Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them and I offer my opinion on the subject.
Game of Furs
Sometimes I come across news articles or stories that I think would be great to talk about on this blog—–except for the fact that they are pretty short and therefore wouldn’t make for much of a blog post by themselves. Solution? Every now and then I pull a few together. In this late fall edition we have a follow up to a Spring 2016 story, a new television show loosely based on the fur trade era, and an update on the discovery of the HMS Terror.
Edit: (December 8, 2016) Civil rights activist, Viola Desmond, was chosen to be on a new $10 banknote. Another banknote contest will be happening shortly for the $5 note. Laurier and MacDonald will be moving to the $50 and $100. [Source]
Shortlist of Women for New Canadian Banknote Revealed
The shortlist for the historical Canadian woman who will appear on a future banknote was released earlier this week. In a surprising twist, instead of opting for household names, the panel selected five lesser known names. These women cover a diverse range: Viola Desmond (a civil rights activist, Pauline Johnson (a writer/poet), Elizabeth (Elsie) MacGill (an engineer), athlete, a writer, and a suffragette. Click on their pictures to learn more about them.
On a latter note, there has been no discussion of what will appear on the back of the banknote. If the twenty dollar note is chosen (as it should be…) will they leave the image of the Vimy Ridge Memorial there or will they change it? I’m in favor of leaving it as is. However if they do change it, since the Famous Five got shafted in the shortlist, they could reuse the image of them that was removed from the fifty dollar note a few years ago.
Who do you think will get chosen for the new banknote?
Discovery Canada’s first original scripted series, Frontier, brings Canadian history to the small screen through its gory retelling of the fur trade during the late 18th century. While the overall story focuses on the chaotic and violent struggle between the English, Irish, Scottish, French, and Indigenous Peoples, the plot is driven by the hatred Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) and Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) have for one another. Harp, a former HBC employee and Khal Drogo’s Métis cousin, is now working actively against the company and their monopoly on the trade. Meanwhile Benton is determined to ruthlessly crush all competitors of the HBC.
Given the rarity of Canadian historical dramas on television, I was initially excited but I couldn’t get past the first episode. Despite what the makers of the show say, it’s historical fan fiction at best considering: (a) the real fur trade rivalry was between the Hudson Bay Company and the Northwest Company, and (b) fur traders didn’t spend their time murdering the shit out of each other, but I digress. The show airs Sundays on the Discovery Channel at 9 pm. It is set to premiere on Netflix in January 2017.
Have you watched any episodes of Frontier? What are your thoughts?
Update on the Discovery of the HMS Terror
Map of the Franklin shipwrecks. (CBC)
Less than a year after the HMS Erebus was discovered, Captain Sir John Franklin’s other ill-fated ship, the HMS Terror, was located in Nunavut’s Terror Bay. (Interesting name. It’s almost as if the Inuit knew it was there all along and we just ignored them the whole time…) Sammy Kogvik led researchers to find the second ship after spotting the ship’s mast sticking out of the ice while he was snowmobling.
Reportedly, global warming is also partly to thank for the discovery. The ice and the temperatures are no longer what they used to be; the conditions are certainly no longer the same that Franklin and his crew faced in 1845 when they set sail in search of the Northwest Passage. After all, this past summer featured the first time a cruise ship carrying over a thousand tourists sailed up through that area. The Victoria Strait, the area that Franklin really should have thought twice about sailing through, used to thaw only once every 10 years, now it clears every summer.
Parks Canada is currently studying, photographing, and excavating the ship; a process which will take a
couple of many years to complete.* Those thinking that this is the end of the nearly two centuries long Arctic mystery would be wrong though. Since the discovery of the Terror back in September, historians and archeologists still have many unanswered questions:
1. What exactly happened? The Terror is in great condition, even more so than the Erebus so it is likely that an answer to this question will be uncovered through ongoing examinations of the shipwreck.
2. How did the two ships wind up where they did and so far apart (about 100 kilometres)?
3. What happened to the 128 crew members including Captain Franklin and where are their remains?
4. What will the artifacts reveal about the fate of the expedition?
“A Parks Canada underwater archeologist at the stern of the HMS Terror wreck looks through one of the windows of the captain’s cabin.” (Parks Canada/CBC)
* Edit: As Russell A. Potter, author of Finding Franklin, mentioned in the comments below the dive season only lasts 3-4 weeks. It will take many years, not a couple, before Parks Canada unravels all of the mysteries surrounding the two shipwrecks.
“A Bank NOTE-able Canadian Woman.” Bank of Canada. Accessed from: http://www.bankofcanada.ca/banknotes/banknoteable/
Davison, Janet, “‘It just got much more complicated’: Why the discovery of HMS Terror only raises more questions” CBC News. October 11, 2016. Accessed from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/terror-discovery-franklin-expedition-more-questions-1.3793820
Ha, Tu Thanh, “HMS Terror discovery could be last piece in Franklin expedition puzzle,” The Globe and Mail. September 12, 2016. Accessed from: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/hms-terror-second-ship-from-doomed-franklin-expedition-found-foundation/article31834330/
Harris, Bill. “New epic Canadian series ‘Frontier’ shakes the dust and cobwebs from fur-flying history.” The Toronto Sun. November 3, 2016. Accessed from: http://www.torontosun.com/2016/11/03/new-epic-canadian-series-frontier-shakes-the-dust-and-cobwebs-from-fur-flying-history
Vaidyanathan, Gayathri, “Thawing Arctic ice reveals new clues to mystery of lost ships Terror, Erebus,” Chicago Tribune. November 27, 2016. Accessed from: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-thawing-arctic-lost-ships-terror-erebus-20161127-story.html