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Emily Pauline Johnson, Mohawk Poetess, Six Nation Country

Mary Anderson Longboat, an Indian of the Six Nations Reservation, says the following of this remarkable woman: “We of the Six Nations Reserve, honour our Indian poetess, Emily Pauline Johnson. She is more than just a memory, for she lives today in her books which are read throughout the world. In her lifetime, her recitations were equally famous. We are especially proud that she boasted her nationality, and in her native buckskin costume was accepted, even by royalty. As a poetess, Miss Johnson was not great, not a Tennyson nor a Browning, but as Gilbert Parker writes, “Canadian Literature would have been the poorer without her contribution.” Mr. Bernard McEvoy describes her as “a literary worker of whom Canada may well be proud.” She lived close to nature, worshipping the rippling waters of the Grand River, the woods and its stately trees, seeing beauty in all of her surroundings. Hence we have so many musical, happy poems such as “The Song My Paddle Sings,” “Rainfall,” “Moonset” and in “Shadow River” is reflected the beauties of Muskoka. Her pride in her Indian ancestry brought about her racial poetry, a novelty to Canadian art, for in these she sings the praise and glories of her race, tells of old traditions the injustices and wrongs and begs for an understanding of her people. In later life, Pauline Johnson began to develop prose writings devoting one book entire’s to legends. She treasured these old Indian legends as something really belonging to her people and took it upon herself to rescue them from oblivion. They were never written, but handed down by word of...

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