Huron Chief, The (Adam Kidd)
Huron Chief, The (Adam Kidd) (1830)
An Irish-Canadian version of British romanticism, the poet Adam Kidd's elegy The Huron Chief applies Lord Byron's paradigm of the clash of empires to Canadian FRONTIER LITERATURE. The long fictional poem epitomizes the increasing subjugation of the Canadian Indians. The Irish-born Kidd, a failed candidate for the Church of England priesthood and a contributor to the Irish Vindicator, Quebec Gazette, and Quebec Mercury, apparently moved to Canada as a teenager, around 1818. He wrote the poem after challenging the secular and church authority in Lower Canada. His aim, according to the introduction, was to expose the duplicity and transgressions of Christian “Creeds-men” against North American natives, some of whom fled American bigotry and potential GENOCIDE in the lower Great Lakes region to shelter in Ontario (Kidd 1830, 95). Kidd died in Kingston in 1831 at age 29.
In a pine grove in sight of Lake Erie, the murder of Chief Skenandow, committed by three whites in 1816, takes on a demonic tinge. Revered for wisdom and battle prowess, he falls to the treachery of the outsider to whom the chief extends welcome and kindness. The antiestablishment narrative, related in the first person, has a Miltonic gravity suited to its focus on imperialist sins committed in an earthly paradise and, by extension, to the English oppression of the Irish. Writing over 35 years before the Canadian Confederation of 1867, Kidd defends native love of nature and spiritualism from the scorn of Europeans and vindicates himself being sexually attracted to a Huron widow. He considers the Huron well situated in an Edenic wilderness “far, / from Europe's crimes, and Europe's errors” (84). The Huron condemn as culprits the self- righteous Christian invaders who think themselves entitled to “a nigher way to march to heaven” (96). Like the Canadian conservationist author Grey Owl (Archibald Belaney, 1888-1938) and the Irish travelogue writer Anna Brownell Murphy Jameson (1794-1860), author of Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada (1838), Kidd regrets that “Our hunting grounds—our streams—our lakes, / The white usurper freely takes” (115). The closing lines indicate that Skenandow has witnessed enough of European barbarity to guess that his people will survive only in stories of their noble past.
Bentley, D. M. R. Mimic Fires. Montreal: McGill- Queen's University Press, 1994.
Kidd, Adam. The Huron Chief and Other Poems. Montreal: Herald and New Gazette, 1830.