Duncan Campbell Scott: Poetry

Contrasting Ideas of Indigenous Identity in “The Onondaga Madonna” and “A Cry From an Indian Wife”: Savage vs. Human College

The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 brought to the forefront issues of Indigenous identity in Canadian literary dialogue. The Northwest Rebellion, a five month rebellion against the Canadian government, was fought by the Metis and their Aboriginal allies in what is currently Saskatchewan and Alberta (Beal and Macleod). The Indigenous peoples fought this rebellion largely out of fear of assimilation and frustration with the Canadian government Beal and Macleod). Two Canadian Confederation poets wrote poems on this issue of Indigenous identity in the context of the Northwest Rebellion, however, their racial positions place them on opposite sides of the table. Duncan Campbell Scott wrote “The Onondaga Madonna” in 1898 in which his view of Indigenous identity contrasts sharply with Pauline Johnson’s view of Indigenous identity in her poem written in 1885, “A Cry From an Indian Wife”. In “A Cry From an Indian Wife,” Johnson’s position as an insider prompts her to invoke empathy for the Indigenous woman she describes, while in “The Onondaga Madonna”, Scott’s position as an outsider motivates him to characterize the Indigenous woman in his poem as savage and inhuman.

Duncan Campbell Scott wrote “The Onondaga Madonna” from a place of...

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