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Canadian Illustrated News, Aug.7, 1880
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Pauline Johnson Performs in Winnipeg, 1897

E. Pauline Johnson (1861-1913) was born on the Six Nations Iroquois Reserve in Ontario, the daughter of a Mohawk chief and his English wife. Miss Johnson became a popular entertainer and poet who toured widely, giving theatrical performances.

An account of a performance by E. Pauline Johnson in Winnipeg, 1897
Source: Winnipeg Free Press, December 1897.

E. Pauline Johnson
E. Pauline Johnson, ca. 1895 (Cochran/Library and Archives Canada/C-085125, copyright expired)
Winnipeg has been visited at various times by writers of note who have given readings from their own productions and have drawn good houses; in the majority of instances, however, the public interest has centered in the personality of the reader and the reading itself has possessed no special merit.

Miss E. Pauline Johnson is a reader or reciter of talent as well as a writer. It may be that she has inherited from her Indian ancestors a communion with nature which is denied to most people of white blood; at any rate she gave last night in the Grand Opera House an entertainment which the talent of a pale face could hardly be thought of as originating.

In the first part of the programme she appeared in picturesque Indian costume, and in every gesture, in the glances of her eye, in the varying expressions of her face, and in the working of the different emotions and passions she was a pure Indian. She portrayed the heathen Indian so that the audience could see him live and move, and could appreciate his views of Christianity and civilization.

Some of the blunders in the attempts to Christianize him and educate his children were made to appear. The titles of her readings in this part were "Ojistoh," "The Cattle Thief," and "His Sister's Son." The wrongs done the Indian by the white man and the hatred and revenge of the latter were strongly depicted.

When Miss Johnson, in the second part of the programme, appeared in a rich and beautiful dress made in fashionable, civilized style, the impression upon the audience was entirely changed. People then thought she must surely be at least almost white, in her features and her complexion they could see nothing of the Indian.

But one characteristic she did not lose, namely, the power to interpret nature which comes from, or is dependent upon, keenness of observation. She showed herself to be an observer of human nature as well as of external nature. In her reading, "The Success of the Season," she afforded much amusement by her pictures of the follies and insincerities of fashionable, or would-be fashionable, society...The concluding reading "Canadian Born" was full of patriotic sentiment. Miss Johnson may expect good houses at future appearances in Winnipeg, for her recital last evening gave genuine pleasure and its merits were recognized by those who heard her.

More about E. Pauline Johnson:

  • Read about this Canadian heroine in the book 100 Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces by Merna Forster (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2004).

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