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Johnson, E. Pauline
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- Pauline Johnson
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1861 March 10 - 1913 March 07
Emily Pauline Johnson (also known in Mohawk as Tekahionwake ), commonly known as E. Pauline Johnson or Pauline Johnson, was a Canadian writer and performer who became popular in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. She was born on 10 March, 1861, at her family's home at the Six Nations reserve outside of Brantford, Ontario. Her father was a Mohawk hereditary clan chief and her mother a native of England who immigrated to the United States as a child. Johnson and her siblings were all encouraged to learn about both sides of their heritage; it is said that the stories and influence of her paternal grandfather, Chief John Smoke Johnson, inspired her work as a poet and performer. She was also encouraged to read widely and became familiar with many classic and contemporary literary works.
Johnson began composing, performing and publishing prolifically at an early age. She was notable for poems and performances that celebrated her Indigenous heritage, developing a stage persona that, in the first act, incorporated many of her family's traditional Mohawk cultural artifacts. For the second act she would change into modern dress and recite her works of Victorian themes. Throughout the 1880's and 1890's she toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States and Great Britain, becoming known as a contributor to the Canadian literary identity. While her notoriety and influence waned for a time following her death, there has been a recent resurgence of interest in her works and she is now acknowledged as a key player in both the oral and written cultural traditions of Canadian and Indigenous history.
Johnson retired from performing in 1909 and relocated from Winnipeg to Vancouver, British Columbia. She continued to write and publish, primarily stories told to her by local First Nations friends. Already a lover of nature, she came to love the city's expansive Stanley Park, which featured in some of her writings.
E. Pauline Johnson died of breast cancer on 07 March, 1913. Her ashes were buried in Stanley Park. In 1922, a monument was erected at her burial site. In 1961 a Canadian stamp was issued on the centennial of her birth, which is commonly credited with the revival of interest in her works. She has since been named a Person of National Historic Significance, likewise, her ancestral home has been designated a National Historic Site and is now a public museum.
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Simon Fraser University Special Collection and Rare Books
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Created by JMH, 21 October, 2016
Biographical information adapted from the following sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pauline_Johnson; http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/pauline-johnson/; http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/aboriginal-heritage/first-nations/Pages/pauline-johnson.aspx