Pauline Johnson: Selected Poetry and Prose

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Poetry, Women on 2013-09-05 20:07Z by Steven

Pauline Johnson: Selected Poetry and Prose

Dundurn Press
June 2013
240 pages
5.5 in x 8.5 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-45970-426-8
eBook ISBN: 978-1-45970-428-2

Pauline Johnson (1861-1913)

Compiled and Introduced by:

Michael Gnarowski

Pauline Johnson was an unusual and unique presence on the literary scene during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Part Mohawk and part European, she was a compelling female voice in the midst of an almost entirely male writing community. Having discovered her talent for public recitation of poetry, Johnson relied on her ancestry and gender to establish an international reputation for her stage performances, during which she appeared in European and native costume. These poems were later collected under the title of Flint and Feather (1912) and form the source of the selections appearing in this volume.

Later, suffering from ill health, Pauline Johnson retired from the stage and devoted herself to the writing of prose, collected in Legends of Vancouver, The Moccasin Maker (1913), and The Shagganappi (1913), gleanings from which form part of this collection.

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Rereading Pauline Johnson

Posted in Articles, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2013-08-06 05:11Z by Steven

Rereading Pauline Johnson

Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes
Volume 46, Number 2, Spring 2012
pages 45-61
DOI: 10.1353/jcs.2012.0018

Carole Gerson, Professor of English
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

This essay argues for a broader appreciation of Pauline Johnson’s creative range and poetic accomplishment. Rereading her work in relation to some of J. Edward Chamberlin’s ideas about narrative and about home brings fresh perspectives to her writing and reception in relation to her reversal of the White masculine gaze in her representations of Native peoples, Canadian history, wilderness, and gender. Her first Euro-Canadian audience used her work to assist with their own indigenization and help them feel at home in Canada. Because most current readers construct Johnson as figure of resistance, concentrating on a small selection of her poetry on Native topics, they continue to ignore her poems that invoke a female voice to possess the wilderness, along with her innovative erotic verse that reinhabits the female body by empowering the female gaze.

Having written extensively about Pauline Johnson in the past—most recently in relation to celebrity (Gerson 2012)—I welcome the opportunity created by this collection of essays associated with the Grand River Forum to bring some of J. Edward Chamberlin’s observations about storytelling to bear on my current interest in returning approaches to Johnson. My goal is to bring fresh attention to the craft and range of her poetry and to the complexity of her reception. Chamberlin’s analysis of narrative as essential to human experience, however contradictory the stories on a given topic might seem, is amply borne out by the unusual life and career of Emily Pauline Johnson (1861-1913). The well-known part-Mohawk poet was closely associated with the Grand River region, where she honed her skills in canoeing and authorship, her talents converging in…

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Double Vision

Posted in Articles, Biography, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2012-10-12 04:38Z by Steven

Double Vision

The Walrus
July/August 2012

Emily Landau, Lecturer
Department of History
University of Maryland

Poet Pauline Johnson enthralled Victorian theatregoers with a stereotype-smashing spin on her Mohawk-English heritage. Along the way, she became Canada’s first postmodern celebrity

In late 1892, Emily Pauline Johnson, a prim thirty-one-year-old bluestocking, made her first appearances as her alter ego, Tekahionwake, decked out in a leather dress, moccasins, and all the other accoutrements a Victorian audience might expect a Native woman to wear. For the better part of the previous year, Johnson, a half-Mohawk, half-English poet, had been reciting her work in the salons of English Canada. She was building momentum in the world of letters for her romantic naturalist ballads, and was renowned for her beauty, her striking stage presence, and her impassioned recitals. She had developed a niche as one of Canada’s most accomplished New Women, a cohort of late nineteenth-century feminists who were shedding the sexist shackles of the era. But as her act gathered steam, she created the onstage persona of Tekahionwake, an exaggerated, heightened riff on existing stereotypes, but also an ambassador to familiarize theatregoers with the conditions suffered by Native women.

She ordered a buckskin costume from the Hudson’s Bay Company; ironically, she couldn’t find an authentic outfit on the Six Nations reserve outside of Brantford, Ontario, where she grew up. The dress came with moccasins and a beaded belt adorned with moose hair and porcupine quills. She tore off one sleeve and replaced it with rabbit pelts, then completed the outfit with a hunting knife. (She would later add a bear claw necklace, a wampum belt, and a Huron scalp that had belonged to her grandfather.) Johnson’s audiences ate it up, and she became one of the country’s first celebrities, her distinctive costume generating the same tittering, slightly scandalized, and utterly enthralled reactions as Madonna’s cone bra or Lady Gaga’s meat dress would provoke a hundred years later.

For the next seventeen years, Johnson toured the world as Tekahionwake. She was billed by her promoter, Frank Yeigh, as the Mohawk Princess (a marketing ploy she used throughout her career), and although her branding played into the stereotypes, her stories broke them down. Her tales and poems gave agency to First Nations women, hooking her audience with a mix of poise and campy histrionics. In a trademark flourish, she shed the buckskin during intermission and returned in a staid silk evening gown and pumps, eliciting gasps from spectators as they marvelled at the transformation. The two modes of dress served as an external manifestation of Johnson’s own dual identity: the name Tekahionwake, which she came to use in both her performances and her published poetry, means “double life” in Mohawk…

With her curly brown hair, grey eyes, and light skin, Johnson could have passed as white, but throughout her life she insisted on asserting her Mohawk heritage. Her need to exaggerate her nativeness in her persona was a conscious act, but it was also likely born of the fact that Indigenous people were — and still are — the only racial group to be legally mandated in Canada. First Nations people had to prove their heritage by establishing that they were biologically descended from a member of an Indian band, which entitled them to certain rights and protections, but diminished their individual agency and relegated them to being glorified wards of the government. (Even the blood-determined “science” of status wasn’t fixed: a Native woman could lose those protections by marrying a non-Native.)…

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Paddling Her Own Canoe: The Times and Texts of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Posted in Biography, Books, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2012-03-16 20:27Z by Steven

Paddling Her Own Canoe: The Times and Texts of E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

University of Toronto Press
June 2000
354 pages
Paper ISBN: 9780802080240
Cloth ISBN: 9780802041623

Veronica Strong-Boag, Professor of Women’s History
University of British Columbia

Carole Gerson, Professor of English
Royal Society of Canada at Simon Fraser University

Winner of the Raymond Klibansky Prize, awarded by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Frequently dismissed as a ‘nature poet’ and an ‘Indian Princess’ E. Pauline Johnson (1861-1913) was not only an accomplished thinker and writer but a contentious and passionate personality who ‘talked back’ to Euro-Canadian culture. “Paddling Her Own Canoe” is the only major scholarly study that examines Johnson’s diverse roles as a First Nations champion, New Woman, serious writer and performer, and Canadian nationalist.

A Native advocate of part-Mohawk ancestry, Johnson was also an independent, self-supporting, unmarried woman during the period of first-wave feminism. Her versatile writings range from extraordinarily erotic poetry to polemical statements about the rights of First Nations. Based on thorough research into archival and published sources, this volume probes the meaning of Johnson’s energetic career and addresses the complexities of her social, racial, and cultural position. While situating Johnson in the context of turn-of-the-century Canada, the authors also use current feminist and post-colonial perspectives to reframe her contribution. Included is the first full chronology ever compiled of Johnson’s writing.

Pauline Johnson was an extraordinary woman who crossed the racial and gendered lines of her time, and thereby confounded Canadian society. This study reclaims both her writings and her larger significance.

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Red and White: Miss E. Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake and the Other Woman

Posted in Articles, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2011-10-04 05:30Z by Steven

Red and White: Miss E. Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake and the Other Woman

Women’s Writing
Volume 8, Issue 3 (2001)
pages 359-374
DOI: 10.1080/09699080100200140

Anne Collett, Associate Professor of English Literature
University of Wollongong, Australia

This essay examines the dramatised conflictual relationship between “Red” and “White” selves in the performed and literary body of “half-blood” poet, Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake. “Half-blood”, as opposed to the more common but derogatory “half-breed”, was the term used by Pauline to indicate the divisive, yet ultimately creative, potential of the marriage between settler and indigenous cultures in the new Canadian nation of the 1890s and early twentieth century of which she herself was representative. Pauline Johnson’s understanding and representation of that dynamic relationship is charted through an analysis of selected short stories drawn from this period, including “A Red Girl’s Reasoning”, “As It Was in the Beginning” and “My Mother”.

“Forget that I was Pauline Johnson, but remember always that I was Tekahionwake, the Mohawk that humbly aspired to be the saga singer of her people.” [I] Ernest Thompson Scion, admirer and friend, recalls these words in introduction to a collection of Tekahionwake’s stories. Miss E. Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake was perhaps most famous in England and the USA as “The Iroquois Princess” and “poet advocate” for the “Red” people of America’s First Nations, but to Canadians she was also a beloved representative and cultured lady of their new confederacy. The daughter of an English gentlewoman and a Mohawk chief was not allowed to forget that she was Tekahionwake, even had she wanted to, but (contrary to her final request recalled by Seton) neither did she forget, nor allow others to forget, that she was Pauline Johnson. Her “half-blood” inheritance was the signature of her stage and literary career. Although better known during the last decade of the nineteenth century and first decade of the twentieth as a performance poet, she was also the author of many stories, published primarily, but not exclusively, for an audience of women and children. A number of these stories not only served to educate the settler population in the ancient civilisation and living culture of the indigenous…

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Walking in Two Worlds: Mixed-Blood Indian Women Seeking Their Path

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Women on 2011-05-28 18:05Z by Steven

Walking in Two Worlds: Mixed-Blood Indian Women Seeking Their Path

Caxton Press
264 pages
6 x 9
Paper ISBN: 0-87004-450-8

Nancy M. Peterson

Nancy M. Peterson tells the stories of mixed-blood women who, steeped in the tradition of their Indian mothers but forced into the world of their white fathers, fought to find their identities in a rapidly changing world.

In an era when most white women had limited opportunities outside the home, these mix-blood women often became nationally recognized leaders in the fight for Native American rights. They took the tools and training whites provided and used them to help their people. They found differing paths—medicine, music, crafts, the classroom, the lecture hall, the stage, the written word—and walked strong and tall.

These women did far more than survive; they extended a hand to help their people find a place in a hard new future.

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“A Being of a New World:” The Ambiguity of Mixed Blood in Pauline Johnson’s “My Mother”

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2011-04-25 03:32Z by Steven

“A Being of a New World:” The Ambiguity of Mixed Blood in Pauline Johnson’s “My Mother”

Volume 27, Number 3, Native American Literature (Autumn, 2002)
pages 43-56

Margo Lukens, Associate Professor of English
University of Maine

Studying mixed-blood/Métis history reveals that an overwhelming number of unions between Europeans and Native people happened between a European man and a Native woman. Sylvia Van Kirk has illustrated this demographic pattern in her work on the importance of Native women to the development of the fur trade in Canada; others, such as Jennifer Brown, corroborate the story of the creation of the Métis people by men from France or the British Isles and women from “the country,” members of Native groups who were instrumental in helping white men survive and establish their link to North American land. A specific mythology describing the men and women of these cross-cultural unions, and their children as well, grew in the imaginations of the Europeans intent upon describing their own occupation of the land and what they came to conceive of as their Manifest Destiny to spread the civilization they knew over the face of the continent. The mythology typified the Native women of these unions as drudges and as sexual temptresses, ready to cleave to their white spouses or melt inconspicuously back into their tribes once their husbands left them behind to care for their unacknowledged and genetically compromised children. The European men could, in this mythology, choose to return to French or English wives without penalty for their foray “into the country;” only those who chose to thrust their mixed-blood children upon society’s notice or “squaw-men” who remained with Native wives for life risked social disapproval and marginaliation.

What, then, of the handful of people experiencing unions with the genders reversed? Perhaps because of the Europeans’ inability to imagine these unions, they are largely undescribed by the mythology; perhaps because historical circumstance brought European men to America in large numbers without European women as companions, there was little necessity for a descriptive mythology to arise, except perhaps as a prohibitive tool; perhaps the fear of exposing their women to the attentions of men from outside shaped the European colonial project to be a male journey into an unknown and feminine landscape. Whatever the reasons, no comparable mythology existed for the union of a Native man and European woman. (2) In the work of Pauline Johnson, daughter of a Mohawk man and an English woman, we can see the tension generated by an attempt to create such a mythology of self-identity.

Pauline Johnson was born in 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve in the Grand River valley near Brantford, Ontario, the daughter of George Henry Martin Johnson, a Mohawk chief who was one-quarter Dutch, and Emily Susanna Howells, whose family had emigrated from England when she was eight years old. Because Canadian law identified as Indians women whose fathers or husbands were Indians, her status was Indian even though five of her eight great-grandparents were Europeans. She grew up in an English-style household on the Reserve, where she was educated partly by an English governess at home and partly at the Reserve school, idealizing the Indianness of her father and learning to claim the Mohawk part of her heritage with pride; as her biographer Betty Keller says, Pauline Johnson “credited everything in which she excelled to her Indian blood” (54)…

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