Monsieur Scardera, Bonjour, Je suis François Faucher de l’organisme Actions interculturelles de développement et d’éducation de Sherbrooke. Nous venons de connaître le Centre de St-Armand et voulons vous féliciter pour votre site qui est vraiment très intéressant sur le sujet des Noirs au Canada.
Respect is due to our deceased regardless of their race.
Annie K. Zawadi
I heard the broadcast on CBC 3rd June 2002. A very worthy cause. I wish you the very best in your fight to gain recognition for this historical site.
I think the name should remain. It is not our duty re 'rewrite' history; our duty is to remember yesterday and make tomorrow better for our children.
The fact that this cemetery site isn't recognized is a national scandal. Has nothing changed?
I am embarrassed to learn for the first time in my life that there were slaves in canada.
It is important to mark all sites of historical significance. Canadians need to wake up from our faulty perception that we were not involved in the support of the colonial slave system.
I didn't check off to change the name because since I am not a person of colour, I feel it is not anything that I can comment on. The name is unfortunate, but so is history -- if the name is changed, I do think the original name should be documented in order to avoid "white-washing" history. Then again, I am not a person of colour and do not have to live with the word "nigger" as others do. Your hard work and dedication are admirable. I wish you the best of luck.
I listened to the interview on CBC today. I can't imagine what can be in the minds of the farmer. Is he trying to extort as much money for the land as he can or is he just an extreme bigot? It's hard to believe that such crass, insensitive and narrow-minded people live in Canada. I intend to look around your web site to see how I can help.
I would suggest not changing the name. Historically, it was named nigger rock regardless of the reason. Changing it now would be one more example of revisionist history and political correctness, both of which I can do without.
Mount Albert, Ontario
June 13, 2002
Hi Hank, Great to hear your voice on CBC this morning. Congratulations on your well deserved award. I remember hearing you on CBC in '97 when our family was spending a year out west. Keep up the good work.
This is more than a worthy partisan cause; it's Canada's own survival as a nation that's at stake. For what's a nation without its history, pink cheeks, warts, and all?
Dr. Uzoma Esonwanne
I heard your story on the radio yesterday and I want to commend you for your efforts. You presented your view very fairly and clearly. What is truly frustrating is that there are still people out there today who are still so ignorant. Unfortunately, this does nothing to promote the image of farmers at a time when they are actively lobbying the federal government for increased taxpayer dollars. Keep it up and if I can be of additional assistance, please let me know.
It would be a terribly immoral act to not acknowledge this burial site.
I was very sorry to hear about the problems with the Black Slave Cemetery in St. Armand. I heard Mr. Hank Avery on CBC Radio yesterday. I was also very excited because I have been involved in a similar problem with a Metis Cemetery in a border community for the last ten years. This heritage site is half a mile south of the Canadian-Manitoba border and is a mile north of Pembina, North Dakota. Pembina was the site of the North West Company and Hudson's Bay Company forts from the 1790s to about 1821. The Catholic Church sent missionaries to Red River in 1818 at the invitation of Lord Selkirk and they established missions at Pembina and St. Boniface. In 1823, the HBC forced the Church to move its mission north of the border because the 49th parallel was drawn half a mile north of the mission. However, not all the Metis families left Pembina and they continued to bury their relatives at the mission site until 1892.
We started out with a list of 161 burials from the church register from 1849-92 and there were 49 burials mentioned by the first priest from 1818-1823. So that was a total of 215 burials. But when we were finally able to get geophysical testing at the site, the geologist estimated between 480-600 burials in 3.2 acres and estimated more testing would find more burials. Then local officials went into denial and tried to disprove this scientific estimate. Last summer, a local man told us it was "well known in town that there were 1450 burials, but he refused to be quoted in public". So our cemetery was much bigger than previously known. You might want to consider this type of testing for the Nigger Rock site, but the problem is that the scientists need permission from the owner to go on the site and, if it is private property, it is difficult to get permission from a racist owner. We know exactly what you are going through. The Metis descendants were denied access to their ancestor's graves for most of the 20th century. The local town is very racist and the Metis had three strikes against them: they were 1) Catholic, 2) French and 3) Indian in background. We fought for ten years and the media attention from outside really helped our cause. Also Manitoba Metis descendants held two ceremonies there in May of 2000 and 2001 and have erected about 40 white wooden crosses.
Previous burial markers had been destroyed by the farming. Anyway, maybe we could help you, sharing ideas and experience. Fighting this kind of cause is very important (as we found out) because it demonstrates how racism plays itself out in practical terms. The local community probably does not have the perspective to realize why the farming of this cemetery is racist, but it is obvious to outsiders. So the more media attention you get, the better. Congratulations to Mr.Hank Avery and all the volunteers who are working on this project. My partner is a Pembina Metis descendant who lives on a farm in northern Minnesota and he heard the repeat broadcast on CBC last night. He was very excited too. His town is very racist and the Metis have no political status in the USA. His family was brought up to believe they were non-Aboriginal, but they were treated as "Indians" by local bigots. He has some stories to tell. We have written several articles about the cemetery and would be glad to send you copies if you are interested in what we accomplished.
I am writing a history of the Pembina Metis for my Ph.D. dissertation and am using my partners' ancestors as the focus of my study. My partner has done a lot of archival research and he is a good historian. I am very interested in the parallels between Metis and Black history, especially of Black Slaves. I have been reading about Thomas Jefferson's Black Slave family and Sally Hemmings, his sister-in-law and (white-looking) Black Slave wife. The story is really sickening when you read about it and also the reaction of white historians who were horrified at the idea that their hero had a Black Slave family and denied it until the claims of the Black descendants were proved by DNA testing. It is so interesting, but also horrifying. I think it is really important to educate Canadians about racism because it is very embedded in the colonial history of our country, and, although we promote multiculturalism, a lot of people still have racist ideas. We see this very clearly in western provinces where there is still so much discrimination against Native people. I hope we can share some ideas and would be interested to hear from people working on this site. By the way, I was born and raised in Montreal and went to Bishop's University for my B.A., so I know the Eastern Townships quite well and have been to Bedford. I would love to visit your cemetery on my next trip to Quebec.
This is an important site. I am wondering whether there has ever been a comprehensive history of publications on or related to Black History in Canada. In reviewing the course bibliography I note that the book "Black Moses - The Real Uncle Tom" a biography of Josiah Herson, is not included. He was not only a traveller on the Underground RR, but is perhaps the founder of Vocational Education in Canada and one who was decorated by Queen Victoria for his work. As the father of one son of African heritage and two foster sons of the same background, I am delighted to shed more light on the history of such persons in Canada. It is a vital part of our history that needs to be known so that we will both celebrate who we are and avoid repeating historic mistakes.
George T. H. Fuller
I heard Mr Avery on CBC radio. I grew up on the south shore and many of my ancestors were loyalist - setting in Eastern Townships and Gaspe. Hats off to all those involved in keeping this issue in the public realm.
Although, as someone involved in cemetery research, I heartily lend my support to projects like yours, I can find nothing in the "News and Evidence" section of your web site which could count as hard evidence that the area know as "Nigger Rock" is indeed a cemetery. I know from experience that areas which are considered cemeteries through local lore and old folks "memories" turn out, upon archaeological investigation, to be nothing of the sort. I would very much like to see Roland Viau's complete report as the news account listed on your site merely states that Viau has determined that the Luke family had slaves or former slaves working for them, not that they were actually buried at the spot in question. If you have updated information on archaeological of archival investigations, I would be very interested in hearing about them. Do not get me wrong, you have my full support in your investigations, but I would like to see hard archaeological or archival evidence such as diary entries and ground penetrating radar studies. Further, although I feel that a name change is in order, I think that there should be no attempt to re-write history. Thus my suggestion for the former name to be included in the official name. Future generations have a right to know that their forebears used terms that are now thought inappropriate.
Thank you for bringing this cemetery to our attention. I listened to your interview on CBC and I completely agree with your views on this matter. Our ancestors need to be recognized and honoured. Is there any chance of re-routing the road, so that all our ancestors remains may rest in peace? Again, thank you for leading the cause on this important issue. You are truly blessed.
The regional, provincial, and federal governments should do the right thing for a change and open their eyes to history. Not all of it is pleasant but it is important to acknowledge the history of the black community in Canada with the respect due to all Canadians. Wake up Canada and grow up!
My mother grew up in this vicinity, and has told me stories of playing around the site known as Nigger Rock. I would like to see it properly marked as a historic site.
I understand that use of the word "nigger" can reflect the worst in Man. I believe to keep the name "Nigger Rock" would be a sign of respect to these victims of slavery participant in the building of Canada, which event in history must not be prettied up for public consumption.
I heard about this on CBC. I think it is a very important issue. However, I am hesitant about changing the name. I think the name reflects the nature of our past. Although, the name does not allow for political correctness, the offensive nature of the name reminds us all of the inhumane treatment of human dignity and the immorality that humanity can perpetuate. Yet, understanding a need for the recognition of those who died building this country, the cemetery most be honoured and named accordingly. Please, remind us of the name of cemetery of the past, so we do not perpetuate injustice in the future by renaming another the forgotten slave name.
I am interested in the Negro cemetery because as I grew up around there, we learned of the underground railroad going through, I believe, East Farnham, run by Quakers there. I have also visited the burial ground. It was my understanding, handed down from people who were preloyalist that the cemetery was a free cemetery. So I am certainly interested in who had the slaves. I don't believe it, to be honest. Sir John Johnson had had Indian wives, but I do not believe that he had slaves. Who had the slaves? Luke is a first name. Slaves took on the name of those who "owned" them. I believe the stories I was told growing up. Always glad to talk to historians. Keep up the digging, please.
Margaret Mason Johnson
There is a great deal to be done to assure that Black people are accorded due and proper recognition for the part they played in Canadian history and for the considerable contribution they made to they building of this country. It is also, unfortunately, necessary to document the shameful amount of discrimination they suffered and, equally important, to record the heroic ways in which they withstood discrimination and maltreatment of all sorts while struggling to live their lives, contribute to their communities and strengthen Canada. No one knows just how large a part Black persons played in Canadian history. It is important that this be known for its own sake and, also, as a lesson in how people, their lives and the contributions they made to Canadian society can be distorted, belittled or simply erased. Both Canada and Québec claim to be multi-cultural, pluralistic societies. If that is the case the claim must be given substance by action in this particular matter and in related matters wherever they occur.
I am a veteran of the civil rights movement in the U.S., now a Canadian. I'm also a former member of the South Dakota House of Representatives. I stand in solidarity with you in this great cause. Christian greetings from Manitoba.
Rev. Terry Miller
I am a descendent of a family whose ancestor came to Ganges, Salt Spring Island, but I don't know when. He came up the coast from California, or so I'm told. In any case, there is a population of black people who migrated to the Island in the nineteenth century. I have almost no information except for one or two books on the subject. Do you have any information? I would like to know more.
Lucy Methuen nee Mansell
I just listened to your interview with Shaelagh Rogers. I found it hard to believe that you were having this difficulty here in Quebec. I expect that after tonight's interview you will gain support from many people across Canada who, like I, thought that this couldn't happen in today's world. It goes to show that this sort of thing DOES still happen and that more of us need to be aware of its presence.
I am happy to offer my moral support. Unfortunately, financial assistance is out of the question.
It is absolute minimum that we should do this. This part of Canadian history should be known to everyone. Just like we have memorials at concentration camps in Europe, we should have memorials here with an inscription 'Never Again' and an equivalent in french.
I heard an interview with Hank Avery on CBC today, June 3, 2002, which prompted me to log onto your website and give you my wholehearted support for this little known story in our history.
Wolfgang J. Scheid
Very hard to understand that a small but potentially so very significant historical site; and a grave site at that, should be ignored in a province which supposedly values its culture and uniqueness! The site is interesting not only from the point of view of history and morality but also from its potential interest to many North Americans and I dare say Europeans? If I was on a bus tour of Quebec, which as a retiree is quite a possibility, with say an international group of tourists, and the bus stopped at St. Armand where a local interpretation officer, proficient in both official languages, with perhaps some American, German etc. thrown in spends a few minutes explaining the background and history of the place it would be quite interesting. I must look St Armand up on the internet; never heard of the place before! Am certainly surprised there is not at least a 'marker' which says "Quebec Historical Site Number 123456 etc." Possibly followed by a brief resume of what is known so far e.g. "At this place ..... ". Lesser things have had historical markers!
I am so sorry that these farmers are behaving so badly.
I heard the story on CBC radio this morning and I have to say I am utterly disgusted that; 1) The Provincial and Federal Gov't have not done anything to save this historical site. and 2) The current owner KNOWS that he is driving and walking over a grave site but doesn't seem to care. Regardless of who these people were and how they came to Canada, they deserve at least to be remembered better than this.
I have really mixed feelings about changing the name of the cemetery from "Nigger Rock". While I abhor the vulgarity of this term, if it is history we want to preserve, and future mistakes we want to prevent, "whitewashing" our history of racism does everyone a disservice. A backlash against political correctness is risked, and a self-serving toning down of this country's less than exemplary record on race-relations is even more dangerous. Best of luck getting this region and chapter of Canadian culture the attention and respect it deserves.
Jennifer Walsh Marr
In view of the "political" difficulties encountered by Mr. Avery, the site should be expropriated with no compensation.
Philip Jaffray Hughes
St-Armand West town Council appears to be a waste of time. A well organized effort should be ade to approach the provincial and federal authorities.
Francis, sorry about the delay in replying to you regarding your kinds words about the Birchtown site. I was very pleased to receive your URL and to learn about the troubles you have been having. We have been conducting archaeological research in Birchtown, on and off, since 1993, and it grew out of a concern by the Black population in Shelburne that their heritage was being ignored and compromised. The specific problem at the time was a proposed landfill in the Birchtown area. The efforts of the people of Birchtown resulted in the landfill plans being dropped but they have continued supporting research and now have plans for, among other things, an interpretive centre. The archaeology has literally changed the history of Birchtown as we knew it and is teaching people how diverse and rich the African-American history of Canada is. It is unfortunate that the struggle for recognition continues and that there are people actively fighting against it. In your case, I believe your efforts will result in that recognition for your site. Good luck and thanks again for the note.
Mr. Scardera, Laird passed along your email concerning placing a link to our Birchtown excavation web content. By all means, please do so. Laird developed the web content and we host it on our "Archaeology in Nova Scotia" web page. We will be updating our list of links shortly and I would like to recommend a link to your page, if that is alright with you. Your site is particularly well designed and content rich. Laird has continued research in Birchtown with fieldwork last summer on three additional sites as part of a larger research project on Black Loyalist settlement undertaken by the museum that also includes ethnology and history components. On the issue of cemeteries protection, we have had our own difficulties with protecting historic cemeteries. In December 1998, the Province of Nova Scotia passed legislation that offers some protection in this area. Bill 58 (http://www.gov.ns.ca/legi/legc/) attempts to protect historic cemeteries and to allow access to these places for commemoration purposes. It is still too early to project the full ramifications of the act, and to some extent we will learn as we go. Anyway, thanks for contacting us and good luck with your efforts.
Thank you Francis for help spreading the word - Have a great day!
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