Your letters: Land of the Silver Birch celebrates Indigenous culture and Canada's natural beauty
Music teacher sues board for defamation over song, Dec. 7
As a former principal, I know that every school concert is the culmination of weeks of rehearsals. Where were principal Nancy Keenan and vice-principal Edita Tahirovic during those rehearsals? At the very least, they gave tacit approval to “Land of the Silver Birch” being included in the program. What happened after the concert to spur them suddenly to action?
Ab Dukacz, Mississauga
Yes, of course colonizers have romanticized Indigenous culture. School projects such as the construction of a totem pole at a Stouffville school, learning the song “Land of the Silver Birch,” various traditions and practices at Canadian summer camps, the reading of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and the appreciation of such films as A Man Called Horse or Dances with Wolves have contributed to colonialists’ appreciation of Indigenous peoples and cultures. This is one of the roles of art — to connect people emotionally with issues and causes that should concern them.
Brian O’Sullivan, Stouffville
Coming from Europe as a 10-year-old member of an artistic and literary family, a poem by E. Pauline Johnson’s was the first one I memorized many years ago and held in my heart. For this young new arrival, it was breathtaking to learn about the vastness and mystery of nature in my new land, which still holds true in spite of obvious problems. Her beautiful rhymes and elegant words must stand as a noble part of the Canadian canon.
Kathy Millard, Toronto
How sad. “Land of the Silver Birch” is a glorious children’s song that connects them to the common experience of Canada’s wilderness heritage. Teaching this song is an opportunity for affirmation of Indigenous understanding of our connection with the natural world.
This perception is not “primitive,” it is one that must be regained if we are to survive on Earth. It could be introduced by saying it is based on a poem by E. Pauline Johnson, a 19th-century Mohawk woman of Six Nations and could provide the basis for classroom study of her life and work and range of issues she dealt with, as well as comparison of the different types of Indigenous housing.
Joell Ann Vanderwagen, Oshawa
I have many happy memories paddling to this tune. For me, “Land of the Silver Birch” is about the sheer joy of paddling in Canada’s great outdoors. If there is an offensive piece to the song then, yes, bring it to the attention of the school. That would be an excellent teaching moment, with the teacher and students discussing the debatable lines and offering alternatives.
Barb Jantzi, Toronto
I can’t believe the Canadian folksong “Land of the Silver Birch” made front-page news. It’s pretty shocking to see what is being identified as inappropriate by cowardly school administrators whose prime mission in life is to cater to parents.
It is especially shocking that Toronto District School Board administrators have labelled an innocent song as inappropriate when there is little control over some of the music with racy/foul language students are listening to on their personal devices in school buildings.
I fondly remember singing “Land of the Silver Birch” in elementary school and how we enjoyed the actions that went along with it. And I’m trying to find just one ounce of inappropriateness in the lyrics.
While administrators have ruled the song to be inappropriate, the music teacher is sticking to her guns and is suing for defamation. Good for her!
Trevor Dearham, Bradford, Ont.
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