Saturday, April 13, 2013

HR4: Indoctrination

Indoctrination was the purpose 
of my father's trip to Sault Ste. Marie
before he departed for Lansdowne House
in the Northern Ontario bush.

Lansdowne House
is somewhere 
to the left of the word

We're talking 
wild and remote
at that time!

Map of the 
James Bay Region 
in Northern Ontario 
and Quebec

Aerial View of Northern Ontario Wilderness:  
Water (white) and Land (dark blue-green)

Location of Lansdowne House
Sketch Based on Map of Ontario from 
Atlas of North America:
Space Age Portrait of a Continent
National Geographic 1985, pages 166-167.

In September 1960,
the Education Division of the Indian Affairs Branch
of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration
held a one-day course 
to introduce novice teachers to their assignments
before sending them to remote areas in the north.

Dad later wrote of this introduction
in an undated paper called The Northern School Teacher
in the summer of 1965 or 1966:
Far from being encouraging and informative,
the introduction I received in my orientation course
was a veritable nightmare 
of half-truths, outright falsehoods, rumors,
and misrepresentation of facts which,
instead of being informative, helpful, and reassuring,
left me so mixed up, frustrated, and apprehensive
that I almost resigned there and then
and returned home.

My father quickly connected with
two fellow Islanders 
to spend the orientation day with,
Preston MacAskil from Charlottetown
and Frances Rooney from Vernon River,
Prince Edward Island.
After a disheartening day, 
Dad returned to the Windsor Hotel 
to write letters to his Sally and his mother.

Well, I have been 
finding out 
some things 
about my new home.

I believe I will be 
teaching all grades 
from primary to grade 6.

A lot of the 
primary children 
will be learning 
English for the first time. 

I will have between 20 and 30 pupils, I think.  
The Indians belong to the Ojibway tribe, 
with some Crees.  
(This will all have to be confirmed later.)

Traditional Range of the Oji-cree
(Ojibway and Cree) Shown in Violet:
Includes the Indians of Lansdowne House,

There is another interesting feature.
If I stay with the Catholic teacher
at the Catholic Mission,
I will be living on an island in Lake Attawapiskat. 
The Protestant school,
the Hudson Bay Post, and 
the Department of Transport Meteorological Station
are on the mainland.

The island is about 50 yards from shore,
and I will have to go to and from the island by canoe.
Rental for the canoe will be paid for
by the Department of Indian Affairs.

Northern Ontario Canoe

I have another alternative.
The Protestant Padre at Fort Hope,
who is also the teacher there
and who commutes to Lansdowne House
on a hit or miss basis about once a month,
told me I could live at the Forestry building,
but that I would be alone there.
I don't think I could stand that.

However, all this will be settled when I get in,
and I will tell you all about it. 

There is no resident Protestant Padre at Lansdowne House.
There are two Catholic priests (I think),
the manager of the Husdon Bay Store and his wife,
two clerks (don't know if they are married),
two Department of Transportation men and their families,
a nurse, and a sizable Indian reservation.

Well I must sign off for now.
I don't know my mailing address as yet,
but when I do,
I will let you know so you can write to me.

Bye now, Darling.
I am very lonesome for you.
Give my love to the children.

Letter to Sally:  September 7, 1960


             Give My Love to the Children

Louise in an Apple Tree in Grammie's Back Yard, Smith's Cove, Fall 1959
Donnie, Barbie, Louise with Bertie, Gretchen (dachshund), and Roy,
Front Yard, Margarettesville, Nova Scotia, April 1959

To be continued...


  1. Sounds like quite the spot
    There with a few islanders to trot
    With quite the religion at play
    There near that bay
    And a dachsund too
    Have one of those at the other zoo
    Here in old NS still
    No where near a hill

    1. Hi there, Pat!
      I'm glad to hear from where you're at!
      Yes, Lansdowne House is a tremendous spot.
      Unbelievable memories I have got.
      Little Gretchen was a dear.
      How I wish she still was here.
      Through the wild northern bush
      Many missionaries did push.
      I am having so much fun
      writing 'bout those days long done.
      Hope your day is warm and grand!
      Brunch with my friends is at hand.

  2. Hi Louise! I love this post. It's so interesting! But I ADORE that picture with all the children. Just look at you with that baby....such a natural!!! Gorgeous, gorgeous photo ~ you must be so happy to have it!

    1. Hi Audrey!
      Thank you for the kind words! And yes, I adore this photo too. I love that Gretchen is yawning ~ it's so her, and I love her to this day. And, of course, my sister Bertie has been a constant joy to me throughout my life! All my sibs mean everything to me. I think our time in the north superglued our hearts together.

      We don't have a lot of pictures from that time, but they are precious to me. A huge project in my first years of retirement is to find, identify, and organize the extended family photos.

      Another, just as important, is to tell the story of my family's time in the remote north. I'd like to put it all in some sort of memoir, so I am exploring it through my blog. I am thrilled and encouraged that you and others are responding positively to my northern posts, as I flounder around and figure out how to do this. Blogging seems to be a good approach because it's so visual ~ but that's a challenge too ~ I'm spending a lot of time trying to hunt down images and to carefully ration my few "historical" family pictures. I keep telling myself that if Christopher Tolkien can tackle his father's papers, surely I can tackle my father's!

      I hope you are enjoying an awesome Sunday! I'm off for brunch shortly with Sunrise friends!

  3. Attawapiskat is still wild and remote. And very much in the news over the past year because of the horrible living conditions for First Nations. Their chief Theresa Spence just finished a long protest fast trying to force action by the federal government on aboriginal issues.

    1. Hi Debra!
      Thanks for commenting about Theresa Spence. I was aware of her strike, but I haven't followed the details ~ yet.

      Some things never change. It's so disheartening to know that 50 years have gone by since I learned the truth of what was happening in the north, and it's still happening! I'm going to get my story written post by post. I never could find the time while I was teaching. A finished manuscript was just too overwhelming! I wish I were as persistent and stubborn as my sister Bertie who has published two books while teaching and raising a family ~ with a third book in the works!

      My sister Barb took a course on aboriginal law when she did her law degree in Edmonton ~ she was so disgusted by the experience! We had quite the discussion about it all while I was up in Calgary recently!

      I hope you are having a lovely Sunday with your Rare One!

  4. Hi Fundy, It's Barb - GREAT POST!!!! I don't have a lot to say ... at this point but I would like to recommend 2 great books about the area and the first nation issues - they are historical novels not non-fiction history books. They are "Three Day Road" and "Through the Black Spruce" by Joseph Boyden - my book club have read both and really enjoyed them ... this of course is Canadian writing at its best - nothing good happens!

  5. Hey, Barb!
    Thank you! I'm on an energized roll now! You've given me a push! I'm just anxious to get through laying out the background to it all.

    I still have to read "Through Black Spruce," and whenever I think of "Three Day Road," I think of cooked moose!

    I thought that you would comment "Not another picture of me not smiling," but it was such a darling photo ~ right down to Gretchen yawning.

    I want to write a happy Canadian novel ~ believe it or not, that will be my Newfie novel. I need to clone myself! I sent Roy a link ~ haven't heard from him in a while. He's probably working way too hard!

    Have a great day. I'm headed out to Village Inn for brunch with the Sunrisers ~ wish you were going too!

  6. Hey Barb ~ my hits from Russia are outnumbering my hits from Canada!

  7. Hello Louise,

    Wonderful post, very interesting. It is quite nice to see the choices your father had to make and the living arrangements. The first nation map is something I have never seen!
    I want to read more! Have a good Sunday.


  8. Hi Ivan!
    Thank you for your encouraging words! It's so hard for me to be objective! I found the first nation map on Wikipedia which is my go to site. I'm just going to keep moving forward with my story, even if it looks like I'm birdwalking at times.

    I've just gotten back from brunch with six other friends, and I am stuffed! So, it's off to the gym to pay the piper!

    I hope that you and Mark are enjoying your Sunday, although it's probably winding down for you. I'll have to check the time zone difference. I'm thinking it's about seven hours.

    Take care!

  9. I love that picture with all the children - so neat! And that picture of the Northern Ontario wilderness is one of the most breathtaking pictures I've ever seen!!

  10. Hi OE! Thanks for your compliment about the pictures of we five MacBeath siblings! It's one of my personal favorites. The picture of the wilderness around Big Trout Lake is amazing. I try to imagine my mother heading north into the wilderness on a bush plane in the middle of winter ~ with we five children and Gretchen. And she had always wanted to live in New York City! Now there was another optimist! Have a good one!

  11. Hi Louise! What an adventurous past you have had and I know that is an understatement! I really appreciate what you are doing here, writing about not only your family's past but also the 'conditions' and plight of our First Nations peoples. I look forward to your 'story' with baited breath.
    You climbed trees too! Ron has told me that he pretty well lived his childhood up in the trees of Wolfville!! lol Either 'borrowing' cherries from a neighbour's tree or just getting away for a while.
    Loved the photos of you in Smith's Cove and your sibs in Margarettesville.
    What an amazing adventure for your father to take you all on. He and your mother were very brave and courageous.
    Have a great week.

    1. Hi Jim! Thank you for the encouragement! I'm having such fun delving into everything!

      Yeah, I climbed trees a lot, but I was better going up than coming down. One time Farmer Tatum (who had the farm behind Grammie's where we went to get eggs) had to rescue me from one of his cherry trees where I was "borrowing" cherries. Roy, of course could climb like a monkey, and was off behind some bushes laughing himself crazy as FT chewed me out!

      I wonder if Ron ever climbed trees in the graveyard on Gaspereaux Avenue in Wolfville? Roy and Barbie got Donnie up a tree there one time by an open grave. A funeral procession showed up and Barb and Roy ran and hid. Meanwhile Donnie, scardy-cat like me (in trees), had to silently wait out the funeral in the tree while Barb and Roy were quietly laughing themselves crazy behind some headstones!

      Yeah! When Mom and Dad started out, they had no idea how much bravery and courageous they were going to need!

      You have a great week too, my friend!

  12. Well, I find this fascinating. I can't wait to see how he got on, I bet he did a wonderful job!

    1. Happy Birthday, Kay. I put that greeting on an older post of yours that I was catching up on, but I'm not sure if you would find it. I hope you are having the best of days. My dad was a gifted teach, for sure! I'm glad that you enjoyed the post!

  13. I love your stories! You have such an interesting family history, and I always look forward to reading more of your posts about it!

    1. Thank you, Martha! The positive feedback is so encouraging! I'm still laughing over those student analogies. Try teaching that topic to third graders! Have a good one!

  14. Fascinating, and your father's letter is so sweet and poignant. What an awesome picture of the wilderness!

    1. Thank you B&R! As I work through my Dad's collection of letters from the North, I feel so close to him. It has been thirty years since he died, and I miss him every day! The wilderness is very powerful. I have never forgotten how spectacular it is ~ it haunts me still. I had planned to spend my life in the north, and I ended up in California and Colorado.

  15. How fantastic to have such information on your dad as a teacher. Thanks for shating photos and your dad's letters.

    1. Thank you Paul! There's a lot more coming about teaching in the north! I'm still laying the groundwork for my northern story. It is such a different place and time. I hope you are feeling better every day! Take care!

  16. My eyes are bigger than ever, Louise .... Attawapiskat is so much in the news now.

    Just unbelieveable how "they" tricked your father with 1/2 truths. I trying to get my mind around the distance of Lansdowne House to James Bay. It was as if anyone who wanted this job was going to stay there 'come hell or high water' ain't leaving! I feel so bad for you and your family having to endure this separation. Now I have an idea how separation effected my Mom and Dad with WWII and how it effects many peoples.


  17. Hi Ron!
    Oh, just wait! Lots more is coming!
    And Lansdowne House was remote! Leaving was not always possible.
    I'm glad that I didn't have to be separated from Terry under the conditions my parents faced! Terry had to work 3 1/2 years in California while I remained here in Colorado. That was hard, but we could talk and see each other fairly often.
    I hope you are having a good week ~ I'm headed over to your blog right now ~ always with anticipation and delight!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.