NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — The shared efforts of the British, Six Nations and other First Nations allies in the great War of 1812 have been long criticized as a missing part of history.
A new memorial installation along Niagara-On-The-Lake now marks those contributions and seeks to bring the truth about First Nations part in winning that war.
The “Landscape of Nations: The Six Nations and Native Allies Commemorative Memorial” was unveiled on the historic battlefield in Queenston Heights Park last Sunday.
“Knowledge of the courage, sacrifice, and contribution by Native peoples in the War of 1812 will forever change your understanding of Canada’s history,” said Working Group Co-chair Tim Johnson.
As a former Smithsonian Institution executive who oversaw critically acclaimed exhibitions and launched a national education initiative at the National Museum of the American Indian, Johnson said he “can attest to the artistic merit and educational imperative of the Landscape of Nations memorial.”
The essential educational understandings of the memorial evoke themes of courage, remembrance, mutual respect and affirmation, and reconciliation. Included within the discourse of ideas stimulated by the memorial is a contextual awareness of the meaning of the covenant of friendship between First Nations and the Crown.
The memorial also recognizes the historic ceremony of peace and reconciliation held in Niagara on August 31 and September 1, 1815 that restored peace among the Native nations who fought on opposing sides.
Undertaken eight years ago by the Working Group, a volunteer sub-committee of the Niagara-on-the-Lake War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee, the memorial will become an important heritage destination asset for The Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) and is intended to serve as an educational beacon illuminating the critically important contributions Native peoples made to Canada during its formative years.
The unique memorial site, identified and offered by The Niagara Parks Commission, is embraced by the earthworks of old Fort Riall, resting under a broad canopy of tall mature trees.
Following a juried competition of anonymous submissions assessed by experts in history, arts,and culture, the final winning design emerged from a collaboration by landscape architect Tom Ridout of Fleisher Ridout Partnership Inc. and Raymond Skye, a renowned Six Nations artist.
A successful national fund-raising campaign followed, which received donations from all levels of government (federal, provincial, municipal), corporations, foundations, private businesses, and numerous individual citizens raising the budgeted $1.4 million needed for the project.
“After the destruction of the first monument for Isaac Brock in 1840, the Native allies
spearheaded a fund-raising drive to erect the present monument (1853), contributing far more per person than any other segment of the population of Upper Canada,” said Richard Merritt, co-chair of the Working Group.
The dedication ceremony included the unveiling of bronze sculptures of Native leaders John Norton and John Brant and of eight bronze medallions featured on the Queenston limestone walls forming the centre memory circle; the poignant “Bundling of Seven Arrows” ceremony; and the metaphorical burial of the weapons of war by school children under a majestic white pine, the Tree of Peace.