Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The house that Pithers built
circa 1900. photo Fort Frances online museum archives.
This is the house that Pithers built. He built the house on the place called Couchiching, a powerful place used for governance meetings, spiritual rituals, sustenance, and socialization by the Anishnaabek, as well as their ancestors, the Black Duck and Laurel peoples.
Of course, Pithers, holding the status of Indian Agent, wouldn't have built the house by his own bare hands. Most likely, like most colonial administrators and "leaders," he used the exploited labour of the indigenous people to build the very buildings that would come to oppress them (I saw the evidence of this when I was in Puebla, Mexico. The massive awesome golden cathedrals of the Spanish colonizers were not only built by the labour of the Indigenous peoples by also with the Indigenous people's resources, such as their gold. Further, this is still true in Palestine today. The Palestinians often are hired to build the very structures that Israel will use to continue their oppression, including the Apartheid Wall and the settlements in the West Bank).
Pithers had his house built beside the Indian Agency building(s), which had been put on the land called Couchiching. This is a common practice of all colonial governments striving for takeover and control. They take the places that are central to the indigenous peoples--especially sacred places--and put their colonial institutions right on top of them. Couchiching of the Anishnaabek, the meeting of the waters, where the land narrows, became known by the settler-colonials as Pither's Point, which it is called today by many who do not know that it is in fact called Couchiching.
Couchiching was christened Pither's Point to place a new history on an old land--no, more than that: to place a new history on an old land whose original meanings and peoples had to be discredited and dispossessed for that new history to become predominant, to be made superior. Couchiching was where the fledgling Canadian government administered the Indian Act through its representative, the Indian Agent, who during the time of colonial expansion, land grab, the "civilizing mission," and the making of Treaties, was Pithers.
Pithers, who had once been employed by the Hudson's Bay Co., became involved with colonial government administration through the making of Treaties, upon which he was then appointed Indian Agent for Fort Frances. After him, came a guy named John P. Wright, who was the Indian Agent who, along with another multi-tasking colonial patriarch, McKenzie, worked hard to transform the Indian agency site on Pither's Point into a park for the settler-colonials of the town of Fort Frances. Indeed, the town, which had been at some point called St. Francis and Fort St. Pierre before that, and which was built beside the Hudson's Bay Company fort, was built on land that was, and is, of course, a spiritual meeting/dwelling place called Couchiching.
Old photo of previous Burial Mound at Couchiching when Indian Agent Pithers lived on this piece of land. (next post I will tell you where I found this photo)
Did Pithers and the settler-colonials know that this land was sacred, a place where multiple levels of existence convened, before they put their buildings on it and claimed ownership of it? Of course they did. There were a number of burial mounds at Couchiching, one of which was extant when Pithers built his house. He used it for his root cellar.