This Week in History
Canada Grieves for Mohawk Poet
This story was initially published in 1998
On March 7, 1913, Canadians and members of the literary community around the world paused to mourn the passing of a famous and respected Canadian. Emily Pauline Johnson was a Mohawk poet who engaged in a series of speaking tours between 1892 and 1910. Her poems and stories helped to make Canadians more aware of Aboriginal Peoples, and the magnitude and diversity of Canada and its people.
Emily Pauline Johnson was born in 1861 at Chiefswood, on the Six Nations Reserve, Ontario. The youngest daughter of a Mohawk chief and his non-native wife, she adopted the Mohawk name of her great grandfather, "Tekahionwake." She received most of her education at home, and while she particularly liked the classics of English literature, she was also exposed to the rich oral histories and traditions of her Mohawk heritage. In 1873, Johnson started writing poetry - when she was only 12 years old! In the 1890s she began publishing her poems, essays and short stories. She wrote about religion, nature and Canadian nationalism, but her most famous writings were on "Indian" themes, such as The Song My Paddle Sings.
For her unique and outstanding contribution to Canadian literature and entertainment, Pauline Johnson is of national historic significance. She is commemorated by means of a plaque at Chiefswood, her birthplace and childhood home. Chiefswood is also designated of national historic significance.
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