placement would remove focus from the statue.

art for intervention

Framing the Simulation: Unsettling the Chalet du Square

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A flyer with the information in this web post was also distributed to surrounding businesses such as the adjacent hotel. Scroll to bottom of post for more context photos!
A flyer (pictured here) with the information in this post was also distributed to surrounding businesses such as the adjacent hotel. Scroll to bottom of post for more context photos!

The Chalet du Square building in Montreal’s Griffintown neighborhood was designed by architect David Jerome Spence in 1932 as a bath house for surrounding residents. Like many other Art Deco buildings, the construction features appropriated Indigenous design work. The architect did not attribute the design work to a specific Indigenous Nation or individual, representing a highly problematic trend in the history of architecture. At the same time that the settler state was attempting to systematically eliminate Indigenous peoples through sanctioned programs such as residential schools[1], Indigenous cultural production was being stolen and used to define modernism in North America. Architects were interested in Indigenous designs for their use of complex geometries, forms found in nature, and as part of an attempt to create a distinctly North-American modernist style. It is important to remember that the designs on the Chalet du Square are highly stylized and homogenous. They are not representative of actual Indigenous work. The reliefs above the door appear to be based on a hawk design while the main bas-relief is likely a hybrid of a headdress design and the non-Indigenous Art Deco ‘sunburst’ motif. Buildings such as this and the documentation surrounding them present a stereotype, and perpetuate the myth of Indigenous populations as static entities.[2] As Saami architect/artist Joar Nango has pointed out, Indigenous design styles are often represented via symbolic typologies which are immediately recognizable to the settler, but Saami design work for example, can more accurately be described as a “way of of thinking and relating to space” that is multifarious and cannot be easily formalized[3]. Designs might be based on the Indigenous relationship to land as an animate entity, or respond to the specific “ecological, spiritual, and historical criteria provided by the site itself.”[4]

It should also be realized that the Chalet du Square tells us nothing of the Kanien’kehá:ka (also known as the Mohawk people) whose land the building was constructed on. Through a series of genocidal measures and false dealings, European colonizers displaced the Kanien’kehá:ka from their ancestral lands on the island of Montreal, forcing the remaining population into the Kanesatake and the Kahnawake reservations which exist today. Despite over four hundred years of colonization and oppression, the Kanien’kehá:ka culture remains strong and vibrant. Further information on this land can be found at http://www.manataka.org/page765.html and through Alanis Obomsawin’s renowned NFB production “Kanasatake: 270 Years of Resistance” 

Examples of Appropriation (by some of North America’s most well-known modernist architects)

Art Deco, and North American modernism as a whole, is highly indebted to Indigenous design work. One of the most significant survey books on American Art Deco begins with a listing of how Art Deco architects appropriated Indigenous designs, but does not discuss how highly problematic this actually is. The following are a few examples of the hundreds of important modernist buildings which heavily relied upon Indigenous designs or stereotypical images of Indigenous peoples. Click on the images for more information about each structure:

Frank Lloyd Wright, Lake Tahoe Summer Colony, Lake Tahoe, 1923, Based on the Native American teepee and other unidentified Native American designs. Image: Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Frank Lloyd Wright, Lake Tahoe Summer Colony, Lake Tahoe, 1923, Based on the Native American teepee and other unidentified Native American designs. Image: Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
Wirt Rowland; Smith Hinchman & Grylls Firm. Guardian Building. (Originally the Union Trust Building), Detroit, 1929. Several areas throughout building influenced by Native American and Aztec designs. Image: Kirsten Alana, AviatorsandaCamera.com
Wirt Rowland; Smith Hinchman & Grylls Firm. Guardian Building. (Originally the Union Trust Building), Detroit, 1929. Several areas throughout building influenced by Native American and Aztec designs. Image: Kirsten Alana, AviatorsandaCamera.com

Gilbert Stanley Underwood, Ahwahnee Hotel, Stained Glass by Jeannette D. Spencer derived from Pomo, Hupa and Hurok Basketry. Yosemite National Park, 1927. Image: Courtesy of TripAdvisor https://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g61000-d531938-i77848632-The_Ahwahnee_Hotel_Historic_Landmark-Yosemite_National_Park_California.html
Gilbert Stanley Underwood, Ahwahnee Hotel, Stained Glass by Jeannette D. Spencer derived from Pomo, Hupa and Hurok Basketry. Yosemite National Park, 1927. Image: Courtesy of TripAdvisor https://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g61000-d531938-i77848632-The_Ahwahnee_Hotel_Historic_Landmark-Yosemite_National_Park_California.html
Robert Stacy-Judd, First Baptist Church, Ventura, CA. Mayan Revival. Image: http://artdecoandartnouveau.tumblr.com/
Robert Stacy-Judd, First Baptist Church, Ventura, CA. Mayan Revival. Image: http://artdecoandartnouveau.tumblr.com/
M. Keroack and Frère Marie Victorin Architects. Relief: Henri Hébert. Montreal Botanical Gardens, 1932 Image: Rebecca Lemire
M. Keroack and Frère Marie Victorin Architects. Relief: Henri Hébert. Montreal Botanical Gardens, 1932. Image: Rebecca Lemire
Paul Phillipe Cret in Assoc. w Wiley G. Clarkson. Eldon B. Mahon U.S Courthouse. Fort Worth, TX, 1934. Aluminum grilles in Mayan Ziggurat, and Plains Indian arrows over doors. Pueblo designs around upper-level windows.
Paul Phillipe Cret in Assoc. w Wiley G. Clarkson. Eldon B. Mahon U.S Courthouse, Fort Worth, TX, 1934. Aluminum grilles in Mayan Ziggurat, and Plains Indian arrows over doors. Pueblo designs around upper-level windows. Image: dangr.dave http://www.flickriver.com/photos/tags/usfederalcourthouse/interesting/
Bruce Goff, Nicol House, 1965. Kansas City. Central area of house (including interior sitting area and fire pit) based on a Plains Indian teepee and other unidentified Indigenous designs. Image: KC Modern Home Tours http://kc.modernhometours.com/bruce-goff-5305-cherry-st/
Bruce Goff, Nicol House, 1965, Kansas City. Central area of house (including interior sitting area and fire pit) based on a Plains Indian teepee and other unidentified Indigenous designs. Image: KC Modern Home Tours http://kc.modernhometours.com/bruce-goff-5305-cherry-st/
Double-sided flyer distributed in Griffintown.
Double-sided flyer distributed in Griffintown.
Flyer distributed in hip hotel adjacent to the Chalet du Square.
Flyer distributed in hip hotel adjacent to the Chalet du Square.
Flyer distributed at nearby Starbucks
Flyer distributed at nearby Starbucks
Flyer distributed at building itself.
Flyer distributed at building itself.
B&W copies of the flyer being delivered to the Chalet du Square's mailbox.
B&W copies of the flyer being delivered to the Chalet du Square’s mailbox.

By Rebecca Lemire

[1] More information on the ongoing effects of the residential school system on the lives of Indigenous peoples can be found through the Truth and Reconciliation Final Report at: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890 The government of Canada released an official apology for the residential school system in 2008 which can be found at https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100015644/1100100015649.

[2] This is also discussed in relation to the Sami people by Joar Nango in “The Saami Building Tradition: A Complex Picture” in Northern Experiments: The Barents Urban Survey (Oslo: 0047, 2009) Web version: http://www.northernexperiments.net/index.php?/saami-building/.

[3] Joar Nango. Interview. Space + Place. “Architecture of Stories” Calgary, AB. Nov. 6, 2012. and also see Joar Nango “The Saami Building Tradition: A Complex Picture”.

[4] Joar Nango. “The Saami Building Tradition: A Complex Picture”, 191.

 

 

 

Isabella vs. The Other

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We decided to stage our intervention on the statue of Queen Isabella 1 of Castille located in Laurier Park. The Statue was gifted to the city in 1959 by the Consulate General of Spain in Montreal on behalf of the Institute of Hispanic Culture in Madrid.

Queen Isabella led the Spanish inquisition, which expelled the Jewish and Muslim populations from Spain. She was also the patron of Christopher Columbus who ‘discovered’ the Americas. Given the Queens violent history this memorial has not been without controversy.

Shloime Perel, an organizer for the Refugee Research Project in Montreal, wrote an opinion piece in the Montreal Gazette which cited the UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, arguing that Isabella was guilty. He also contacted several local community members and politicians calling for the removal of the statue.

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In December 2015 somebody doused the statue with red paint and attaching a sign saying “I AM GUILTY OF CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY”.

However, neither of these actions subverted the western style of memorials; it was still Isabella who had to own the past.

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By placing mirrors around the bust of the statue, we are countering the past intervention by confronting the public rather than the memorial. The mirrors simultaneously hide Isabella, and force the public to see their reflection, facilitating the opportunity to reflect. The inclusion of the Edict of the Expulsion of the Jews and the letter addressing Columbus’s voyages will be attached to the statue as proof of Isabella’s crimes, and as a way to cement our project give context to the viewer.

How has Isabella’s crimes permeated throughout our world today?

Is there a moral imperative to intervene at such contested sites?

 

Islamaphobia in Canada

State of Emergency in Attawapiskat

Religious Freedom?

Anti Semitism in Europe

 

Ahead of John A. MacDonald : Counter Narratives at Place du Canada

George Wade’s monument of John A. Macdonald was created in 1895 and is located at Place du Canada. Monuments like Macdonald’s have recently struggled with different tensions between their intended symbolism and interpretation. There are discussions concerning the role they play and what they represent in today’s society. More pressingly, the vandalism or defiling of these sites reveals a material manifestation of this problematic that signals the irreconcilability of the essentialist version of history they embody and the histories of violence or injustice that are conveniently left out.

Dedication of Sir John A. Macdonald Monument in Dominion Square (now Place du Canada), 1895. From the collection of Wm. Notman & Son / McCord Museum

Continue reading Ahead of John A. MacDonald : Counter Narratives at Place du Canada

Retracing The Footsteps: Rethinking Montreal’s Creation Narrative

Long before Europeans sailed to Canada and began to settle themselves in the new territory, First Nations tribes had already existed there. When Jacques  Cartier sailed over to the New World and planted his famous cross on Mount Royal to mark French territory in Canada, Native villages were already in place and had been for a while.

If one would go walking around Old Montreal today, they’d see very little reminders that First Nations peoples had lived on this land before the arrival of the European powers. Not much remains of the memory that indigenous peoples were once settled here a long time ago and laid part of the foundation of the Montreal we live in today.

OUR METHOD:

Our intervention consists of two main components: an augmented reality experience that can be accessed through a smartphone application combined with a walking tour. This augmented reality will fill in the blanks of Montreal’s creation story that have been overlooked: namely, the contribution of First Nations peoples. The sites we have chosen are the Pointe-A-Calliere Museum, Chateau Ramezay and the Lachine Canal. Upon arrival at these sites, members of the walking tour can hold up their phones and will be able to see the missing parts of the narrative.

OUR GOALS:

We seek to challenge the current narrative in place with our intervention. With the combined walking tour and augmented reality, we hope to raise questions concerning why the contributions of First Nations peoples are diminished compared to those of European settlers.

Reclaiming Hochelaga: Recovering Indigenous Identity

 

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The site for our intervention is the Hochelaga National Historic Site of Canada, located in downtown Montreal and situated on McGill University. Our first goal is to create a clear and accessible path to the Hochelaga Rock. Furthermore, we wish to install a rotating art exhibition within the immediate vicinity that changes with the seasons. We often see the aboriginal community marginalized and their culture placed in opposition to the metropolitan norm. Our mandate is to address this and also focus on bringing attention to the historical site itself while also raising awareness on Indigenous contemporary culture. Our hope is to highlight, encourage, and expose aboriginal culture and heritage within the landscape of our modern society.
The Hochelaga Rock, its neglect, and its inaccessibility bring into question our societies neglect of aboriginal heritage and history. We live in a society that is historically founded on individuals who were forced from their homes and land, yet we fail to recognize or give credence to those who are now for the most part marginalized from society. We hope to give the aboriginal community a voice in claiming back their space and what once existed on the island of Montreal.

Kanien’keha:ka Onwawen:na Raotitiohka Language and Cultural Centre:
http://www.korkahnawake.org/

Jaime Black, The REDress Project:
http://www.theredressproject.org/

Ryan Rice, “Oh So Iroquois”:
https://www.amazon.ca/Kwah-ken-Tsi-Iroquois-Tellement/dp/1894906292

 

Monument à Jacques Cartier: Discovering Erasure

 

HM_ARC_005253-001Jacques Cartier Fountain (Monument à Jacques Cartier)
Commissioned by: Eugène Guay
Artist: Joseph-Arthur Vincent (1852-1903)
Inaugurated: 14 June 1893
Restoration/Reproduction: 1992
Height: 9 metres
Location: Corner of rue Saint-Antoine and rue Agnès in Parc Saint-Henri (then Village des Tanneries de Rolland, present day quartier Saint-Henri)

 

 

 

The Monument à Jacques Cartier is situated in the Saint Henri neighbourhood of the South West borough of Montreal. At the time of Jacques Cartier’s arrival the land was unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory and used mainly by the Mohawk community for fishing and hunting along a significant body of water that, now altered and mostly covered due to a public health threat from industrial waste, was once the St. Pierre river. By the time of the monuments erection the Saint Henri municipality was 15 years old, growing out of the Village des Tanneries that began the development with tanning workshops that grew to large scale production facilities. In 1890 the city was offered a piece of land on which they would build a park to please the surrounding local bourgeoisie that inhabited the area. At its center the monument was erected, commissioned by the city and placed in a basin, functioning both as a decorative fountain and commemorative piece. With the turn of the century Saint Henri underwent a sudden surge in industrial development and by the late 1940’s the South West borough had become the leading industrial center of Canada, bringing blue collar workers and their families to the area. In 1992, due to weather damage that it suffered through the years, the monument was moved to the Métro Place-Saint-Henri station and placed in a light shaft drawing the attention of the many residents using public transportation for their daily commute. Today, the mostly residential neighbourhood shows traces of Saint Henri’s changing demographic through the years. Now experiencing the effects of gentrification the neighbourhood is receiving a flood of young professionals as well as students seeking once affordable housing close to downtown and university campuses. The Victorian row houses that encircled Saint Henri square at the time of the monuments inauguration still stand and remind us of the neighbourhoods history, but what of the land and lives of the people who came before Jacques Cartier?

This intervention was born out of a lack of contemporary critical discourse regarding the monument, especially in regards to its restoration and the subsequent replacement in 1992, receiving an Orange Prize from Sauvons Montreal for its supposedly significant contribution to preserving Montreal heritage. Our project aims to draw attention to the colonial implications of glorifying Jacques Cartier in occupied unceded territory and the colonial history that has been erased and rewritten as a valiant act of development and enlightenment.

We are challenging the narratives asserted by the symbolism inherent in the monument and those implied through the city-sanctioned narratives online and in print. We are calling attention to the missing narratives and asking you, the viewer, to determine the political and social motivations for their exclusion. We hope to facilitate better access to these narratives through highlighting previously overlooked details in written and symbolic white washing by providing additional resources and mimicry.


“A Jacques Cartier né à Saint­-Malo le 31 décembre 1491. Envoyé par François Ier à la découverte du Canada le 20 avril 1534. J’étant l’ancre, le 16 juillet de la même année dans l’entrée du Saint­ Laurent, il prit possession de tout le pays au nom du roi son maître, et l’appela la Nouvelle­ France”


Jacques Cartier is placed at the top of the monument dressed in attire appropriate and fashionable for his time period pointing west wards. The statue at its tallest is 9 meters high. He is standing on a tree stump atop an ornamental four sided pedestal briefly describing his biographical details as well as his having taken “possession” of the country in the name of France. Directly below the pedestal are fountain spouts as well as 4 presumably Iroquois heads, stereotypical long hair and adorned with a vague headpiece, from whose mouths water also spouts. Between them are laurel leaves painted in gold and at the base cattails grow seemingly from the basin accompanied by 4 beavers.

The inscription operates as a method of reinforcing European Terra Nullius narratives and notions of “discovery” rather than theft and genocide with regards to Canada’s settlement history. Using vocabulary that blatantly asserts Jacques Cartier’s taking possession of the land normalizes the act and redresses it as a valiant act of discovery and conquest, replacing the history of the indigenous groups to whom the land belonged. This narrative is further emphasized with the symbolic resonance of Jacques Cartier’s likeness pointing west and standing upon a tree stump. The Bureau d’Art Public, Ville de Montreal official site still today describes this as symbolizing a “country to be cleared”. This continues the narrative that prior to French arrival, the land was unclaimed, uninhabited, primitive, profane and therefor free for the taking. Beavers, the Canadian national emblem, refer to the fur trade initialized by Jacques Cartier upon his arrival in Chaleur Bay, one of the earliest examples of contact between France and the Micmac people. Laurel wreaths signify victory in regards to his achievements, being placed directly below the text. It indicates his success in possession as the inscription tells the reader he sought out to do. Alongside the wreaths are the floating bodiless heads of First Nations, essentially being stood on by Jacques Cartier, conquered and suppressed. Furthermore, as part of the fountain’s functionality, the heads were designed to spout water from their mouths, none too subtly reinforcing the damaging colonial perspective of First Nations’ as ‘savage natives’ needing taming. By juxtaposing the symbol of martial victory alongside the spouting disembodied heads the historical as well as contemporary erasure of First Nation’s people is encouraged. It does this by systematically portraying the hugely diverse and populous community as vague and remote, focusing instead on Jacques Cartier and his conquest. That this “history” continues to circulate without notice or questioning by the members of the surrounding residential community, even with the brutal way in which the heads have been functionally incorporated, is an attestation to the continued legacy of colonialism today.

As a result, our intervention aims to critique and refute these Terra Nullius narratives and propose a counter-narrative, disseminating it at the site of the restoration (Saint Henri Square), the location of the original (métro Place-Saint-Henri) as well as in pamphlet form at tourist information centers, local businesses and cultural centers. The metro station intervention would include a plaque visually identical to the one presently in place, as well as a pamphlet rack with our pamphlets, mimicking the exact layout, format and aesthetic as the city sanctioned pamphlets. At the monument a plaque would also be installed with a similar emphasis, one in which the text would urge the audience to consider the effects of language and narrow historical ‘truths’ on the past and living First Nations individuals and communities. All of the intervention texts would be in English, French and Mohawk.

Lastly the web component of our intervention includes the recreation and exact mimicry of city web pages, subverting the notion of ‘official’ knowledge, authority and perspective by posing as it. As a complimentary project an online gallery would subsequently be created (Digital Histories Gallery) which would serve both as a digital location for the documents relevant to our intervention, its primary source materials which would ideally be derived from the First Nations communities narratives, as well as documents such as Jacques Cartier’s diaries (as well as those of his contemporaries) all accompanied by critical observations pertaining to the documents in order to encourage problematization of established discourses. The gallery could eventually grow to also include maps, a word-cloud and an application from which the audience would be asked to include their own questions, comments and reflections.

Reproduction: Corner of rue Saint-Antoine and rue Agnès

Original: Métro Place Saint-Henri

Intervention by: Carmelina Imola, Misty-Dawn MacMillan, and Ari Isensee