I’ve been on a history kick lately. My main focus is Native North American history, especially around the Great Lakes. Because of the time period and the rapid growth of North America in the last 150 years, I’m also interested in non-Aboriginal history from the same time periods. Life in a Thundering Bay contains stories from the late 1800’s and very early 1900’s – a time when European and Native cultures really began to interact.
And you know what? It wasn’t always bad. There’s a story of a man who very much wanted to find a lost silver mine (which, incidentally, is usually related to the legend of the sleeping giant, though that wasn’t covered in this particular book). He needed a guide, so he asked a Native guide who took the man and his business partner to various locations to find the mine. The guide even introduced the silver-hunter and his partner to a prominent Chief who welcomed the business-men; including them in sacred ceremonies, one of which was to give the men names. “Silver Eagle” was the one given to the man.
Another story is actually a letter from Catherine Vickers, from whence we get Vickers Park today. Ms. Vickers took a trip up the Kaministiquia River to Kakabeka, a journey that couldn’t have been done without a team of Native guides in a birch bark canoe. The trip took a few days to do and after a hard day’s work, Ms. Vickers rewarded the guides with glasses of whiskey! Hmmm…
Interestingly, around that time, Thunder Bay had a cornucopia of watering holes. Something like one tavern, bar, saloon, hotel, etc., to every 25 people.
What’s also great about this book in addition to the local history lesson are the pictures that are within. Fantastic pictures of a nascent port town with impressive brick and mortar buildings surrounded by untouched wilderness.
A good book, and I was touched by the notion that Native people and newcomers didn’t attack each other on sight, but rather worked together in a mutually alien environment to come to some common understanding of mutual growth. Too bad that this isn’t universally accepted today!
With books like this, though, it is easy to remember the past and to learn from it!
I just finished reading this book. You didn’t mention the epic poem about Thunder Bay that was included – I thought that was a very interesting find! Also, Mary J.L. Black’s article on the origins of place names from the area was probably my favourite part of the whole book!