Here are links to information about this place.
Dick’s Creek page on Niagara Greenbelt website | Centennial Gardens page on City of St. Catharines website | “Saving Centennial Gardens”, St. Catharines Standard, 2010 | Richard Pierpoint page on Wikipedia | Richard Pierpoint page on Historica Canada | Richard Pierpoint & Soldier Stories – Harriet Tubman Institute | Centennial Teaching Garden page on Greening Niagara website | Sisters in Spirit Vigil in St. Catharines, 2013 (see Traditional Territory page for more info) | A Canadian Art review of an exhibition by Douglas Cranmer | Region of Niagara anti-poverty investments in Queenston/Haig in St. Catharines
Centennial Gardens Totem Pole
There is a totem pole In Centennial Gardens. Since totem poles are from Pacific Northwest Nations with no relation to First Nations of this area, I always wondered what it was doing there. It was commissioned for the creation of Centennial Gardens, which as the name suggests, was a Centennial Project of the City of St. Catharines. It was carved by Douglas Cranmer of Namgis First Nation, Alert Bay, British Columbia
Click TotemPole-Sept1966 for an article from September 1966, kindly provided by City of St. Catharines Parks, Recreation and Culture Department.
“1967 – In thirty-six days, completes a thirty-six-foot totem pole of Thunderbird, Bear, Copper, Sisiyutl, Woman and Raven for a centennial Confederation project in St. Catharines, ON (with assistant Godfrey Hunt)”
– Kesu: The Art and Life of Doug Cranmer. Jennifer Kramer. Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver/Toronto. Museum of Anthropolgy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. University of Washington Press, Seattle. 2012. 132
The question remains why the art work of more local First Nations was not commissioned for the park, but no doubt it is due to the history of only a few stereotyped icons of indigenous culture being sanctioned by dominant culture. (Many contemporary indigenous visual artists work with exposing these icons as colonizing stereotypes.)
There are Centennial totem poles in many Canadian cities (currently many are the subject of conservation concerns) and presumably this practice was part of federal policy for Canada’s Centennial commemoration, through the Centennial Commission. I am still seeking information, especially on the totem pole commissions. Library and Archives Canada was very diligent and helpful with my query and I intend to go Ottawa to follow it up. Here are other links about 1967 Centennial Celebrations.
Archives Canada Centennial Commission Fonds | Historica Canada |
Douglas Cranmer was a hereditary chief. Before his birth, his father was amongst “forty-four high-ranking Kwakwaka’wakw men and women…arrested and charged with offences such as singing, dancing, making speeches, giving and accepting gifts – all criminal acts according to the federal Indian Act of the time, which prohibited the potlatch.”*
– Ibid. 1.
*Click here for information on the U’mista Cultural Society – Alert Bay Potlatch Collection. Click here to hear an excerpt from, A Strict Law Bids Us Dance (1975), and the words of a Kwagu’l Chief’s (O’waxalagalis) speech from October 7, 1886 is Tsaxis (Fort Rupert).
I have a crystal-clear memory of being in a classroom at Lady Churchill Senior Public School on Glenridge Ave. in St. Catharines and being taught about how potlatches were outlawed and what a crazy practice they were, because Indians gave away their wealth. It was Centennial Year, when I did my Centennial project on Emily Carr. I don’t remember anything about the totem pole that was erected in the park created for the Centennial, or learning about the artist Douglas Cranmer. It wasn’t until well into middle-age that I learned how Canadian Indian Act laws outlawed dancing. How strange that this culture outlawed generosity and dancing.
Please take a look at the Traditional Territory page.
Richard Pierpoint – the “Dick” of Dick’s Creek
Timeline for Richard Pierpoint
Earliest map of Grantham and earliest map of Grantham overlaid a contemporary map – showing Pierpoint lots
Click here for a link to writings by Alun Hughes, but that link does not include his article on Richard Pierpoint – try this one.
(see also other links at top of this page and on Explore main page)
The “Ruins” in Centennial Garden
Not far from the totem pole, at the bottom of the embankment below Gale Crescent, is an area of “ruins”, mostly cut-up architectural columns. These are often thought to be from the old Carnegie Library at the corner of Church and James Streets, which was replaced with the Central Branch just up the street at 54 Church St.; like so many Canadian public libraries, it was a Centennial project.
However, the Carnegie Library had smooth columns. Local historian Dennis Gannon, is convinced the columns in Centennial Gardens come from the Bank of Toronto which stood on Queen St. near King where the TD Bank is today. Presumably the wrecking company simply dumped the pieces on the embankment, which speaks to the site’s rich history of cycles of industry, abandonment and reclamation.
(Thanks to email correspondence from Dennis Gannon, October 30, 2015.)