Many of you will be thinking at this point: but E. Pauline Johnson died in 1913… And of course you would be right. But she was involved in the First World War in an unexpected (and to me, bizarre) way.
Annie Garland Foster, in her biography of Johnson—The Mohawk Princess, Being Some Account of the Life of Tekahion-Wake (E. Pauline Johnson) (Vancouver, BC: Lion’s Gate, 1931)—includes a lengthy discussion of a gun purchased in honour of E. Pauline Johnson (“L’Envoi,” pp. 156-170), but the gun had slipped from general knowledge. For almost a century, academics and other interested parties studying Johnson have had no clue as to its whereabouts. In November of 2016, the machine gun emblazoned with the name of Tekahionwake “turned up at the Beatty Street Drill Hall, where it had been hiding in plain sight in a regimental museum … nobody seemed to realize the significance of the machine gun, because it was tucked away in a display case, with the identifying ‘Tekahionwake’ inscription on the inside.”
I awoke this morning to a text message from my friend and aficionado of Canadian literature of the First World War, James Calhoun, who had stumbled upon the Vancouver Sun article I have included here. There is no need for me to say more: the article gives the history of the gun—its creation and its discovery—in full detail. I wish I had been aware at the time, and posted immediately this amazing end to a research question that has been plaguing early Canadian literature specialists and Johnson fans for a long, long while. But even now, it is still news to many.
John Mackie, “This Week in History: 1915-2016 — A Lost Relic from the First World War Turns Up,” Vancouver Sun online, 18 November 2016.