Poems

the place of commencement

beginning
from the mouth
our starting point
at the Blackfoot Crossing of the Bow River
at Manitoba Post
in this present year 1899
I started
this fifteenth day of September
respectively
finally
we anchored off the mouth
where the North river flows out of the main stream
where no white man would have any claims
we found the Indians
we found many
we conferred
we drifted
we had grave doubts
we were then carrying a great weight
we came to the conclusion
we treated
we had to
and we left
on the several dates mentioned therein
in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy
on this day of October
commencing
to preserve her Indian subjects
to deliberate upon certain matters of interest
to Her Most Gracious Majesty
of the one part,
and the said Indians
of the other
each performed their several duties
to our great satisfaction
beginning
at a point where the “Suicide”
made and concluded
begins
WE, the undersigned
Indians of Wapiscow
Fairford
Athabasca
we and our children
we thank thee
we thank thee
we thank you (commissioners)
from our hearts
we pray
that we may be saved
from the evil
within
from Fort Garry westward
and from Her Majesty
begin again
Indians of the said
Indians of the other
we begin again
so long as the fur bearing animals remain
in the year of Our Lord
on this day of
commencing
at the place of
beginning


groundless1
Treaty 9

In the year of our Lord
one thousand nine hundred and five
it is considered worthy of record
the Indians had arrived

obtain obey observe object
being strong and fair
we have the honour to be, sir
your Treaty Commissioners

a link with civilization                          
settlement, immigration
SIR, The operations of the Treaty 9 commission
of which the following is a translation

obtain obey observe object
being strong and fair
we have the honour to be, sir
your Treaty Commissioners

this river flows with a strong current      
no valuable water-powers within the allotments
a matter of general comment
set forth in the documents                     
obtain obey observe object
being strong and fair
we have the honour to be, sir
your Treaty Commissioners
important to proceed without delay     
listen well to what the white men had to say
making promises which were not written
and the benefit of mingling with white children

obtain obey observe object
being strong and fair
we have the honour to be, sir
your Treaty Commissioners

by right of discovery and conquest
they were to be granted land which they could feel was their own
the government was always ready to assist
such generous treatment from the Crown

 

 

his majesty’s bounty and benevolence2
Treaty 11

that, in the event of any of the Indians
being desirous
for the purposes of this Treaty
that they could see
I desire also
and His Majesty the King hereby agrees
and undertakes to lay
His Indian people
that it is His desire
set forth
that for each Indian
this be the first
His Majesty also agrees that during the coming
that they would be free to come
and to become
responsible to His Majesty
and that during the event
that there shall be
that point
that place
that purpose
for each
for all
that is to say
His Indian people may know
that they will
forever
be free   within
the limits   within
the boundaries   within
the country
so ceded


 

Ludic Lucidity: Pro Pelle

Beaver 1 (opening gambit):
NOW KNOW YE, that We being desirous
to be one Body Corporate in Deed
and in Name.

Beaver 2 (poetically):              Plead, and be impleaded.
Answer, and be answered. Defend, and be
defended.

Beaver 1:      Dear and entirely beloved
Cousin, discover a new passage
to southern seas — let us trade.

Beaver 2:              Besought,
incorporate, in Deed and in Name,
in entrance of my Streights. Have me with especial
Grace, certain Knowledge, and mere Motion . . .

Beaver 1 (interrupting): . . . break,
   change, make anew, hence the same and no other.

Beaver 2 (the questioning one):
And we will?

Beaver 1: And we do!

Beaver 2: At any publick
Assembly, being desirous and being
one? Take this corporal Oath and assemble
in my convenient Place.

Beaver 1 (boldly):    
OUR WILL, OUR PLEASURE!
This, I shall well and faithfully perform
in free and common Soccage in all the Seas,
Streights, Lakes, Rivers, Creeks and Sounds, upon
the Countries, Coasts and Confines, the Inlets
and Limits.

Beaver 2 (questioning):      And not in Capite or by Knight’s Service?

Beaver 1 (building intensity):
Yielding.

Beaver 2 (questioning):        TO HAVE, HOLD, possess and enjoy?

Beaver 1 (more intensity):
     YIELDING.

Beaver 2 (questioning, with emotion):   TO BE HOLDEN?

Beaver 1 (fortissimo, they embrace each other):                           HOLD!

Beaver 2: Give and grant, Our dear —  aiding . . . favouring
. . . helping . . . assisting.

Beaver 1 (breathless, grunting with rodent emotion):
                           AND FURTHER, my Bar-
onet! On Land as on Sea – whatsoever.
My Lord! My 100 Pounds Prince!

 

Beaver 2:          O, my WILL!
My special licence!

Beaver 1:      My Mayor! My Admiral!
My Bailiff!

Beaver 2:       We do.

Beaver 1:    WE DO.

Beaver 1 & Beaver 2 (together, rodent voices breaking):
      O, WE DO!

 

_____________

On July 14, 1970, the fourth Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) Rent Ceremony took place at Lower Fort Garry. This time, in place of the “two Elks and two black beavers” stipulated in the Royal Charter as rent, Queen Elizabeth II was presented with a large glass tank containing two live beavers. During the ceremony and in front of the gathered dignitaries, the beavers frolicked in the water. Near the end of the ceremony, the beavers began to mate, the tank water sloshing from side to side. The Queen stopped the proceedings and asked HBC Governor Viscount Amory, “Whatever are they doing?”  To which he replied, “Ma’am, it’s no use asking me. I am a bachelor.”

Pro Pelle takes place on the dais where the beavers were presented to the Queen. All words and phrases are from the 1670 Royal Charter of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Latin Pro Pelle means “for fur” and is from the HBC coat of arms: Pro Pelle Cutem.

 

 

 

1   This poem is dedicated to Duncan Campbell Scott, Treaty 9 Commissioner. All words are from the Government of Canada 1964 transcript of the 1905 Treaty 9 and associated documents.

 

2   “Where there is oil” is the translation of the Slavey name for Norman Wells, NWT, site of the first oil drilling on Treaty 11 territory. All wards are from the Government of Canada 1957 transcript of the 1921 Treaty 11. The background map is a 1920 survey of  the Deh-Cho (the Mackenzie River) geological structures from the Geological Survey of Canada.

poet's biography ->