Friday, February 10, 2017

The Lansdowne Letters: Nubile Sons and Daughters

When I arrived in Lansdowne House in late February, 1961,
I was a month shy of eleven, and my parents were already concerned about my age.

The Hudson's Bay Post
Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario
Winter 1960-61
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

They were looking ahead and anticipating one of the most difficult problems
they would have to solve, a problem that troubled all white families
with growing children in the remote communities of northern Canada.
What to do with nubile sons and daughters?

Roy and I
Not Quite Nubile, But Getting There
School Photos, Fall 1960
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

In my mother's letter of March 9, 1961
that I shared in my last post,
she wrote a little about the background
of the Hudson's Bay manager's wife
Mrs. Mitchell.

Mrs. Mitchell, Wife of  Bill Mitchell
Photo by Don MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My mother mentioned that the Mitchell's had three children,
a boy and a girl in their twenties and a twelve year old son.
What Mom didn't relate was that the young Mitchell boy
did not live with his parents in Lansdowne House.

I have no idea where their son was living
whether with relatives or at a boarding school,
but guaranteed, he was away attending school on the Outside.
It wasn't just a question of their son obtaining a better education.
It was also about allowing him to associate with white children.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My father addressed
the problem
of older children
in his handbook, 
The Northern School Teacher:   

One of the biggest drawbacks a married teacher
faces in the bush is the rearing of his children.  
The teacher is faced with one of two equally onerous choices.
He can keep the children with him in the bush,
or he can send the children out to a boarding school.  

If he keeps them with him, he deprives them of
the association with young people of their own race and kind,
and of educational advantages which are just not available in the bush.  

If he sends them out to boarding school, he deprives himself and his wife
of that wonderful relationship between parents and children,
which should be the God-given rights of parents and children the world over.

This particular problem and these dreadful choices
are not peculiar to the Indian teacher.
They are the lot of all married couples who elect
to spend their lives in isolation,
people like Hudson’s Bay personnel,
Department of Transport employees,
free traders, and missionaries.

Apparently association with one’s own kind is considered more vital
to a child’s upbringing than association with parents,
for it is always the choice of sending children out to school which is finally taken.

It would have been my decision, too, if fortune had decreed
that I was to spend the rest of my life in the bush.

The problem is always intensified,
and the decision takes on a sense of greater urgency,
if one has a nubile son or daughter;
for, wonderful as the bush Indian is,
and some of them are very fine people,
white children from educated families and Indian youths from the bush
have nothing in common except sex.  

A union of two young people from such wildly divergent
racial, religious, and socioeconomical backgrounds
can only lead to heartbreak and tragedy.

A Growing Family
We Five Just Before Heading North
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

My parents were confident that my father could meet Roy's and my educational needs,
and they assumed they had several years before they were forced 
to send Roy and me to live with relatives or to boarding school.

What they didn't anticipate was that their sensitive young daughter
would form close friendships with Ojibway members of the opposite sex  
and that those friendships would have long-lasting consequences. 

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Bay of Fundy out of Westport, Brier Island
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Lansdowne House Lies in the Wilderness
West of James and Hudson Bays

Lansdowne House 
Northern Ontario, Canada


  1. Had to look nubile up, never heard the word before, but I guessed right what it meant. Sure had to be tough choices indeed at times, I surely would never have wanted to stay there forever.

    1. Yes!!! I'm delighted that I stumped you with a word, because you have come up with many head scratchers for me! Especially in your posts devoted to unusual words, Pat! My father used to joke that he had to leave the North because I kept falling for Indians boys. Have a good one, my friend!

  2. Replies
    1. You and me both, Debra! When you're young, youth seems like forever, and when you look back, it was a snap of your fingers. Have a great weekend with your Rare One!

  3. Replies
    1. You certainly can't, and my parents were surprised with how soon they had to confront the friendships and loves of their "children." We all led them on confounding journeys!

  4. The aerial photo gives meaning to the vastness of that area. And I hope next Friday to read the next chapter in your life. Even here, when teachers go to a really country area, I guess they have choices to make too. Or workers on dams, mines, roading contractors or others. For my Dad, he wanted to go to High School ( maybe called college or senior school) but this was too far away to travel, and his parents could not afford to find boarding for him, so he had to stay at primary school for another year, He ended up teaching the new entrants until he was old enough to leave. I can see so easily that he could have been an engineer or a doctor, his dreams of either one not to be reality. And "nubile" what a glorious word today.

    1. The photo is amazing, Jean. We really don't grasp how vast the Earth is. Well vast, until I start pondering the vastness of space and galaxies and universes in a possible multiverse. And then I'm plagued by why and what: Why I am and what was the meaning and purpose of the intense experiences and relationships I had throughout my life.

      I think about your father and so many young people who couldn't realize their dreams because of their circumstances. Yet many of them like your father went on to forge productive, meaningful lives regardless of their disappointments. It often infuriates me when I listen to the dispassionate superiority and entitlement of some those who have been given every opportunity.

      Next Friday you should read my next post. I really struggled with getting this one out, and I was up after 2:00 am last night finishing it. There was so much to do as soon as we got home last Sunday, and I've been functioning at a survival level all week!. But I'm slowly gaining on responsibilities.

      I can't seem to get a stockpile of posts written ahead, so I'm always working against a deadline. LOL, but I'm well aware of my "issues." I keep optimistically thinking I can change my spots. We shall see!

      Have an awesome weekend my friend! I'll be catching up on visiting the posts of my awesome blogging friends over the next few days! Sending you, Hugh, and the kitties hugs, love, and ear scratches!

  5. I can see that parents everywhere would have to consider this at some point in time.
    You can tell that I was never a parent (phew!!) and I never anticipated this at all, Louise.
    But I do suggest that at that certain age when we become aware of our sexual selves that no matter where we live it can be challenging to keep our feelings and emotions at bay, so to speak. Yes, parents do have their hands full!!
    Have a good and relaxing weekend and take a few long deep inhales and exhales.

    1. Happy Sunday morning, Jim! Parenting is a tough job! No doubt about it. My parents had five kids, and each one of us challenged them in very different ways, all the more so as we grew up. My narrative has some surprises in store ~ at least I hope it does! I'm guessing you may not know where I'm going with this! Have a great week, my special friend!

  6. Louise, this is such a great post and your photos are beautiful! I have been doing a family search on the internet and have managed to locate some of my cousins in Nova Scotia! They are now friends on Facebook and we keep in touch by e-mail as well. Family and friendship are so important and sadly underestimated. Thank you so much for sharing your story, I always enjoy your posts.

    1. Happy Sunday morning, Linda! You are always so encouraging! I'm delighted to hear that you have located some of your cousins in Nova Scotia! Of course I'm wondering where and if I or any of my family has run into them! Wouldn't that be something? I'm playing major life catchup as well as blogging catchup right now. When I get a little more time, I'll send you an email! Take care, my Montreal friend! XOX

  7. Now you left us hanging and curious! Great posts, thanks for continuing them.

    1. Good! LOL Thanks for your kind words, Sage! I'm home now and catching up in all areas of my life. Hope all is well with you!

  8. What a cliffhanger. I can understand how that could be a big problem with you in their company and not much else to do. It is natural to explore your sexuality. But I understand that your father cannot see a future of you being an Indian's wife either. I can't wait to see how your father problem solves this one.

    1. This may not be going where you think, Peggy! Hope all is well with you, Don, and Sadie! I'll be by very soon to catch up. Sending you big hugs!

  9. Replies
    1. All I will say right now is that the things that happened to me impacted my personality for the rest of my life.

  10. Come on, Louise, DO TELL!! I am all ears!

    1. Stay tuned, Kay! I have lots to tell! I hope you, Richard, and Chris are fine. I was devastated when NE came back and beat the Falcons. It was rather tense in our household because Terry was cheering for NE. Sending you hugs and condolences!

  11. Hello dear Louise,
    I am always in awe of this life in the wilderness, I can't imagine myself living in such a cold area. Give me isolation on a coconut island, I'll take it!!
    Like you I am trying to find meaning to life and since everything is linked Ikeep a close eye on alternative info and learned a lot lately...!
    Things are not what quite as we think...
    Warm hugs, Fundy, and keep well
    PS: many thanks for your kind comments on my blog, I had to go to Paris and didn't appreciate city at all!!!

  12. The shot of Hudson Bay is fabulous. I've flown over but never during the day. Thank you for sharing these stories. I hope you'll put them in book form one day.

  13. I think it's nice to look back and re-learn from the past.
    I like the word nubile.

  14. beautiful episode like always dear friend!
    it was the time when girls were being married by their parents in quite a young age .
    still it makes me little worried and more curious that how your parents dealt with such traditions as you were only eleven then.

    in eighties in my native small village girls were deprived from education and were married in their teens.
    i was lucky to allow say yes or no while my parents asked me that will you marry this one or that one ?[was nineteen then]
    i don't have daughter but can feel that being parent of a daughter is most sensitive and intense responsibility and preparing them mentally to deal with their hormonal changes in such age is most important duty of a mother .
    hope you are doing absolutely fine friend .sending you best wishes for the days ahead and hugs!


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