Fault Lines: Race and Gender in the Fur Trade Family of Alexander Ross.
You ask how I would like to go to Canada. I must tell you the plain truth for many reasons I would rather not. The first is how would an uneducated dark half breed look among the fair & accomplished ladies of that civilized country and society [?] (1)
Thus wrote Henrietta Ross Black to her brother James Ross, soon after her marriage in November of 1853. She, along with the rest of her brothers and sisters, had a typical genealogy for Red River, the first European-style settlement in what would become Western Canada: she was the daughter of an Indigenous mother and a Scottish father. Her evaluation of herself as some sort of uneducated native, though, did not align with the reality of her background. The brother Henrietta was writing to was studying at the University of Toronto. Her recent marriage was to John Black, a white, educated Presbyterian minister. Photographs depict her dressed in prim Victorian styles, and she was the daughter of Alexander Ross, an influential Red River citizen. With this background, why would she evaluate herself in such unfavourable terms? A reading of the Ross family's personal correspondence throughout the mid-19th century reveals a complex situation: functional family dynamics interlaced with deep insecurities and unspoken divides.
The backdrop to this state of affairs was Red River, a complicated, divided society. It was founded in 1812atthe confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers by a British philanthropist and Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) shareholder, Thomas Douglas, the 5th Earl of Selkirk. He was attempting to resettle displaced Scottish crofters and aid in the reorganization and streamlining of the HBC. The settlement was small and struggling, until retired employees of the HBC began to arrive with their families in 1822; these families represented a long-standing fur trade tradition of marriage between Indigenous women and European men. (2) Some of these settlers were French or Metis, usually affiliated with the former Northwest Company (NWC), and others, like the Rosses, were British, English-speaking Metis, former employees of the HBC. The settlement was governed by the HBC, but many Red River citizens traded furs and provisions outside of Company employment. Socially diverse, the community encompassed a variety of churches, languages, lifestyles, and political affiliations.
This atmosphere of unconformity was altered in the mid-19th century by a rising tide of discomfort about the diverse racial background of many of Red River's inhabitants. Women faced a particular challenge, since the arrival of white women in Rupert's Land after the 1820s cast an unfavourable light on women of mixed ancestry, whose race and education were perceived to be inferior. (3) The Ross women were not immune from this despite their high social standing. Their personal correspondence, then, represents one family's dealings with the legacy of mixed marriages in fur trade society.
The family of Alexander Ross was prominent in Red River. Alexander, an HBC employee, moved to Red River with his wife, Sarah, and their first five children in 1825, and would rapidly take a leading role in the politics and society of the settlement. Sarah, a woman of the Okanogan nation of modern-day Washington State, presided over their enormous and hospitable household of at least thirteen children. Their third son, James, attended the University of Toronto between 1853 and 1857. During this time, numerous letters passed between James and many of his family members, including his father Alexander, his elder brother William, his brother-in-law John Black, and two of his sisters, Henrietta and Jemima. Preserved in the Ross Family Papers collection at the Archives of Manitoba, the letters of James' sisters offer an invaluable glimpse of their viewpoint as upper-class women of mixed ancestry in Red River.
It must be emphasized, though, that these letters were carefully composed and were likely accessible to the entire family. This correspondence cannot be studied as a description of the concrete reality of their lives, but serves as an example of how women of Henrietta and Jemima's station consciously represented themselves in their letters to their brother, and perhaps, by extension, to the world. Also, the letters between the males of the Ross family far outweigh those that James' sisters sent him, and of this small portion, only two are authored by Henrietta. However, by using the male letters as background and thoroughly interrogating the female letters, it is possible to analyze the reasoning behind Jemima and Henrietta's self-representation, and create a picture of how the Ross women, as upper-class females of mixed ancestry, mentally mapped their place in the world.
In their letters, Henrietta and Jemima's identity in relation to their ancestry is a continually unsolved issue. Their references to race, inconsistently ranging from casual to anxious, indicate that they had a conflicted view of their ancestry, which was exacerbated by insecurities related to society, education, and gender. Although their gendered family relationships are presented as healthy, they avoid the subject of their mother. Overall, the letters avoid the subject of race, and this avoidance suggests that these prominent Red River women saw their ancestry as a problem.
Theory, Methods, and Historiography
Since this article is focussed on letters, its methodology deals, of necessity, with the study of language and self-presentation. The concept of the 'linguistic turn,' introduced to historical circles in the 1980s, is described by J. E. Toews as encapsulating a new view of language "as the dense, fertile and autonomous site in and through which the objective reality of the world as well as the subjective reality of language users was actively produced or constructed." (4) Essentially, historians cannot count on letter-writers to consistently represent one objective reality. Rebecca Earle, Carolyn Steedman, and Ruth Perry offer some insights into the mechanics of analyzing letters. Earle discusses "a concern to read...correspondences both as texts, and as concrete historical artefacts strongly rooted in particular contexts." (5) This balance is required when reading the Ross letters: they must be seen as texts rather than uncomplicated doorways to the heart of the family; yet they are products of a physical place and time. The authors and intended recipients of the letters would have created and read the letters as authentic descriptions of their lives.
However, there was certainly some mindfulness in the creation of the letters. For one, Earle points out that it is erroneous to view letters as entirely private: "Prior to being posted, a familiar letter might be passed around among family members", a practice that the Ross family definitely followed. (6) Also, Steedman highlights some specifically female aspects of letter construction: letters were "an important means of communication with the world, at a time when 'women led rather cloistered lives.'" (7) Here, she is quoting Perry, who in turn points out that historical women's correspondence was "the perfect vehicle for women's highly developed art of pleasing, for in writing letters it is possible to tailor a self on paper to suit the expectations and desires of the audience." (8) The letters dealt with here are all written by two of the Ross sisters, Henrietta and Jemima, to their brother James, with their family looking over their shoulders. Factors of privacy and gender, then, make the Ross letters self-conscious, and the question therefore is: how did these women present themselves?
The historiography of Red River and fur trade society is wide-ranging and argumentative, and provides background for an analysis of the Ross correspondence. Jennifer Brown and John Elgin Foster highlight the force that company affiliation and individual choice exerted on fur trade families; in our case, the Ross lifestyle reflected the structured British ideals of the HBC, but the personal choices of their father played an equally large role in the cohesion of the family. The Ross case also supports Brown's argument that HBC officers who took an interest in their children's lives often wanted their children to be regarded as white. (9) Regarding women in Red River, Sylvia Van Kirk's 1980 book, "Many Tender Ties": Women in Fur-Trade Society in Western Canada, 1670-1870, argues that fur trade society Saw a gradual transition from country marriages and a strong role for Indigenous women to higher value being placed on European standards of marriage, education, and female deportment. (10) Additionally, Heather Driscoll points out that in the 19th century, white wives became a status symbol for HBC officers." The Ross women lived amid this social transition. A major event defining mid-19th century Red River society, described in Sharron A. FitzGerald's article "Hybrid identities in Canada's Red River Colony," was the 1849 Foss v. Telly civil suit. Here, supporters of Sarah Ballenden, an English-speaking Metis woman, sued other community members for spreading rumors that she was being unfaithful to her husband, the Chief Factor of the colony. (12) Although Ballenden's side won, the case was framed in terms of
white respectability versus Indigenous immorality, and highlights the increasingly precarious situation women of mixed ancestry found themselves in.
Discussions on specific fur trade families appear in works by J.M Bumsted and Wendy Owen, Adele Perry, and Jennifer Brown. Bumsted and Owen compare the correspondence of the Jarvises, PEI gentry, with that of the Rosses, and conclude that the upper classes of Red River submitted to the binaries and values of wider Victorian society. (13) Perry's Colonial Relations uses the example of a prominent fur trade couple, James Douglas and Amelia Connolly Douglas, to examine the increasing instability fur trade families faced in the 1820s and '30s. Although settler society upset the former ways of the fur trade elite, their marriages and family ties persisted into the settlement era. These families comprised complicated racial performances and entanglements, and categories of race were at once powerful, malleable, and local. The Connolly-Douglas family used legal marriage as a tool of respectability, and staunchly held British, imperial, 19th-century ideals. (14)
Meanwhile, Jennifer Brown's essay utilizes the tool of controlled speculation to expand what the limited sources on Charlotte Small, wife of David Thompson, tell about her family background, upbringing, and marriage. In Brown's view, with cautious and thorough use of primary sources, speculation is acceptable in order to deal with history. (15) In the case of the Rosses, some speculation will be useful, since the letters of the Ross women are limited in number and are self-consciously constructed documents. By drawing on the letters written by the Ross men and considering Ross attitudes towards subjects which may not, on the surface, seem connected to weighty subjects of gender, family, and race, it will be possible to construct a more complete analysis.
Two articles specifically deal with the identity and psychology of the Ross children: '"What if Mama is an Indian?' The Cultural Ambivalence of the Alexander Ross Family" by Van Kirk and "The Myth of Metis Cultural Ambivalence" by Brenda Macdougall. Van Kirk suggests the Ross children were driven to assimilate to white culture and had an ambivalent view of their heritage. The psychological distress this caused them contributed to poor health and youthful death, most notably James' demise soon after the Riel Resistance. (16) On the other hand, Macdougall argues that an obsessive academic focus on race is ineffective. She writes that "in the field of Metis Studies, Canadian scholars...have been overly and unproductively preoccupied with race at the expense of culture..." (17) The social-historical Holy Trinity of race, class, and gender, she argues, is irrelevant on the colonial frontier as kinship, place, and economy are more pertinent in a Metis context. (18)
In my reading of the Ross letters, it appears the self-presentation of the Ross women lies somewhere in between the arguments of Van Kirk and Macdougall. Macdougall creates an excellent argument that Metis society was not littered with young adults suffering identity crises but fails to address passages of the Ross letters, which express clear ambivalence about their ancestry. Her case studies of Metis people whose identity was founded on family and local economy are fascinating, but rely on lower-class examples with strong kin and economic connections, neither of which the Ross women had. (19) Although the Ross women held a relatively secure niche in Red River's English-speaking Metis upper class, rejection of Indigeneity sat in the core of this culture, and must be considered when analysing their self-presentation.
Alexander Ross and his Family
Born in Scotland in 1783, Alexander Ross spent six years as a schoolmaster in Upper and Lower Canada before becoming a clerk with the Pacific Fur Company (PFC) in 1810. Moving onto serve the NWC and the HBC in turn, he eventually moved his family to Red River in 1825. Over the next thirty years, Alexander was involved in free trading and was appointed to Red River's government, the Council of Assiniboia, and as magistrate, sheriff, and governor of the jail. He eventually resigned all these positions due to unreasonable HBC politics. His main preoccupation was to bring a Presbyterian Church to the settlement, a goal achieved in 1851. Alexander's last works were three books documenting his experiences in the Pacific fur trade and the history of the Red River settlement. He died in 1856. (20)
In one of his documents, Alexander described Okanogan women as having "an engaging sweetness, are good house-wives, modest...affectionate and chaste." (21) Alexander likely knew only one Okanogan woman closely: this can be seen as a personality sketch for his wife, Sarah, considered in family tradition to be an 'Okanogan princess'. Since Alexander was a clerk, rather than a labourer, it can be assumed that whether she was really a princess or not, Sarah came from a relatively prestigious family in her area and the marriage was arranged to create trade connections. She was courageous and resourceful: when they moved to Red River, Alexander went ahead, and Sarah made the year-long journey from Washington alone with four or five children in tow. Alexander and Sarah were legally married in Red River in 1828. Sarah bore at least thirteen children and raised most of them to adulthood at Colony Gardens, the family residence Alexander built. (22) She was a devout Christian and well-loved in the community. Alexander's books of fur trade history contain tribal information Sarah likely told him and comments on the charms of a fur trade wife. This, along with their brood of children and long-lasting marriage indicates deep affection between them. Sarah died in 1884. (23)
Alexander and Sarah's three sons had varying career paths. William, the oldest, served Red River as sheriff, governor of the jail, councillor of Assiniboia, petty judge, auditor of public accounts, and postmaster. He died young and suddenly in 1856. (24) His younger brother, James, earned a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto between 1853 and 1857. He then returned to Red River with his bride, Margaret Smith, the daughter of a well-heeled Scottish Presbyterian family. The racial dynamics of this marriage, a man of mixed ancestry marrying a white woman, were nearly unheard of and say something about the exceptional impression James must have made on Toronto society. Over the next decade and a half, James was involved in journalism and law both in Red River and Toronto. During the Riel Resistance of 1869, he cooperated with Riel, mediated between French and English representatives, and was named chief justice for Riel's government. Unfortunately, this made him the enemy of Red River citizens who wanted to ally with Canada. In 1871, overstressed and drinking heavily, James died. (25) The youngest brother, Sandy, appears to have been a black sheep: he fathered a child out of wedlock in 1861, and James' letters to his mother throughout the 1860s express concerns that Sandy was extravagant with money and alcohol. (26) This could have been the case; however, given James' tendency to overachieve, we might assume Sandy was merely average rather than exceptional, and lived a relatively productive life.
Most of the information we have on the six Ross daughters concerns their marriages. Four of them married white men, something that immediately speaks to the family's values and status in the community. Margaret married a Scot, Hugh Matheson of Kildonan, while Isabella first married William Gunn, a local, and then married James Green, a white American trader, after Gunn's death. Mary married George Flett, known in the family as 'Jordy,' a man of mixed ancestry who assisted Presbyterian missionaries in the 1860s. (27) Henrietta married John Black, the Scottish Presbyterian minister who arrived in the settlement in 1851, Sarah married James Cunningham, referred to as Metis on government documents, and Jemima married William Coldwell, a Toronto journalist who partnered with James in a newspaper venture. (28) Margaret, Isabella, Mary, Sarah, and Henrietta settled in Red River, enjoying a prosperous life with their husbands. Jemima and Coldwell, along with Sandy and his wife Catherine, moved with James to Toronto in the 1860s. However, James eventually was too homesick to stay away from Red River and Sandy and Catherine did not last a year. Jemima died in Toronto in 1867. (29)
This article deals with letters written between 1850 and 1870. The bulk of the letters are written when James was at university, full of energy and ideas for his career plan of becoming a minister. Henrietta had just married Mr. Black and Jemima was a teenager, helping with housework and staying with the Blacks from time to time. Henrietta's letters portray a serious and earnest young woman, while Jemima's mature over time from hilariously unfocussed ramblings in 1854 to a more serious tone after Alexander's death. (30) William lived next door with his wife and four small children, while the older daughters were comfortable and happy with their respective husbands. 'Papa' and 'Mama' were busy with their household and farm, although they missed the times when their children were closer. Alexander's letters contain advice on James' behaviour, writing skills, and financial management. The entire family writes news of family activities, church, community doings, marriages, and business. Heartache arrived in full force in 1856 when both William and Alexander died. The letters after this often have a more melancholy tone; as well, there are fewer of them, since William, Alexander, and James wrote back and forth prolifically. These are the letters to be dealt with, and we will find that social and racial dynamics weave a thread of stress through what was otherwise a relatively prosperous family.
In order to facilitate analysis of the Ross family communications, some ground rules are necessary. First, the Ross family members who appear in the correspondence will be referred to by the names most often used in the letters: Jemima, Henrietta, James, William, Sandy, Isabella, Mary, Sally, Mr. Black, Jordy, and Mr. Coldwell. The exceptions are Alexander and Sarah. They are usually called 'Papa' and 'Mama,' but since these nicknames mask their individuality they will be referred to by their first names. Second, it will be necessary to comb the Ross males' letters for information on race, gender, and family in order to provide background for the female missives. As well, the Ross women oriented their lives around their menfolk, so the males' letters can help us make sense of the female ones. Third, it should be noted at the outset that the Ross children clearly did not identify with the Indigenous portion of their heritage. 'Indians' are treated politely, without animosity, but also without any trace of friendliness or family feeling. This is significant, since the Ross children's mother was Okanogan and this anomaly is seldom confronted directly.
Indeed, race is seldom directly commented on in the letters. This might seem to support Macdougall's argument that race was extraneous to a Metis identity, however, the Ross letters indicate otherwise.-" The Ross women do not exude a deathly sense of trauma, but their few mentions of race indicate perpetual tension circulating around the subject. There are three foci of evidence for this: explicit discussions of race, which run an unexpected continuum between lightness and strain, contrastingly standard discussions of gender and family, and overall avoidance of the issue. Subjects of colour, society, education, and gender complicate the matter. Furthermore, Henrietta and Jemima had a disproportionate sense of inferiority, while their brothers were provided with more tools to overcome their sense of insecurity.
The letters written by the Ross men are a backdrop for the self-presentation of the women; so the tension they demonstrate bears attention. James did joke in his letters to his mother, written in the 1860s, that his youngest son's dark complexion made him look "a real half-bred." (32) The tone of these comments appears light hearted; less so is James' most famous letter, written to his sisters after Alexander died: "What if mama is an Indian! Does that detract from her rights and claims as a mother? Does that free us from the duty of loving, obeying, & respecting her? Nothing of the kind." (33) This tells us that James had some unease about Sarah's background and abilities as a mother. However, his conclusion firmly places Sarah in the place of revered matriarch, with no room for argument. This attitude reflects Alexander's career choices, as he took Sarah to Red River to marry her rather than abandoning her in Washington.
This is not to say, though, that the Ross men did not recognize race in a negative sense. James' last letter to his father, Alexander, in October of 1856 was an explosion of tension. When James received news of William's death in early summer of 1856, he suggested that Alexander might need him in Red River. (34) Alexander brusquely wrote back that the family would carry on as best they could and James had to be guided by duty over feeling. (35) James responded heatedly, informing his father, he had been considering long-term plans and had no intention of giving up his studies. He then connected Alexander's implications that he might quit to Alexander's view of the 'half-breeds':
Don't fear, papa, that I'll 'give up' (as the phrase is) No, never. I have read your book 'Fur Hunters &c' and I know from the closing portion of it your ideas of us Halfbreeds. You think us fickle--fond of change--destitute of steady purpose--and perhaps you think I am just beginning to show symptoms of the truth of your views; but no fear! I tell you most emphatically that I mean to go through.... (36)
This passionate response was likely due to Alexander's lengthy and critical opinions of Red River's mixed-race population in his recently published books: The Red River Settlement: its rise, progress, mid present state: with some account of the native races and its general history, to the present day, and The Fur Hunters of the Far West. In The Red River Settlement, Alexander's recounting of the history of the 'half-breed' population in Red River included this judgement: "They are, unhappily, as unsteady as the wind in all their habits, fickle in their dispositions, credulous in their faith, and clannish in their affections. In a word, of all people they are the easiest led astray and made the dupes of designing men." (37) The Fur Hunters stated that 'half-breeds' "form a composition of all the bad qualities of both" whites and Indians. (38)
James simultaneously agreed with these criticisms and took them personally: "I think some of your statements about H Breeds unnecessarily severe even if true." (39) His assumption that Alexander thought him inferior was likely an overreaction. Alexander's description of the lifestyle of the 'half-breeds' he was criticizing indicates that his scorn was reserved for a lower-class, nomadic mixed-race population. Not only did the lifestyle that Alexander disapproved of bear no resemblance whatsoever to James' ambitions, Alexander's letters to James never reference race. The sheer volume of trusting and encouraging letters which passed between James and Alexander cannot indicate habitual hostility. Unfortunately, Alexander's response to James' outburst is impossible to know. He would die on October 23, 1856, a scant five days after James wrote the letter.
This exchange indicates that although they do not mention race often--the examples from James noted above are the only times the Ross males deal with the subject--the Ross sons bore deep insecurities about their racial background. A letter from William written early in James' university career demonstrated anxiety about character: "[men] can do very well when the breeze is in their favor, but they are cowed by the storm... Let it be your first study to teach the world that you are not wood and straw--Some iron in you. Let men know that what you say you will do..." (40) This advice echoes James' fears of two years later, signifying that even as they rarely mentioned it, the Ross sons were driven to build reputations of integrity. It seems logical to extend this to the women. If James with his degree, and William, holder of many community offices, were insecure, their sisters, dependent women in a society, which was already condemning Indigeneity must have suffered, even more.
The exchange between James and Alexander also raises questions about Alexander's role in the self-presentation of his children: is this sort of tension evidence that the Ross children were pushed by their father to assimilate into British culture? An Kirk argues that this was the case, citing a statement from Alexander that he retired to Red River specifically to give his family a "Christian education." (41) The respectable marriages of the Ross women, often to white men, are in Van Kirk's view evidence of this agenda. Macdougall disagrees, opining that "What Van Kirk regarded as an assimilationist agenda of a father erasing the stigma of his children's Indian-ness can instead be viewed as the efforts of a politically well-connected, well-educated, socially prominent man to ensure that his children had the best opportunities in life." (42) Is there a difference between these arguments? It certainly seems misguided to view Alexander as a conniving colonialist, moulding his children into little white pawns, but it is equally short-sighted to overlook the fact that in this time, to be successful was to be British. If this was not the case, what could be the source of the tension in James' last letter to his father, inflamed by Alexander's unbelievably tactless writing?
It seems, therefore, that the Ross children felt pressure from their father to be considered white, whether or not this was real or imagined. Jemima and Henrietta also indicate stress over their background, although their descriptions of their race run a continuum from light hearted to serious. For instance, Jemima used community gossip about their family a year after Henrietta's marriage as an opportunity to entertain James:
...Stevenson says that Mr. Ross has got a brother in law (Mr. Black) and I wonder when he goes into the pulpit to preach he is not ashamed to see his relatives. There in one corner white head Mr. Ross and Mrs. ...and his black Brother in law William, but that is not all. Mrs. Tailors mother says that Hen has just gone down there to finish (?) the head of the Indians because that the Frog Plain was always noted for its Indians. And now she is going to gather them all around and give them a cup of tea now and then with herself ha ha but you must not think that we are really so, we are great and brave and perhaps say something too, but this is all sport--to the black and white Rosses. (43)
This quote requires some unpacking. Firstly, it drives home the fact that in the Ross letters, we see no mention whatever of Indigenous affinity--the "Indians" are just a notable feature of Frog Plain. Next, when Jemima says "I wonder", we must assume that, since she closes the statement about the makeup of the congregation with the phrase "that is not all" and goes on to quote Mrs. Tailor's mother, she quotes Stevenson rather than sharing a personal opinion on the question as to whether Mr. Black is ashamed of his in-laws. We also see community rumours that Henrietta was consorting with Indians. Jemima's opinion appears at the close. Her statement that "this is all sport" seems to indicate that in her mind it was important to hear rumours with bravery and speak up for oneself; yet it was also acceptable to get a bit of humour out of the idea of Henrietta having tea with Indians as well as the play on words when speaking of white Mr. Black and his black and white in-laws. Van Kirk argues that "Jemima was wounded" by the gossip, but this does not explicitly appear in the letter. (44) Jemima presented herself as unconcerned, using the rumours as a chance to amuse her brother and assure him that his family was behaving in a dignified fashion.
Henrietta, at least immediately after her marriage in a letter written in late 1853 or early 1854, was not so relaxed on the issue. This letter can be considered the counterpart to James' outburst of October 1856, but unlike her brother, Henrietta described herself in inferior terms rather than fighting to prove her watchers wrong. She wrote to James:
You ask how I would like to go to Canada. I must tell you the plain truth for many reasons I would rather not. The first is how would an uneducated dark half breed look among the fair & accomplished ladies of that civilized country and society as being the wife of so distinguished a man as Mr. Black (?) How can how could I act the part which becomes the wife of such a man having never seen anything like civilized life. Ah my dear James if it was not for this one great reason, of course there (are) some others but this one especially I would be happy to comparatively happy to go any where with Mr. Black, but if Mr. Black goes you may depend I'll not stay behind...." (45)
This is the most explicit statement the Ross women provide about their mixed ancestry, and it is striking how self-conscious it is. It was obviously a painful issue for Henrietta, since she cites it, rather than family connection, as her main reason for wishing to stay in Red River. Her self-presentation is wrenchingly negative, but analysing this quotation reveals a hornet's nest of connected sources of insecurity, which all appear in the letters of the Ross women: colour, society, education, and gender.
To begin with colour, Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks' book Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian analysis of race argues that all ideas of race are formulated in relation to a master signifier, Whiteness:
By Whiteness, I refer to a master signifier (without a signified) that establishes a structure of relations, a signifying chain that through a process of inclusions and exclusions constitutes a pattern for organizing human difference....The system of race as differences among black, brown, red, yellow, and white makes sense only in its unconscious reference to Whiteness, which subtends the binary opposition between "people of color" and "white." (46)
Whiteness therefore "installs itself as the irreducible element in the organization of human difference and diversity." (47) By identifying Whiteness as the unseen pivot of the Ross racial discourse, their discomfort becomes explicable. James and Henrietta's intense references to race appear only when they feel they have been unfavourably compared to the Whiteness standard.
Seshadri-Crooks' work also explains Jemima's comparative indifference to race: "race in all its operational force here emerges...in the moment when some anxious boundary of inclusion and exclusion (perhaps rationalizable as nation, ethnicity, caste, class, etc.) breaks down or becomes particularly vexed." (48) Here, then, is a direct catalyst for Henrietta's outburst. Married to Mr. Black and faced with the prospect of moving away from Red River, she found familiar boundaries shifting as she, a 'half-breed', joined her life with a distinguished White man and would possibly have to socialize with White women. On the other hand, at the time of her letter writing Jemima was still a minor and safely ensconced in Red River. Although the case of Sarah Ballenden and, as we will see, of Henrietta's engagement unearthed racism towards women of mixed ancestry in Red River, it was still normal for people with Indigenous background to hold a comfortable status. Jemima's opinion of the community jokes about the Rosses was therefore relatively casual; likewise, William's writing reflects the fact that he held multiple community offices and faced no threat to his position. (49)
Beyond race, Henrietta's statement of inferiority suggests intense concern about her place in society. The Rosses were all fixated on respectability and status; for example, James' letter of Christmas Eve 1856, after Alexander died included the following exhortation:
Owing to papa & to William--& to our connection with our worthy minister Mr. Black--I say, owing to these things, we have a certain standing and respectability, and we must keep it....We will be held in esteem for papa's sake--& we must show ourselves worthy of that esteem by our own doings. It seems generally the case that halfbreed families dwindle into insignificance as soon as they lose their head. (50)
James' fears of obscurity were well founded; in her article "Fur Trade as Centrifuge," Jennifer Brown describes instances in the fur trade in which children whose white fathers were present in the area were considered whiter than children whose white fathers had retired from the fur trade. (51) Death, we can assume, would have a similar effect. The Ross children probably had no status from their mother's side, either. Maternal kin networks were integral to Metis society, but Sarah's homeland was west of the Rocky Mountains; it seems highly unlikely that she had any connections in Red River. (52) Furthermore, the Rosses were self-conscious about their connection to the Presbyterian minister Mr. Black, one of the most educated and respectable members of the community. For instance, Alexander suggested to James in August 1854 that when writing to Mr. Black, '"My dear Mr. B.' would be preferable to 'my [dear] John." (55) This contrasts with references to Mary's husband, George Flett, who had mixed ancestry and is always lovingly but casually referred to as 'Jordy' in the letters. (54) This general attitude makes it obvious why Henrietta was, as she put it, unsure of her fitness for "so distinguished a man as Mr. Black." (55)
To make matters worse, Henrietta's engagement to Mr. Black sparked vicious scandal, likely due to her supposedly inferior racial background. On 4 November 1853, William wrote to James that "I have not seen J. Gunn for the last [four months] you may be surprised--a little difference between us--not on my part but his--cause--He wrote a most shameful and disgraceful letter to 'Hen' a letter that would have made your blood curdle only to read it...." (56) On 31 January of the next year, after the marriage had taken place, William gave a fuller account of events: "[The Gunn family] first began to abuse Mr. Black right and left but they found that would not take so well in the public mind, as they could have wished--they then turned at Hen. And then at every member of the family--not excepting you...." (57) Having read this, Henrietta's discomfort at the idea of moving to Canada is understandable. Not only had comfortable racial boundaries shifted through her marriage, her neighbours had attacked her and her loved ones. The combination of racial self-consciousness and societal pressure makes her inferior presentation of herself explicable.
Whiteness and society, though, were not the only damning portions of the female Ross self-presentation: Henrietta explicitly mentioned education, stating that she did not consider herself an accomplished lady familiar with civilized life. (5S) We see what might have been her standard of comparison in a letter William wrote to James in February 1855, describing the Ballenden girls, who were about Jemima's age and apparently visited Henrietta regularly:
Mr. Ballenden's daughters are, so far as we Red Riverians can judge perfectly accomplished ladies--they can play elegantly on the Harp, guitar, piano, they sing melodiously...they can dance and waltz like lovely [?] English dames, and I guess they can play the coquette too if that be any part of ornamental education--to tell the truth they are very nice girls...in their promenades up and down they often call at Mr. Black's.... (59)
In this description, presumably passed along so James could keep track of the marriageable material in Red River, we see little to compare with the Ross girls. The year before, Jemima's letters included references to endless cooking for harvest labourers, to the point that she did not have time to go berry picking, as well as being left in charge of the house when Henrietta was away. (60) There are no references to accomplished music making: instead, in the same letter that describes harvest, she noted that "I sent...for an accordion that cost one pound and after all it was of no use because it could not play a single tune." (61) Although she did not dwell on it, Jemima did not even attempt to present herself as an accomplished lady.
As for dancing, the women do not discuss it, although William mentioned to James early in 1856 that the opening of the Presbyterian Church had curbed drinking and dancing in the community. (62) On 12 March 1858, Jemima wrote to Sandy with a description of a temperance meeting, which she may have helped organize: "we had a Temperance feast and a lecture before it...." (63) Women related to Presbyterian pillars like Alexander Ross and John Black were certainly required to avoid dancing and alcohol, and it also seems unlikely that Henrietta or Jemima were trained to 'play the coquette'. When writing to his father about his belief in God's providential care upon their family, James used Henrietta as an example: "[W]hy was Henrietta's marriage so long protracted? Was it not that God saw fit to give her as partner to Mr. Black?" (64) Henrietta was only about twenty-three when she married, as was Jemima, but if that was considered a long protraction in Red River, it is evidence that the Ross girls were not trained in flirtation or accomplishments, which would make them stylish marriage material.
Instead, the Ross family received practical education. Jemima and Sandy stayed with the Blacks after Henrietta's marriage to further their education, and even the new Mrs. Black was studying: "I am not getting on very well with my studies I am very indolent...but I must be more diligent for the future." (63) When lecturing his sisters on their duty to care for their mother after Alexander's death, James compared Sarah to an unfavourably portrayed 'lady' who bore some resemblance to the Ballenden girls:
Does a certain amount of reading and writing-skill in saying "Good morning" and "please take a seat"--some knowledging of dressing & promenading--some glib of the tongue--Do these make the mother all that she ought to be?... Better far give me my mama with her Christian meekness--her kind affection--her motherly heart--than the cold-hearted so-called lady--who prides herself, it may be, in her fine shape--her clever but foolish jesting--her superficials...of writing &hair brushing and gait and posture!...I admire education & accomplishments...but these are not in my estimation the first requisites of a good mother. (66)
If this was the Ross family ethos, it is certain that Henrietta and Jemima did not enjoy an education, which focussed on refined and frivolous deportment. Instead, Henrietta makes special mention of her studies, indicating that she wanted to appear as a serious-minded and learned minister's wife. Sensible education and praise for Christian meekness, though, would be small consolation for Henrietta when faced with real contempt from her community and imagined exclusion from the ladies of Canada who, she probably envisioned, were exponentially more accomplished than the Ballendens. Her unflattering presentation of herself, therefore, partially stemmed from perceived educational inferiority.
A final element of the female Ross discussion of race is an unfavourable intersection with gender. In the summer of 1854, the family received a portrait of James. Jemima described it as such: "your serious face told at once you are busy studying and your face side ways seemed as if you did not want to look at us in case you would laugh out, how fine and rosy you look beside us yellow skins..." (67) Alexander, on the other hand, brusquely referenced the portrait as "welcome" and "good likeness." (68) In a further contrast, James wrote to Alexander that "You must have found me look very priest like, with my cloak and cap." (69) The portrait, then, was a significant family event, but only Jemima made reference to complexion. Her comment echoed Henrietta's description of herself as dark, yet "yellow" and "dark" are never descriptors the men place on themselves.
It appears, then, that in the Ross family the women viewed themselves as being insufficiently white in comparison to the men. This is possibly due to differing, gendered opportunities. William, James, and Sandy had opportunities to follow in Alexander's footsteps, but the only role model Jemima and Henrietta had to emulate was their mother, an Indigenous women who was behind her daughters in education. Furthermore, compared to other Red River socialites, Henrietta and Jemima had a greater proportion of native ancestry, since their mother was entirely Indigenous. By contrast, the accomplished Ballenden girls had a vaguer mixed-race pedigree; their grandmother is described by a contemporary source as "an Indian woman of the half breed Caste." (70) This contrast likely played a role in Henrietta's evaluation of herself as 'dark.' Seshadri-Crooks points out that race must be believed in to be seen: "I suggest that it is the symbolic order of racial difference itself that governs seeing, rather than the reverse." (71) The 'symbolic order' of Indigenous qualities being lesser to white would, certainly, have compounded the Ross daughters' view that they were inferior in both their family and society.
Gender and Family
The obstacle of Sarah's Indigeneity and educational inadequacy complicates the Ross discussions of gender and family. Jemima and Henrietta write of their family as a contented whole, headed up by wise and benevolent males, the women entirely subordinate. There is one hiccup in this rosy picture, however: in Jemima and Henrietta's letters, their mother is almost entirely omitted. This supports the idea that race was a difficult subject for the Ross daughters. First, their writing on gender and family does not contain the emotion sparked by their discussions on race, and second, the only glitch in their descriptions of gender and family involves their mother. This anomaly is explicable through societal and educational factors, but also hints at race. As much as Henrietta and Jemima cared for their mother, she represented the social threats they faced. James could speak openly of his mother in his letters, since he was in the process of proving himself as a white man, while Henrietta and Jemima were safer to leave Sarah out of the picture.
The Ross women's discussion of gender is limited, subordinating, and strongly connected to family. As has been mentioned, Jemima described herself and the other Ross women as less white than James. (72) There are few other references to specifically gendered roles: in January 1854, soon after her marriage, Henrietta described her relationship to Mr. Black in sentimental prose, informing James that"...I shall...endeavour to be what you wish me to be 'a faithful and devoted wife.'" (73) This statement has two aspects. First, Henrietta aspired to follow James' wishes for her conduct; second, she intended to become a subservient companion for her husband. Later, in August 1854, Jemima described her summer with an air of weariness--"I write to tell you that I have no time to write, with Hay and harvest all are busy and I am no less busy baking and cooking for those out of doors"--but took her household role as a matter of course. (74) These lines indicate that as women, Henrietta and Jemima placed themselves in the position of family supports rather than individual agents.
Henrietta and Jemima's description of the men in their lives further demonstrates that they conceptualized little room for women's agency. Men were the centre of their family consciousness. After Alexander's death, Jemima wrote to James that "We all feel like sheep without a shepherd we cannot guide ourselves...." (75) Henrietta referred to Mr. Black in the aforementioned honeymoon letter as "the kindest, gentlest, most loving and best of husbands." (76) The sisters offered a similar level of respect to their younger brothers. Soon after her marriage, Henrietta asked James, who was five years, her junior, to instruct her about the duties of a minister's wife. (77) Similarly, when writing Sandy in March 1858 when he was about fifteen years old, Jemima commented that she could hardly understand his last "noble" letter because of his discussion of politics. (78) All these references explicitly state or strongly imply that the Ross women saw the men in their family as worldly, insightful, and central to the home. This image places females in the background with substandard education and understanding of the world, their discussion of gender entirely bounded by their relationships with men.
By and large, the Ross family comes across as contented and loving in their writing. The letters continually pass on family news: obviously, family was the pivot point for much of the Ross consciousness. (79) The writing becomes gendered in the Ross children's writings about their parents, however, indicating that the Ross daughters related to their father and the question of their mother's race differently than their brothers did. Regarding Alexander's relationship with his children, his daughters expressed themselves as beloved children rather than equals. In the summer of 1854, Alexander made an attempt to cut back on smoking by taking a pipe only at meals, whereupon he took to invading the kitchen to ensure dinner was precisely on time. Jemima gleefully recounted this to James, saying that "...it looks very funny, many a time we laugh too to think that [he] is so careful of the times and the seasons." (80) By comparison, when William mentioned the same subject to James, it was in reference to their father's mood: "Papa is quite well, tho' during the summer he was not so cheerful as he used to be I can't say for why--he gave up smoking except at meals, perhaps that made him rather dull, he is beginning to revive again..." (81) James does reiterate Jemima's smoking story to Alexander in a later letter, creating the impression of an affectionate and teasing family on all sides. (82) However, as seen in William's version and in James' other letters to his father, Alexander's sons generally viewed their father as an equal and discussed serious topics. We do not get the impression that this was the case between Alexander and his daughters.
The second gendered split in the Ross discussions of family occurs when their mother, Sarah, is concerned. The Ross men often expressed concern for Sarah's emotional health, but Henrietta never mentions her mother, and Jemima's references to Sarah are bounded by recounting domestic activities, such as jam making and berry picking. (83) Only one female letter depicts Sarah in a more human fashion. Writing to James in November 1854, Jemima mentioned "when Mama heard of your hard labour she went into her rooms and cried, and when she sees Mr. Black's arduous duties she often says 'Poor Jemmy...Life is too harsh a life for my Jemmy...."' (84) In this letter, Jemima also specifically asked James to give "above all a kind word or two to Mamma...", as well as reporting on her mother's health and passing on love to James. This letter is exceptional in the amount of concern Jemima included for Sarah; perhaps it was brought on by an uncharacteristic display of emotion on Sarah's part. (85)
By contrast, Alexander's letters regularly expressed concern for Sarah's health and emotional state, and usually sent love from Sarah to James. (86) About a year after James departed for Toronto, Alexander reprimanded him in a letter: "in your last letter you forgot to send your love to your mother--the last sentence you should write in all your letters; but I did not mention this omission to your mother." (87) James took this to heart. Rarely does a letter pass without a final sentence sending love to Sarah. In his letter sent directly after Alexander's death, James charged his sisters to respect their mother, since they were duty bound to care for her. (88) This emphasis, if shared by the sisters in reality, does not explicitly appear in their letters; they do not present themselves as being emotionally involved with their mother.
Another area of the female letters in which Sarah seems to be disregarded is the aforementioned tendency to consider Alexander the centre of the home, evident through the reminiscences of all the Ross children. Both William and James often wrote of "Good old times" when the entire family was together. (89) However, the women did not make these kinds of comments until after Alexander's death. At some point early in 1857, Jemima wrote forlornly of their first Christmas without Alexander: "everything looks sad and melancholy and that makes us...think of the bygone days that can never be recalled....We spent a very dull New Years and Christmas it passed away duller than any other day, for I was home mostly all the time alone." (90) In other words, Christmas without Alexander was hardly Christmas at all. Reminiscing about the past is common throughout the letters, but the fact that Jemima does not do so until after Alexander's death creates an impression of her mother as nearly unnecessary to the life of the family.
There are practical reasons for the omission of Sarah from her daughters' letters. First, Henrietta's failure to write about Sarah is likely because she did not live with Sarah at the time. Second, a father ruling the family was common in the 19th century; Bumsted and Owen point out that this is "typically Victorian," and "most middle and upper class Victorian fathers behaved similarly without the presence of an Indian wife." (91) Third, it is often stated in the letters that Sarah was suffering from ill health: the letters between November 1854 and December 1857 repeatedly state that Sarah was "not well." (92) It is possible that recurrent health problems as well as the grief, which arrived in 1856 with the loss of William and Alexander, relegated Sarah to a peripheral position in home affairs.
Additionally, the Ross girls faced a practical divide from their mother in matters of education. Sarah was illiterate, or nearly so. Recall, it was an easy matter in August 1854 for Alexander to conceal from Sarah that James had failed to send love, and James later requested his father to "Be sure to tell [Mama] all that I tell you." (93) Not until after Alexander's death did James write letters specifically to his mother. Sarah's children surpassed her in every way where education was concerned; Henrietta's studies did not even stop after her marriage. (94) Jemima and Henrietta therefore had perspective and knowledge of the world their mother could not share.
Ultimately, despite societal expectations, health, and educational difference, it is very unlikely that Henrietta and Jemima's relationship with their mother was anything but loving and respectful. Alexander scolded James for failing to send love to his mother; it is improbable he would have tolerated a climate of disrespect in his home. There is also an overwhelming impression that the Ross children were happiest at Colony Gardens, their mother's domain. When Jemima was a teenager, the family joked that threatening her with mending projects was the only way to get her to go stay with the Blacks, and after she moved to Toronto in the 1860s James mentioned multiple times that Jemima dearly missed Colony Gardens and Red River. (95) Seeing as Sarah was chatelaine of Colony Gardens despite her health mishaps, it seems impossible her daughters could have simultaneously loved their home and despised its matriarch.
These many practical explanations for the omission of Sarah from the female letters do not entirely do away with analytics of race. Jemima's letters do not represent those of an insolent daughter, but neither do they portray her as devoted to her mother. Given that we have seen underlying tension in the Ross children's attitudes towards their racial background, it is likely the Ross women experienced some discomfort about their mother's Indigeneity. James certainly felt that this was the case. After Alexander's death, he ordered his sisters to honour their mother, spurred by a perception of disrespect on the part of Jemima: "I observed on one Sabbath morning just as we were starting for church, that Jemima...seemed unwilling to go into the cart & ride down with mama. I could not say whether it was because she disliked the cart or why; but I felt grieved at it, because I thought it a slight on mama." (96) Whether James was overreacting or not, this incident reminds us that the respectable Ross girls had to deal with the fact that their mother was Indigenous. The educational gap between them is also connected to race: a white middle-class mother would likely have been literate, at least. Finally, it was easy for James to demand that his sisters easily associate with Sarah. He had a degree and prospects of marrying a white woman; they were attempting to retain status in a community, which had, in the past, ostracized Henrietta for marrying a white man. All this is to say the pure stigma of race strongly affected the Ross women, yet it was both compounded and sometimes even overshadowed by gender, education, and society.
Avoidance of Race
The tension dogging the Ross's self-presentation is evident in their inconsistent discussions of race and the equally inconsistent divide between the subjects of race, gender, and family. The final piece of the puzzle is avoidance: my analysis of race is drawn from a very limited number of written references. Except for Jemima's humorous comments and Henrietta's outburst, race is absent from the female letters. Caught between love and respect (however forced) for their mother, and British values, they avoided the subject. This was possible for three reasons. First, both Jemima and Henrietta were aware that Red River was a comparative backwater. When stating her reluctance to move away from Red River, Henrietta wrote "you know that people know so little about such things that I feel quite at my ease but it would be a different thing [in Canada]." (97) In other words, even though she viewed her education as substandard, Henrietta felt equipped to function in Red River and was not afraid to say so. The settlement had its social problems, but given the limitations placed on Jemima and Henrietta in terms of career and racial identity, they were willing to accept Red River's smallness for the safety it offered.
Second, religion smoothed over the Ross women's discomfort. The entire family saturated their letters with references to faith. A standard example is Jemima's method of closing a letter to James in 1854: '"Good Night' perhaps for evermore, For we do not know, but may God be your guide your Friend, all your life time and prepare you for an everlasting kingdom above there shall we all meet, if we trust in the Lord." (98) A material aspect of this familial religious emphasis was the family's involvement in the Presbyterian Church. Even Jemima's letter of June 1854 contained updates on the building of the church, demonstrating that even as a young woman, she was dedicated to church matters. (99) Although mostly unwritten, Sarah's religiosity is obvious. After the news reached them that James had successfully entered university, Mr. Black quoted Sarah in a letter to James: "Ah my poor boy: I did not forget my boy--I prayed [for] him all summer!" (100) Religion, then, was one thing Sarah's daughters could wholeheartedly honour their mother for, notwithstanding her lack of education, and this attribute moderated the friction that racial questions might introduce.
Third and last, the Ross women could avoid discussion of their racial inferiority because the men in their lives were careful of them materially and relationally. The descriptions of the houses Sarah, Henrietta, and Jemima presided over in their married life indicate that they were wives and mothers of men who ensured their comfort. (101) These husbands of status also cherished their wives. Our two voices, Henrietta and Jemima, are of particular interest since they both married educated white men who apparently had no qualms about their racial background. Mr. Black appears to have willingly taken on his in-laws as parents, referring to Sarah in his letters to James as "your good mother," but also as 'mama.' (102) In May 1854, he described his and Henrietta's wedded bliss to James:
It will be gratifying to you as Henrietta's brother to learn how happily we live together and how comfortable we feel ourselves--she is all as a wife that ever she was as a sister and you know well that that is saying much--my pen would run on to say a great deal on this subject, about our mutual fondness and all that.... (103)
This quotation indicates Black viewed his wife with respect as well as love. Furthermore, the entry for Rev. John Black in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography mentions that although he always longed to return to eastern Canada, he served in Red River until his death. (104) While religious duty likely played a role in this, part of Black's decision to stay was probably regard for Henrietta's welfare. Henrietta fully appreciated this, describing Black as "the kindest, gentlest, most loving and best of husbands, and although we loved each other much before our marriage, we love each other a thousand times more now...." (105)
This is a happy note on which to end a description of race fracturing the contentment of an entire family. The Ross women deeply cared for their mother, yet had been trained through their father's influence to consider European standards of education and society as central to their identities. Thus, race was a topic, which could not be consistently confronted: the letters contain both easy jests and tense outbursts on the subject. Discussions of gender and family, by contrast, are calm. Insofar as race was concerned, avoidance is the rule. Race was only directly broached in situations of extreme conflict and fear. As well, it was not an isolated issue, interacting with a sense of inferiority regarding society, education, and gender. As women, Henrietta and Jemima encountered specific difficulties. James and William feared rejection and failure but had not faced it at the time, while the sisters faced real scandal and genuine educational inferiority in comparison to their peers. They dealt with this by avoiding the issue entirely, to the extent that they nearly omitted their mother from their writing.
The historical work done up to this point on French Metis and English-speaking Metis has disagreed on how people of mixed ancestry developed their identities, and has suggested a need for case studies. (106) The Ross case supports the argument that HBC officers shaped their children's identity towards Whiteness, as Alexander's influence on his children created their values and their very ability to live in Red River and be writing letters in the first place. Henrietta and Jemima's insecurities also support Van Kirk's assertion that all women of mixed ancestry in Red River found themselves in an increasingly precarious social situation as the 19th century wore on; at the very least, they perceived themselves as such. The Ross daughters also lacked the kin networks and place in the nomadic economy which, as Macdougall describes, gave many lower-class Metis women security, a great deal of autonomy, and a sturdy hybrid identity. Instead, their status as upper-class Red River women required them to avoid their Indigenous background; ironically, the 'fur hunter' lifestyle Alexander Ross scorned might have given his children more security of self-presentation. Even when considering all this, however, the Ross avoidance of race in their letters indicates that they avoided it in life, living around their insecurity and creating a comfortable, productive existence. Jemima and Henrietta are simply a piece in the puzzle of Red River, surrounded by hundreds of other female lives, all with subtly different methods of presenting their lineage. The lived reality of people of mixed ancestry in the 19th century was perhaps more complex than can ever be imagined.
(1.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, undated, late 1853 or early 1854, Alexander Ross Family Papers, Archives of Manitoba, Microfilm 164.
(2.) Frits Pannekoek, A Snug Little Flock: The Social Origins of the Riel Resistance of 1869-70, Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer Publishing, 1991, p. 17.
(3.) Sylvia Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870, Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer Publishing Ltd., 1980, p. 216.
(4.) J.E. Toews, "Linguistic Turn and Discourse Analysis in History," in International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, ed. Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, Oxford: Elsevier Press, 2001, pp. 8916-8922.
(5.) Rebecca Earle, "Introduction," in Epistolary Selves: Letters and Letter-Writers, 1600-1945, ed. Rebecca Earle, Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999, PP.1-12.
(6.) Earle, "Introduction," pp. 6, 7; Alexander Ross to James Ross, 8 September 1856, Alexander Ross Family Papers, Archives of Manitoba, Microfilm 165.
(7.) Perry as quoted by Carolyn Steedman, "A woman writing a letter," in Epistolary Selves: Letters and Letter-Writers, 1600-1945, ed. Rebecca Earle, Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999, p. 121.
(8.) Ruth Perry, Women, Letters, and the Novel, New York: AMS Press, 1980, p. 69.
(9.) Jennifer Brown, Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980, pp. 33-50, 218, 219; John Elgin Foster, "The Country-Born in the Red River Settlement, 1820-1850," PhD dissertation, University of Alberta, 1973, pp. 12, 13, 130-139; Jennifer Brown, "Fur Trade as Centrifuge: Family Dispersal and Offspring Identity in Two Company Contexts," in North American Indian Anthropology, ed. Raymond J. Demaillie and Alfonso Ortiz, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994, pp. 197-220; John Elgin Foster, "Wintering, the Outsider Male and Ethnogenesis of the Western Plains Metis," in From Rupert's Laud to Canada, ed. Theodore Binnema etal., Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2001; Jennifer Brown, "Women as Centre and Symbol in the Emergence of Metis Communities," The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 3, no. 1 (1983), pp. 39-46.
(10.) Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties.
(11.) Heather Rollason Driscoll, '"A Most Important Chain of Connection': Marriage in the Hudson's Bay Company," in From Rupert's Land to Canada, ed. Theodore Binnema et al, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2001, pp. 81-107.
(12.) Sharron Fitzgerald, "Hybrid identities in Canada's Red River Colony," The Canadian Geographer 51, no. 2 (2007), p. 192.
(13.) J. M. Bumsted and Wendy Owen, "The Victorian Family in Canada in Historical Perspective: The Ross Family of Red River and the Jarvis Family of Prince Edward Island," Manitoba History 13 (Spring 1987): http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/mb_history/13/victorianfamily.shtml.
(14.) Adele Perry, Colonial Relations: The Douglas-Connolly Family and the Nineteenth-Century Imperial World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp. 75-179.
(15.) Jennifer Brown, '"Mrs. Thompson was a Model Housewife": Finding Charlotte Small," in An Ethnohistorian in Rupert's Land: Unfinished Conversations, ed. Jennifer Brown, Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 2017, pp. 161-181.
(16.) Sylvia Van Kirk, '"What if Mama is an Indian?' The cultural Ambivalence of the Alexander Ross Family," in The Developing West: Essays on Canadian History in Honor of Lewis H. Thomas, ed. John Elgin Foster, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1983, pp. 123-136.
(17.) Brenda Macdougall, "The Myth of Metis Cultural Ambivalence," in Contours of a People: Metis Family, Mobility, and History, ed. Nicole St-Onge et al., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012, p. 436.
(18.) Ibid., p. 437.
(19.) Ibid., pp. 437-450.
(20.) Frits Pannekoek, "Ross, Alexander," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, Toronto: University of Toronto/Universite Laval, 2003, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ross_alexander_8E.html; Laurenda Daniells, "Ross, Sally," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, Toronto: University of Toronto/Universite Laval, 2003, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ross_sally_11E.html.
(21.) Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties, p. 33.
(22.) Colony Gardens was a large lot on the west bank of the Red River, located just north of where Fort Douglas was built, and south of Frog Plain, in what would have been known as the Parish of St. John's. This site is located in present-day downtown Winnipeg near Point Douglas.
(23.) Pannekoek, "Ross, Alexander"; Daniells, "Ross, Sally."
(24.) Pannekoek, "Ross, Alexander."
(25.) W. D. Smith, "Ross, James (1835-71)," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, Toronto: University of Toronto/Universite Laval, 2003, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/ross_james_1835_71_10E.html; Van Kirk, '"What if Mama is an Indian?'", p. 129.
(26.) James Ross to Sarah Ross, 4 December 1865, Alexander Ross Family Papers, Archives of Manitoba (hereafter ARFP-AM), Microfilm 165; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 20 February 1866, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 21 August 1866, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 9 February 1867, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164.
(27.) Jean E. Murray, "Nisbet, James," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, Toronto: University of Toronto/Universite Laval, 2003, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/nisbet_james_10E.html.
(28.) Gail Morin, Metis Families: A Genealogical Compendium Volume 5 Quinu to Zace, Pawtucket: Quintin Publications, 2001, p. 51; Van Kirk, '"What if Mama is an Indian?'", pp. 127, 128; Scrip affidavit for Clouston, Henrietta, Metis and Original White Settlers affidavits, Library and Archives Canada, Microfilm C-14926.
(29.) Van Kirk, '"What if Mama is an Indian?'", p. 131.
(30.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 28 June 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; Jemima Ross to James Ross, 1857 (month illegible), ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, undated, late 1853 or early 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164; Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, 28 January 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(31.) Brenda Macdougall, "The Myth of Metis Cultural Ambivalence," p. 437.
(32.) James Ross to Sarah Ross, 4 December 1865, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(33.) James Ross to Isabella Ross Green, Mary Ross Flett, Sally Ross Cunningham, Henrietta Ross Black, Jemima Ross, and Sandy Ross, 24 December 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(34.) James Ross to Alexander Ross, 18 June 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(35.) Alexander Ross to James Ross, 8 September 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(36.) James Ross to Alexander Ross, 18 October 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(37.) Ross, Alexander, The Red River Settlement: its rise, progress, and present state: with some account of the native races and its general history, to the present day, London: Smith, Elder, and Co, 1856, p. 242.
(38.) Alexander Ross as quoted by Macdougall, "The Myth of Metis Cultural Ambivalence," p. 427.
(39.) James Ross to Alexander Ross, 18 October 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(40.) William Ross to James Ross, 31 January 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(41.) Van Kirk, '"What if Mama is an Indian?'", p. 126.
(42.) Macdougall, "The Myth of Metis Cultural Ambivalence," p. 428.
(43.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 9 November 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(44.) Van Kirk, '"What if Mama is an Indian?'", p. 129.
(45.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, undated, late 1853 or early 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164.
(46.) Kalpana Seshadri-Crooks, Desiring Whiteness: A Lacanian Analysis of Race, London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 11, 21.
(47.) Seshadri-Crooks, Desiring Whiteness, p. 39.
(48.) Seshadri-Crooks, Desiring Whiteness, p. 20.
(49.) William Ross to James Ross, 22 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(50.) James Ross to Isabella Ross Green, Mary Ross Flett, Sally Ross Cunningham, Henrietta Ross Black, Jemima Ross, and Sandy Ross, 24 December 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(51.) Brown, "Fur Trade as Centrifuge," p. 204.
(52.) Macdougall, "The Myth of Metis Cultural Ambivalence," p. 440.
(53.) James Ross to Alexander Ross, 5 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(54.) John Black to James Ross 9, February 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(55.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, undated, late 1853 or early 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164.
(56.) William Ross to James Ross, 4 November 1853, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(57.) William Ross to James Ross, 31 January 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(58.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, undated, late 1853 or early 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164.
(59.) William Ross to James Ross, 10 February 1855, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(60.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 25 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; Jemima Ross to James Ross, 9 November 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(61.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 25 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(62.) William Ross to James Ross, 10 January 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(63.) Jemima Ross to Sandy Ross, 12 March 1858, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(64.) James Ross to Alexander Ross, 1 July 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(65.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, undated, late 1853 or early 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164; John Black to James Ross, 9 February 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; Alexander Ross to James Ross, 9 November 1855, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(66.) James Ross to Isabella Ross Green, Mary Ross Flett, Sally Ross Cunningham, Henrietta Ross Black, Jemima Ross, and Sandy Ross, 24 December 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(67.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 28 June 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(68.) Alexander Ross to James Ross, 14 June 1854, ARFP-AM Microfilm 165.
(69.) James Ross to Alexander Ross, 5 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(70.) Sylvia Van Kirk, "McLeod, Sarah," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, Toronto: University of Toronto/Universite Laval, 2003, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcleod_sarah_8E.html.
(71.) Seshadri-Crooks, Desiring Whiteness, p. 12.
(72.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 28 June 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(73.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, 28 January1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(74.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 25 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(75.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 1857 (month illegible), ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(76.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, 28 January 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(77.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, undated, late 1853 or early 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164.
(78.) Jemima Ross to Sandy Ross, 12 March 1858, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(79.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, 28 January 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; Jemima Ross to Sandy Ross, 12 March 1858, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(80.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 28 June 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(81.) William Ross to James Ross, 22 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(82.) James Ross to Alexander Ross, 5 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(83.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 28 June 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; Jemima Ross to James Ross, 25 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(84.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 14 November 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(86.) Alexander Ross to James Ross, 14 June 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; Alexander Ross to James Ross, 9 November 1855, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; Alexander Ross to James Ross, 8May 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(87.) Alexander Ross to James Ross, 25 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(88.) James Ross to Isabella Ross Green, Mary Ross Flert, Sally Ross Cunningham, Henrietta Ross Black, Jemima Ross, and Sandy Ross, 24 December 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(89.) William Ross to James Ross, 11 September 1852, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; William Ross to James Ross, 10 September 1855, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; James Ross to Alexander Ross, 1 January 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(90.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 1857 (month illegible), ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(91.) Bumsted and Owen, "The Victorian Family in Canada in Historical Perspective."
(92.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 14 November 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; Alexander Ross to James Ross, 9 November 1855, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; William Ross to James Ross, 10 January 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; William Ross to James Ross, 9 February 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; John Black to James Ross, 9 December 1857, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(93.) Alexander Ross to James Ross, 25 August 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; James Ross to Alexander Ross, 25 January 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(94.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, undated, late 1853 or early 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164.
(95.) James Ross to Alexander Ross, 1 January 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 20 February 1866, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 21 August 1866, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164.
(96.) James Ross to Isabella Ross Green, Mary Ross Flett, Sally Ross Cunningham, Henrietta Ross Black, Jemima Ross, and Sandy Ross, 24 December 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(97.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, undated, late 1853 or early 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164.
(98.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 9 November 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(99.) Jemima Ross to James Ross, 28 June 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(100.) John Black to James Ross, 9 February 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(101.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, 28 January 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 4 December 1865, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 18 August 1864, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 20 February 1866, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 21 August 1866, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164; James Ross to Sarah Ross, 9 February 1867 ARFP-AM, Microfilm 164.
(102.) John Black to James Ross, 9 February 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165; John Black to James Ross, 8 November 1856, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(103.) John Black to James Ross, 31 May 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(104.) Hartwell Bowsfield, "Black, John (1818-82)," in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Universite Laval, 2003, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/black_john_1818_82_11E.html.
(105.) Henrietta Ross Black to James Ross, 28 January 1854, ARFP-AM, Microfilm 165.
(106.) Jennifer Brown, "Women as Centre and Symbol in the Emergence of Metis Communities," The Canadian Journal of Native Studies 3, no. 1 (1983), pp. 39-46.
by Margaret Schultz Edmonton, Alberta
Margaret Schultz received her Bachelor of Arts in Honours, majoring in History, from the University of Alberta in 2018. She researched the Ross family papers for her Honours thesis. Currently, she works delivering natural and human history programs with the City of Edmonton.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2019|
|Previous Article:||Louis Riel's Romantic Interests.|
|Next Article:||The WSO and The Guess Who: Winnipeg Makes Musical History.|