ROB NIXON, THE OLD WHITE TRAPPER
W. H. G. Kingston.
Volume 12 Number 1
This book, written over a hundred years ago, was the first novel set on the Canadian Prairies. A thoroughly implausible and racist book, its premise was that British civilization and Christianity would save Indians from destruction. According to the book, Indians slaughtered more buffalo than they could use and were making buffaloes extinct. As Dick Harrison points out in his modern introduction, "Kingston never explains how the thoughtless savages managed to hang on for the eighty or hundred centuries during which they waited for the English to arrive."
Other examples of racism include such comments as "Scalp without asking questions and leave for wolves, that's the true Injun way," "Crees. . .like the heathen Ojibways are always at war with the Sioux, and no opportunity is lost of taking each others' scalps," and "I won't describe him, because he was simply a redskin warrior in his war paint and feathers."
Kingston wrote over 170 books, mostly juvenile novels along the lines of Hardy Boy books. This book is probably more didactic, and I hope more unreadable, than most of his others as the characters are not in any way credible. The threadbare plot is that Rob Nixon, an English cabin boy, is a virtual slave on a British ship who escapes in Canada, and is then captured by heathens. Nixon adapts well, marries a native and all is well until he is rescued by a Christian Indian who shows him the folly of his ways.
The book can be used by researchers for determining attitudes and sources of myths, but its proper place is in archives and rare libraries. Living on a reserve, I find its reissue repugnant. That Kingston had not visited the Prairies is not surprising, considering the formula of such books. That we should honour such drivel by reprinting it mystifies me.
David Chadwick, Norway House H. S., Norway House, MB.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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