Emily Pauline Johnson, poet, writer, entertainer (b at Six Nations Reserve, Upper Canada 10 Mar 1861; d at Vancouver 7 Mar 1913).
Emily Pauline Johnson, poet, writer, entertainer (b at Six Nations Reserve, Upper Canada 10 Mar 1861; d at Vancouver 7 Mar 1913). Pauline Johnson was the daughter of George Johnson, a Mohawk chief of the Six Nations, and Emily Susanna Howells, an American who was originally from England.
During her career Pauline Johnson adopted her grandfather's aboriginal name, Tekahionwake, meaning "double wampum," to highlight her aboriginal heritage. Pauline Johnson is best known for her poetry celebrating her aboriginal heritage, such as "The Song My Paddle Sings." Although her stories portrayed aboriginal women and children in idealistic settings, her depictions of aboriginal people were more realistic than those written by her contemporaries. Some of her poems were included in the anthology Songs of the Great Dominion (1884) by W.D. Lighthall, which was one of the first collections that included French-Canadian and aboriginal poetry. Her work was well received by critics and was popular with the public during her lifetime, but faded into obscurity after her death.
Much of Pauline Johnson's writing might be seen as an early expression of nationalism since it deals with Canadian themes. Between 1892 and 1910 she undertook a series of speaking tours in Canada, the United States and England. She crisscrossed Canada, giving poetry readings in many remote settlements that saw few other forms of entertainment. Throughout her travels Johnson's recitations of patriotic poems and short stories featuring Canadian culture made her a popular ambassador for Canada. During her readings she wore European clothing for part of the performance and then changed into traditional buckskin. Her first collection of poems, White Wampum, was published in 1895, followed by Canadian Born (1903) and Flint and Feather (1912). Johnson published Legends of Vancouver (1911), a series of tales and short stories told to her by Joe Capilano, a Squamish chief. Two books of short stories were published in 1913 after her death, The Shagganappi and The Moccasin Maker.
McMaster University established the Pauline Johnson Archive to highlight some of her work.