Snemma Norrænir Landnámsmenn

(Early Norse Settlers)

This source talks about the early settlement of Nordic explorers during the turn of the 11th century. The website is a transcription of the book The Norse Discovery of America by A.M. Reeves, N.L. Beamish, and R.B. Anderson. It talks about the first settlers like Erik the Red, and his son Leif Erikson, and how exactly they came to find Greenland and Vinland, the latter of which we now know as Newfoundland. It is a very detailed chronological history of the adventures of the Nordic explorers, as well as detailed information on the explorers themselves, beginning with the unfortunate manslaughter conviction and subsequent banishment of Erik the Red, to mentioning King Olaf of Iceland’s ulterior Christian motives, to Leif Erikson’s patriotic endeavours to attempt to colonize Vinland.

He had his arms full of grapes, and was devouring the fruit with all his might, and when spoken to by Leif Erikson, he only answered in his native tongue, “Weintrauben! Weintrauben!! Weintrauben!!!” He was born in a country where the grape grew, and […] the finding of grapes in this western world overwhelmed him with delight. The sagas tell us that grapes were found in great abundance on every hand, and from this circumstance Leif gave the country the name of Vinland. 


Said the West Wind

In Depth Post 3, 02/17/17

I love old earth! Why should I lift my wings,

My misty wings, so high above her breast
That flowers would shake no perfumes from their hearts,
And waters breathe no whispers to the shores?
I love deep places builded high with woods,
Deep, dusk, fern-closed, and starred with nodding blooms,
Close watched by hills, green, garlanded and tall.
On hazy wings, all shot with mellow gold,
I float, I float thro’ shadows clear as glass;
With perfumed feet I wander o’er the seas,
And touch white sails with gentle finger-tips;
I blow the faithless butterfly against
The rose-red thorn, and thus avenge the rose;
I whisper low amid the solemn boughs,
And stir a leaf where not my loudest sigh
Could move the emerald branches from their calm,–
Leaves, leaves, I love ye much, for ye and I
Do make sweet music over all the earth!
I dream by glassy ponds, and, lingering, kiss
The gold crowns of their lilies one by one,
As mothers kiss their babes who be asleep
On the clear gilding of their infant heads,
Lest if they kissed the dimple on the chin,
The rose flecks on the cheek or dewy lips,
The calm of sleep might feel the touch of love,
And so be lost. I steal before the rain,
The longed-for guest of summer; as his fringe
Of mist drifts slowly from the mountain peaks,
The flowers dance to my fairy pipe and fling
Rich odours on my wings, and voices cry,
“The dear West Wind is damp, and rich with scent;
We shall have fruits and yellow sheaves for this.”
At night I play amidst the silver mists,
And chase them on soft feet until they climb
And dance their gilded plumes against the stars;
At dawn the last round primrose star I hide
By wafting o’er her some small fleck of cloud,
And ere it passes comes the broad, bold Sun
And blots her from the azure of the sky,
As later, toward his noon, he blots a drop
Of pollen-gilded dew from violet cup
Set bluely in the mosses of the wood.
“Said the West Wind” – Isabella Crawford, 1909
The deadline for the Vancouver Chamber Choir Young Composer’s Competition is looming and, yes, I have completed a song. Using the poem above, Said the West Wind, I have written an SATB piece that I am somewhat happy with. The score to it can be found right here.With the help of my mentor, he edited the piece and gave me his recommendations on things i could possibly change. I also learned about some basic “rules” of harmony (like not having middle register voices singing over an octave away, how tuning issues could arise from certain voice parts singing certain lines, etc.) as well as what a conductor or singer would be looking for in a piece of music.
Along with doing this, I have done some listening to a lot of choral music, including works by Bob Chilcott, Matthew Emery, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Ambroz Copi.

Matthew Emery is a Canadian composer who is only 10 years older than I. His writing is quite beautiful in the way that he has a usually distinct form to his pieces, and in the way it uses text with the music. His music has been performed by the Canadian Chamber Choir, and he studied composition here at UBC. Matthew Emery is also the winner of several compositional awards from Canada and abroad.

Above is Abmroz Copi’s Three Sacred Hymns written in double choir. I particularly enjoy his writing, and especially the second movement in this set. The chords he uses are almost jazz-sounding and the chord progressions lead into places one wouldn’t necessarily expect. The sound that is produced with this double choir setup is quite memorable and enjoyable. My mentor recommended I listen to some of these pieces and he lent me the sheet music to look at, study, and analyze to see what I like. In addition to this, I have been listening to an album by The King’s Singers titled Postcards, and this too has a bunch of great music. Below is one of my favourites, entitled Contigo Aprendi, which in Spanish means “with you, I learned”.

During the meetings I had with my mentor, we largely discussed the makeup of choral pieces and how they make sense or don’t make sense. My mentor has been really great in involving my in our discussions and getting me to critically think when we are working together. For example, we looked at Bob Chilcott’s Aesop’s Fables and particularly the first piece, “The Hare and the Tortoise”. The piece is written in a slightly unusual way and he asked me why I thought that this was the case. Through discussions like these, I was able to get to certain conclusions on my own, and we were able to discover some interesting things. As well, through these discussions, I’ve learned better ways to go about composing and understanding the structure and purpose in composing choral music.

With vocal and choral music, first and foremost, it’s the text. Not only do I need to serve the text, but the text – when I’m doing it right – acts as the perfect ‘blueprint’, and all the architecture is there. The poet has done the heavy lifting, so my job is to find the soul of the poem and then somehow translate that into music. – Eric Whitacre

When we were looking at the piece I had written, there were some terms my mentor were using that I wasn’t exactly sure about, such as messa di voce (which I now know is essentially a fancy word for simple phrasing). All in all, the conversations and lessons with my mentor have all been extremely interesting and invaluable to my progress as not only a composer but as a musician. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my in-depth thus far and am excited to continue.

Final notes, for the future, I plan on analyzing couple more pieces and doing a whole bunch more listening. Below is a piece that I really like and had the opportunity to perform last year. It’s called Prayer for a Child by Pärt Uusberg. The future is exciting, always.

The Worth of Cultural Genocide

When looking at negative occurrences in history, it is quite simple to create a verdict: “that was a bad event”. It is very easy to look down at the situation and believe that you could’ve done better, as well as simply dismissing the event from our minds as nothing more than an attack against humans. What is more challenging, is trying to realize exactly what happened, who was a part of it, and to try and understand the humanity and inhumanity of it. Was this person/these people just trying to achieve a seemingly noble goal that had some negative side effects, or were the intentionally trying to cause harm for no good reason other than to fulfill some misguided ideal? Looking at cultural genocide, trying to understand the reasons and outcomes of the event can be incredibly difficult, as we often don’t want to maybe take a lesson out of a negative.

I always find it a challenge to try to relate to “bad” people. When I watch the news or read history books, it’s incredibly easy to judge them and think that I wouldn’t do that. To my credit, I do not believe that I would ever enforce communism nor would I eradicate the entire Mayan culture. But, I often try to defend figures in history and just try to understand why. Why do people do what they do? Are bad things necessary to achieve a greater good?

In this post, I would like to make an attempt to understand and somehow relate to the people who committed genocide, and recognize that they too, are people. I would also like to see if genocide could be in any way, ultimately beneficial on a large scale (in the grand scheme of things), and how we currently benefit from the cultural genocide that occurred here not so long ago.

“It was a low-budget affair with a simplistic plot: politicians, soldiers, clerics, social scientists, and people of unexamined goodwill dash about North America, saving themselves from Indians by saving Indians from themselves”. Thomas King, from The Inconvenient Indian

Oh the humanity

In an attempt to try and understand the motives and actions of those who came before, we have to try and think their thoughts, and we can try to understand about them as a people.

19th century English education was largely based around Christianity, and there were about as many Sunday Schools as there were clouds in the sky on a stormy day. To add to this, schools were only found in more developed areas, and those who lived in more rural areas were not presented with the opportunity to attend school. Most adults then suffered poor conditions due to the industrialization of Britain, so quality of life for workers dropped. At the beginning of the 19th century, poverty was the norm for common workers. Unpredictable harvests and the constant warring appeared to just be how the way things were, and had negative effects for the people of Britain. Support for the poor was minimal and riots were common, and the stigma that surrounded poverty like a disease continued to live. “Increasingly stringent controls, particularly after 1872, instilled in the poor the sense that they, not the state, were primarily responsible for maintaining themselves.” (Joanne de Pennington). Similar events transpired in France.

In New France, the educational system was largely based from home, and whatever other education was brought on by the Catholic Church. In Ontario, teachers were often Irish and were trained to teach with a Protestant and Catholic vibe. Quebec, at one point, had a schooling system that was apart form the church. The Ministry of Public Instruction lasted for seven years (1868-75), and was dismantled due to increasing pressure by the church. Similar educational events occurred on the west coast, but the predominantly white population of the time dealt with the incoming problem of Chinese and Japanese workers immigrating by the boatload every day, which caused the development of “intelligence tests”. In Canada, the religion was either Protestant or Catholic, and it was ingrained into the educational system. Standardized schooling didn’t really appear until the late nineteenth century.

The education of the generations that grew up enforcing cultural genocide was very minimal, and the line between facts and opinions was blurred beyond recognition. Kids from the era that immigrated to Canada knew not much but basic (yet horribly skewered) Christian beliefs and the ideals of their parents (who were generally unhappy and angry). Once in Canada, their kids still depended largely on the influence of their parents, and those who did attend school, had a very one-sided view to most issues and topics in the world around them. As children, the generations that contributed to the genocide of the Native Americans here had an unfortunate upbringing. And as numerous scientific studies show, the education and experiences you have as a young person greatly impacts how you think and act as an adult. ((For more reading on the effects of childhood events on adult life, read here. A paper by the American Academy of Pediatrics))

In the late nineteenth century, immigration was going strong and people were in a constant state of moving. Calm is not the first word that comes to mind when describing the late 1800s. The prairie provinces just became on the market, and when there is land to be developed, there are natives to be shipped away. People of a non-native heritage were moving about like water molecules in a pot of boiling water, jumping from here to there and always having to deal with new neighbours from various places (but also, First Nations people were being moved around to rather undesirable locations).

These things, plus the general struggles and stresses of living in a totally new and foreign country, can really add up on a person and can make living difficult, and can mess with the judgement a person has. I cannot say that I knew every person individually, in fact I can’t say I knew any of them at all. However, given the circumstances, its not hard to believe that people living in this era with their upbringing might commit these acts, though it is saddening and almost unforgivable.

Even now, a lot of people are still like this. They are angry and have never had the opportunity to a good education. A lot of these people exist in the states and a lot of them voted for Donald Trump. I’m not at all saying that these people would willingly participate in cultural genocide, but the fact that there are a lot of people who are confused and upset enough to so strongly believe in a politician with half a brain is really telling of how the world was, is, and could be.

The subjective necessity of cultural genocide

If events had transpired any other way, there is no telling what the outcomes would be. All that can be said with certainty is that we wouldn’t be here today, and from this, the course of the world would be altered. As regrettable and superbly horrific the effects of genocide were on the native americans, perhaps those things were necessary. And if so, to who?

(Spoilers ahead, however, this story is moderately common knowledge. Read on if you dare)

About two weeks ago, I saw the movie The Founder starring Michael Keaton. A full review can be found here.  In the movie, Ray Kroc essentially steals the McDonalds Company from the two brothers who created the place, Dick and Mac McDonald. The brothers wanted to keep their restaurant a one-time local restaurant, as it had been their dream to do something like this. Kroc, a sad milkshake-machine salesman, comes along and witnesses the genius of the restaurant. He immediately wants to franchise it and make it national, opposite to the brother’s intent. However, they give in to Kroc’s persistence and allow him to work on franchising the company. Using incredibly intelligent business tactics, Kroc is successful, but is unable to operate at his full capacity due to a contract he made with the McDonald brothers. With the advice of a lawyer and some money-eyed friends, he decides to go behind the brothers’ back and create a new company, Franchise Realty, that essentially does what he’s been doing all along, but outside of the contract he made with the brothers’. By the end, he has taken McDonald’s away from the brothers, and changed it from the original way the brothers wanted it to be. In short, the film was about Ray Kroc’s rise to success, despite having to do some rather nasty things to achieve success in business. ““The Founder” is little more than a deflating reminder, as if we needed one, that the winner takes all, and integrity isn’t always the key to success.” (Stephanie Merry, Washington Post).

What is the purpose of including this story? McDonalds is one of the worlds most successful companies, and Ray Kroc is the man who made it that way. If it had been left to the brothers, McDonalds would have lived and died in the one, solitary location in San Bernardino. I think that most of us, if not all of us, have been in a McDonalds and had a burger, fries, or milkshake. The effect it has had on the world is enormous, and feeds about 1% of the worlds population on a daily basis. Overall, it’s a positive thing for the world, I think a lot of people would be sad to see McDonalds go. Which leaves us to wonder, was what Ray Kroc did necessary to achieve his goals? In short, the answer is yes. He was the driving force behind the expansion and success of the McDonalds brand. However, as successful as McDonalds became, the cost was to excommunicate the McDonald brothers from the business and go against their wishes. Over 68 million burgers sold in a day, or being genuine and a morally righteous person towards the two brothers. There is no in between.

Not to compare cultural genocide to a fast-food chain, but this is an example of how becoming successful and moving forward can often have great costs. To the Canadians of the time, the cost of genocide was necessary. In an attempt to justify it to themselves, people allowed the dehumanizing of native americans to take place, and let themselves believe that they were no more than animals. In an attempt to make it seem right, the Church proclaimed they were saving the aboriginals by saving them from themselves, so putting them into residential schools and breaking families apart. Aboriginals were an inconvenience to development and progress, and so had to be dealt with like dealing with a rodent in your lawn.

The necessity to be in Canada was huge, and going home wasn’t an option. In most cases, it was getting to be near impossible to live at home, wether it be war, economic crisis, diseases, anything. So, given the circumstances; the problems at home, the fact that now this new land was becoming a new home, and the fact that people are people, cultural genocide was the answer to fulfill their needs and achieve their goals. They had to live in Canada, and if First Nations were in their way, then they would have to be dealt with.

The outcome and today

Where would we be today if not for the events that happened in history. If anything had turned out differently, the course of the world would be changed. The same goes for Canada. Cultural genocide is a terrible, absolutely horrific thing that humans are capable of doing, yet if it were not for 19th and early 20th century Canadians, we would not be where we are now. We wouldn’t be at our school, there would not be a theatre to play films like The Founder, there wouldn’t be community hockey at 6:30 on Fridays. If the settlers had fully respected the aboriginal’s right to live here independently, then all of them would go back home. Yes, one could argue that there was a way to strike an agreement between Aboriginal people and settlers/expanding Canadians, and I firmly believe that this could have happened. In fact, the story of the island Hecla, which is situated on Lake Winnipeg, is a good example of Aboriginal people and Icelandic settlers co-existing and helping each other out (but this is a story for another blog post). Unfortunately, respectful and mutually beneficial agreements did not particularly happen often. Its easier to bulldoze a forest without a permit.

I would still like to learn and understand more to why people do things that they probably know are bad, and why we let things slide. I do think that my findings here are a start to understanding the why things happened on a personal level, not a group level, and I think that by understanding an individual you can get a better sense of understanding a group. As well, continuing to search for connections between then and now.

Where are we now? Canada is super inclusive, a global ambassador of human rights, a beautiful and natural country. We are also one of the wealthiest and a politically powerful country. We are here because of the great advancements our ancestors made, and because of the attacks against the aboriginal people across Canada. Without all of the historic events that transpired, we would not be the way we are. So, as opposed to looking down on our past and feeling shame, we should be asking for forgiveness and taking part in the process of reconciliation, which we have begun to. Instead of criticizing those who came before us, we can try to understand them because all of us are human, and learn from their mistakes. We are here now, talking about cultural genocide and reconciliation, and this is because of the cultural genocide that occurred.

We benefit from cultural genocide today by being able to live in beautiful British Colombia, formerly Tsleil-waututh territory.

We are here now, so do the ends justify the means?


  6. King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America