TWO MONTHS IN THE CAMP OF BIG BEAR

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In the spring of 1885, the names Theresa Delaney and Theresa Gowanlock captured the attention and imagination not only of Canadian, but also of American and overseas readers. After their husbands were killed by Plains Cree, the two women were among eighty hostages held for two months. During their captivity, horrendous rumours circulated as to the indignities they were suffering; Delaney and Gowanlock emerged from their ordeal safely, however, to declare that none of the rumours were true, that they had been treated well under the circumstances, and that they had been zealously protected by several Metis families. This was not the central message advanced in their published account, however, which was released five months later. In Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear, the accounts of the women were made to conform to the literary conventions of the “Indian captivity narrative,” capitalizing upon existing sets of images, symbols, and representations. A complicated story was simplified, heroes and villains were created, and this imaginative narrative became part of the formidable written and visual legacy of the events of 1885 that is narrow and one-sided.

Sarah Carter’s new introduction provokes a careful reconsideration of texts such as Two Months, texts that are often uncritically assumed to be unproblematic and accurate reflections of events such as those at Frog Lake in the spring of 1885. It challenges the reader to pay attention to the perspectives of the many others who were involved in order to construct a more varied, more complicated, and more truthful picture of the past.

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