events


The Deseronto Public Library and Deseronto Archives were delighted to welcome Frances Itani back to town to mark the culmination of the Tri-County Reads events for 2015. Tri-County Reads is a joint program of the Public Libraries of Northumberland, Hastings and Prince Edward County and this year the book chosen was Frances Itani’s Deafening, a First World War novel which is partly based in Deseronto.

Guided tour walkers at the Dockside Tavern, Deseronto

The Deseronto event on October 17th began with a guided walk for around 45 people around Mill and Main Streets. The photograph shows the tour group as it passed what is now the Dockside Tavern. This building was originally the Empress Hotel, owned by William Jamieson. Jamieson’s widow sold the lot to John Freeman, Frances Itani’s great-grandfather, who ran it as the Arlington Hotel. Itani’s grandmother, Gertie Freeman,  was born in the house adjoining the hotel in 1898. Gertie became deaf at 18 months and her life experiences formed the inspiration for Grania, the main character in Deafening. Like Grania, Gertie attended the Ontario Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (now the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf) in Belleville.

The house where Gertie Freeman was born can be seen in this late nineteenth century photograph of the property, taken by Herbert A. Osborne:

The Empress (later Arlington) Hotel, c.1895

At the time the Freemans owned the hotel, Deseronto was at its industrial peak. This picture was taken from an upstairs window, and shows the mills and factories of Mill Street:

View from Arlington Hotel, c.1895

The walking tour also stopped outside the Post Office and Naylor’s Theatre, both of which featured in Deafening and its sequel, Tell. Afterwards, the group convened for lunch at the Legion, followed by a fascinating talk from Frances Itani on the inspiration and process of writing the novel Deafening and Tell.

Frances Itani

Frances Itani

Fans of the novelist will be pleased to hear that Frances is currently working on the third novel  in the Deseronto trilogy.  This one will take a particular interest in the experiences of people who are adopted and Frances is keen to interview individuals who are adopted and who are willing to share their thoughts with the author. Please email the Archives at deseronto.archives@gmail.com if you were adopted and would be happy to be interviewed by Frances for her next Deseronto-based book.

If you missed the history talk on the nineteenth century development of Deseronto this weekend, there’s a chance to catch it again on YouTube:

Due to a technical hitch on the day, the visuals weren’t available, but this version includes the slides!

Marlene Brant Castellano and wampum beltsMarlene Brant Castellano got our summer series of local history talks off to a great start with her examination of the local history of the Bay of Quinte from a Mohawk perspective.

Marlene used reproductions of two famous wampum belts to tell the story of the Mohawk people’s interactions with Europeans, beginning with the treaty represented by the Two-Row Wampum in 1613 with the Dutch. The two purple rows of the belt were intended to show the parallel courses of a European ship and a Haudenosaunee canoe, bound together by friendship, peace and respect. The other belt, the Friendship Belt, represents the Covenant Chain connecting the two peoples: a chain of silver which needs to be regularly polished by both groups in order to maintain its shine.

Marlene got the audience involved from the beginning, with questions about the importance of family roots and stories and what they mean to us. Until recently, formal education in Canada paid little or no attention to native people’s own histories, while the use of native languages was actively repressed for many years. Marlene noted that this has now changed and Indigenous children are now able to connect to their stories and language in a way that people of British descent may have taken for granted in the more Anglo-centric teaching of the past.

The stories associated with wampum belts have endured within these communities for hundreds of years, and Marlene explained that a thorough knowledge of their meaning and importance is a key part of being a chief. A chief, she noted, is an archivist, as well as a leader!

History talks poster

 

Tomorrow sees the first in a new series of talks on local history. We are delighted to welcome Marlene Brant Castellano to Deseronto Public Library to talk on the topic of ‘Mohawks and Settlers: neighbours throughout history’.

The talk is free to attend and all are welcome. It starts at 1pm and will be followed by refreshments. We hope to see you there!

Date: May 23rd

Location: Deseronto Public Library

Time: 1pm – 2pm

 

The next talk in the series, ‘The Development of Deseronto’ will take place on June 20th (same time, same place).

It was a full house at Deseronto Public Library this afternoon, as author Frances Itani launched her new novel, Tell, to an appreciative audience of more than fifty people.

Frances Itani talking to a full house at Deseronto Public Library

Tell is a follow-on story to Deafening, the author’s first novel, which was published in 2003. Like Deafening, Tell is based in Deseronto, and it follows the story of four of the characters from the first book. It is set in the period immediately following the end of the First World War. Frances made excellent use of the archives here in Deseronto in her research for the book and we were delighted to host her first stop on the promotional tour.

Frances Itani signing copies of 'Tell'

And we are pleased to report that every copy of Tell was snapped up by the audience!

Tell by Frances ItaniThe Deseronto Public Library and Deseronto Archives are delighted to announce that they will be hosting the launch of Frances Itani’s new novel, Tell on Thursday, August 28th at 1pm in the Deseronto Public Library.

Tell follows on from the author’s first novel, Deafening, which was partly set in Deseronto. It picks up on four of the minor characters from Deafening and follows their stories in Deseronto after the First World War.

After a reading from the novel, books will be available for signing by the author. Refreshments will be served.

More than 80 people gathered in Belleville’s Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre on Saturday for a day exploring historical aspects of European and First Nations attitudes to “the land that supports our feet”. The Warden of Hastings County (and Reeve of Tyendinaga Township), Rick Phillips; the Chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, R. Donald Maracle; and the Mayor of Deseronto, Norman Clark, all gave official welcomes to the group.

Nathan Brinklow introducing the Opening AddressThe traditional Six Nations Opening was performed by Nathan Brinklow, who provided an English translation of his words so that everyone could understand. As Nathan explained in his introduction, the Opening is all about the relationships between the land, waters and living things, so it was a particularly appropriate way of starting a day of proceedings focused on human interactions with land.

The keynote address was given by Marlene Brant Castellano, who gave a moving account of the way that her formal education in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Shannonville, and Belleville had failed to include the history of the Six Nations or traditional teachings. She told us that when she came to the stories and teachings later in life, it was like learning a new language, but also that “it was a language that was already written in my heart”. Marlene’s talk centred on the three beads of the Two-Row Wampum belt, representing Peace, Friendship, and Respect.

The archival component of the day was made up of a series of readings from documents which were written in the first fifty years of settlement in the Bay of Quinte region. They focused on what life was like for the Mohawks who came to this area at that time, and on how the attitudes of the Government toward the native population changed in that period.

Alfredo Barahona led the group in the Blanket Exercise. This is an interactive telling of the story of the interactions between Europeans and the aboriginal population of Canada, using blankets to represent the land available to native peoples and readings which relate laws and impacts of policies on their communities.

At the start of the exercise, everyone was free to move around the blankets and talk to each other.

Beginning of the Blanket Exercise

By the end, only isolated groups are left, with the size of their blankets constantly being trimmed back by the Europeans.

End of the Blanket Exercise

Marlene Brant Castellano, Mike Bossio and Keith SeroMark Brinklow and Ed FileAfter lunch, a panel session examined some different perspectives on land issues. Mike Bossio talked about how native and non-native communities worked together to resist the expansion of the Richmond landfill site. Keith Sero discussed the process of forming new forms of governance for First Nations, such as the management boards for wildlife and water in Nunavut.  Mark Brinklow described his work with teenagers at risk of offending, explaining how reconnecting them to activities on the land can give them a renewed sense of self-confidence and identity. Ed File is a retired professor of social science who has taken an active role in social justice movements involving First Nations in Canada.

The final activity of the day was a chance for people to join discussion groups with as much geographical diversity as possible. People were asked to reflect on what they had learned from the day and on what they thought they might be able to do next to move the conversation forward.

Discussion groupd

Lynn Brant rounded off a fascinating day with a deeply moving song and the Closing Ceremony.

Thanks to everyone who came and to all those involved in organizing, presenting and catering for the event. Special thanks are due to Paul Robertson, chair of the Deseronto Archives Board, who originally conceived the idea for the symposium, and who performed the role of Master of Ceremonies on the day, and to Marlene Brant Castellano, who took on a hugely active role in galvanising support for the event and in putting together the programme, as well as giving the keynote address and chairing the panel session. Edgar Tumak, Sharon and Nick White and Niamh Hill all worked incredibly hard on the day: sincere thanks to you all!

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