November 26, 2021
This whole topic of Eugenics, it is big and it is ugly. We as a society have lived with its warped terribly bad science for the last 138 years. It has come to infect the planetary population as a whole. Francis Galton, who in 1883, coined the term Eugenics, which means good living. This is doubtlessly the worst translation of a term in human history. Good living my ass, eugenics has brought nothing but misery to untold millions. In our articles, “What If” parts 1 and 2, we give a primary example of eugenics in practice, the Canadian Indian Act. Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A Macdonald (January 11, 1815 – June 6, 1891) was born in Scotland, and in early Canadian politics was known as the “sly fox”. He led our government with a firm and discerning hand, he was Prime Minister from 1867–1873. It was the men and women too, of Macdonald’s generation who made eugenics what it came to be, taking the principles of the philosophy and making them real.
For me, discovering the effects of eugenics began in grade five with the events surrounding our article “Someone Is Going To Be Offended”. As I have related elsewhere that year and for the following sixty months was a period of extraordinary isolation. To help combat those feelings of loneliness I lost myself in books. My interests were broad, I read many of the classics, “Moby Dick”, “Catcher In The Rye”, a lot of Poe’s work. An author of whose work I particularly enjoyed was a Canadian, Farley Mowat by name. I especially enjoyed his children’s novel “Lost In The Barrens”, a story about two young teenagers, one white, the other a Chipewyan native American who became separated from a hunting party and they had to rely on each other for survival as the brutal winter in the sub – arctic of Canada set in. It truly is a story of bravery and resilience in the face of long odds. In addition, it is a beautiful example of what co-operation and respect for each other’s culture should be.
As is the case for most of us, when we find an author of who we like, we tend to read all their works. This was indeed the case for Mr. Mowat and myself. Most of his library was very adult orientated in that his books dealt with the Inuit of Canada’s north and the horrors of their lives. The reasons that the Canadian government treated the people as they did were of course way above the head of the twelve year old that I was, I only knew that they were suffering and needed help.
In reading Mowat’s material, I found that it had a profound effect on me. I was both incredibly impressed and inspired by the bravery and toughness shown by the explorers of our northern territories and; I learned great sorrow and respect for the peoples of the north. Because of this, I tried to read anything that I could get my hands on regarding the north. For my 13th birthday, my father bought me a copy of “Across the Sub-Artic of Canada: A Journey of 3,200 Miles by Canoe and Snowshoe Through the Barren Lands” (1898). by. James Williams Tyrrell.
The book fascinated me, both because it was filled with information about the actual routes they took, and the difficulties they endured, and since I was intensely interested in geology, and the whole effort they were engaged in was on behalf of the Canadian geologic survey; it matched my interests perfectly. Rare 10/10 score dad! As I have said elsewhere, sometimes he understood me very well indeed. So, what does this have to do with eugenics you may be asking?
The Tyrell brothers were educated men, they would have willingly partaken of the “latest” scientific and societal “changes for the better”. When we look at the date of Tyrells journey, 1898, this would have been right during the upward curve of eugenics becoming intensely popular. Throughout the book, it is liberally peppered by racist slurs about both the Voyageurs who were the canoe transportation workers in organized, licensed long-distance transportation of furs and trade goods in the interior of the continent, and the men who did the laborious task of transporting all the samples that the Tyrells were accumulating. In addition, they were also very racist and deeply disrespectful to the native populations that they encountered during those 3,200 miles.
I was raised to believe that “Indians” were untrustworthy, savage low lives. The savagery I got, they had been fighting for their homes and families. The low life I began to understand as I began to appreciate their socio–economic situation. For far too many years, I could not understand why they simply did not assimilate in to Canadian–western culture. I was very wrong in thinking that way, and I offer up here, a very public apology for that. We have much to learn from our indigenous peoples, they are one avenue back to our reintegration with source.