Tuesday, August 2, 2016

What Can the Fort Metaphor Tell Us About Our Country?

Last Saturday, after visiting the Mid Summer's Arts Festival at Fort Qu'Appelle's "fort", I posed these questions:

How Many Places in Canada are Named Fort Something? Can you help me build a list? And just for fun, where have you lived in Canada with Fort in the name? I've lived just outside of Fort Qu'Appelle since 2003.

"Interesting question!" says Bev Lundahl, an author and Grandmother activist from Regina (originally from my hometown of Macoun, Treaty Four territory).  "I was just asking that one myself lately. It must be in the air! Apparently even the sanatorium was a 'fort'."

"I've been to Fort St. James in BC. And I had friends living in Fort Nelson, BC. Fun search:)" says Mira Krahn, who just returned to Regina from teaching in China. Welcome home, Mira!

"I've visited Fort Battleford and Fort Walsh in Saskatchewan and Fort Garry in Manitoba," says Jayne Whyte who left Fort Qu'Appelle and moved to the big city, Regina. I miss her every time there is an arts gathering, of any stripe.

"Fort MacLeod, Alberta," says my cousin, Cheryl Oberkirsch in Weyburn.

"Fort Steel, BC," says a Facebook friend, "Lesh Jo" from BC.

"Fort Smith, Alberta," says Maryjane Sayaze, from Black Lake, Treaty 8 Territory, who goes by Maryjane Dene Ts'ekui, on FB.

"When I was little we used to go have family BBQs & play at Fort Carlton near Beardy's (my reserve)" says Char Tupone, my Fort Qu'Appelle bosom buddy forever (bbf) who grew up in Treaty Six territory.

"I'm not in Canada," says Rhonda Garrett, a high school friend who now lives in Scotland. "But within a 20 mile limit around my house, I live near...Fort Augustus, Fort George and Fort William. (All amazing places.)"

"I just googled it and wikipedia had it," says Eriko Parker, who has made Fort Qu'Appelle home from her home country of Japan. "Very interesting to find out that there are so many of them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_forts "

I go to Google. Who knew? I guess Eriko did.

I count 111 places with Fort in the name. This does not count places like Victoria, where my husband grew up. He was explaining that the rough part of town, where he was raised, was originally Fort Esquimalt and even Victoria was originally Fort Victoria.

I see that Eriko has also left a comment on my blog. "That's an interesting question. Places called Fort-something were built on treaty lands... Forts that were built to protect settlers from treaty partners... "

"Forts play a big role in our Treaty history, for better or worse," I reply. "Do you think the fort metaphor is with us today?"

What do you think?

I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment on Treaty Walks, Facebook, or @treatywalks on Twitter.


  1. When the "Fort" (where the Festival is held) was built, my late husband was disgusted. Having the big TeePee on one side of the valley representing treaty, goverance etc and then to add the "Fort" which represents walls? barriers? I think little has changed, though I Idle No More and others (like you Sheena) continue to add hope into our current day mix, I think. xoxo

    1. I never thought of the divide with the Fort on one side and Tipi on the other. Powerful image. Kate, through your art and activism, you are helping us find those spaces in the middle.