August 2, 2010
My wife and I had the privilege of attending the First Peoples Forgiven Summit in Ottawa. During that time we were able to meet a number of Mohawk believers, including Jonathan Maracle of Broken Walls who led us in remarkable worship music. Canada’s most famous Mohawk was Chief Joseph Brant. Recently the Canadian Royal Mint produced a Canadian Loonie with the imprint of Chief Joseph Brant (1742-1807). More Canadians need to hear this story of this Canadian hero. He was described by Mark Jodoin as having the mind of a statesman, the heart of a leader, and the soul of a warrior. Without the military and spiritual support of Chief Brant, Canada would have likely never survived.
Chief Joseph Brant’s Mohawk name was Thayendanegea which means “two sticks bound together for strength”. Isabel Thompson Kelsay notes that “the most famous (aboriginal) who ever lived, has been for two centuries a virtual unknown.” I suspect that he is unknown to most North Americans because he chose the side of Canada in the American revolutionary war. As Canada’s premier First Nations leader, Brant had the privilege of meeting both Georges in person: King George III and President George Washington.
Brant learned to speak, read and write English at a New Hampshire school led by Rev Wheelock. Wheelock described Brant as being “of a sprightly genius, a manly and gentle deportment, and of a modest, courteous and benevolent temper.” In 1772, Brant was then mentored by Rev John Stuart, being trained in the art of Bible and Prayer Book translation. During that time, Brant developed a deep prayer life, becoming a committed Anglican Christian.
During the American Revolutionary war, Brant was falsely accused of committing atrocities in locations which he was not present, including the tragic Wyoming and Cherry Valley Massacres. Those who knew Brant well testified that he often prevented atrocities through the use of his persuasive leadership. As a devout Anglican Christian, he exhibited compassion and humanity, especially towards women, children, and non-combatants. American Colonel Ichabod Alden commented that he “should much rather fall into the hands of Brant than either of them [Loyalists and Tories].” It was frequently said of Joseph Brant that during the American revolution, he fought with a tomahawk in one hand, a copy of the New Testament in the other.
Joseph Brant’s father was one of the sachem/chiefs, known as the Four Indian Kings, who visited Queen Anne in 1710. These chiefs asked ‘for missionaries to be sent to the People of the Longhouse to teach them more about Christianity.” Queen Anne sent this request to the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, promising to build them a chapel. In 1711, Queen Anne’s Royal Chapel was built in the Mohawk Valley in New York State. When the Mohawks relocated to Southern Ontario, the Mohawk Royal Chapel was rebuilt there in 1785. Joseph Brant’s grave is located right next to the historic Mohawk Chapel, the oldest protestant church in Ontario. Just this past July, Queen Elizabeth, while visiting Ontario, presented the Mohawk Chapel with a set of eight silver hand bells engraved ‘The Silver Chain of Friendship 1710-2010’.
On each side of the Mohawk Chapel pulpit are two tablets in the Mohawk language of the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. Joseph Brant was a brilliant linguist translating the Bible and Anglican Prayer Book into Mohawk (of which there are microfiche copies at Simon Fraser University). He also wrote a concise history of the Bible and a Mohawk language catechism. Brant spoke at least three and possibly all of the Six Nations’ languages. When the Chapel was dedicated in 1788, each person was given a Mohawk book containing the Gospel of Mark and the Anglican Prayer Book. At that celebration, sixty five Mohawks were baptized and three couples were married.
When Joseph Brant first visited England in 1775, he was described by a British commander as ‘His Majesty’s greatest North American subject.’, and painted in full aboriginal regalia by George Romney. Receiving a captain’s commission, Brant met with the King on two occasions, with a dinner being held in his honour. Brant was honoured by the English leaders in the arts, letters and government, including James Boswell, the famed biographer of Samuel Johnson.
In 1779 Brant was commissioned by the King as ‘captain of the Northern Confederate Indians’ in recognition of his “astonishing activity and success’. Brant was described as “the perfect soldier, possessed of remarkable stamina, courage under fire, and dedicated to the cause, an able and inspiring leader and a complete gentleman.”
Joseph Brant’s Six Nations were tragically driven out of their homeland in Central New York. Brant was hurt that in granting their Mohawk homeland in Central New York State to the Americans, England had ‘sold the Indians to the US Congress’. Writing to King George III, he reminded the British that “we, the Mohawks, were the first Indian Nation that took you by hand and invited you to live among us, treating you with kindness…” The Six Nations were eventually resettled by Governor Frederick Haldimand in the Grand River area around modern-day Brantford. The British realized that locating the Six Nations in the Grand River area would be a natural protection against any future American invasion. Initially the Mississauga First Nation resisted the concept of having their former foes on their land. One Mississauga Chief Pokquan however persuaded his other chiefs by arguing that other aboriginals would be better neighbours than European settlers, and that Brant’s knowledge of the British could prove useful.
The term Brantford comes from Brant’s Ford, the shallow part of the Grand River that could be forded. The first years at Brantford were difficult as there was a drought with game being hard to find. Throughout all the challenges, Chief Brant’s deep faith sustained him. Chief Brant’s sacrificial love for God and nation should inspire all of us. He memorably said: “No person among us desires any other reward for performing a brave and worthwhile action but the consciousness of having served one’s nation.”
May all of us be willing to learn from the bravery and loyalty of Chief Joseph Brant.
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector, BSW, MDiv, DMin
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail email@example.com . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.
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April 25, 2010
By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird
Almost every North American has played basketball, even if only shooting a few baskets at the local park. At my high school ‘Winston Churchill’, we had a passion for basketball. In Grade Eight, my dream was to become a basketball star. My only limitations were getting the ball in the hoop and the fact that I was only five foot two. Back then, I had no idea that basketball was invented by James Naismith, a Canadian on loan to the United States. I was also unaware that basketball had deeply spiritual roots.
Dr. Naismith had a rough life growing up. When he was only eight, his parents died from typhoid fever. Earlier the family sawmill in Almonte, Ontario, had burned down. After leaving school at age fifteen, James worked for five years as a lumberjack. During his lumberjack phase, he had a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ which led him to attend McGill University in order to become an ordained minister. Naismith commented: “Finally I decided that the only real satisfaction that I would ever derive from life was to help my fellow beings….”
Naismith studied so hard at McGill that he neglected regular physical exercise. His friends convinced him that involvement in sports would make him a better student. He grew to love football, rugby baseball, field hockey, and lacrosse. Naismith discovered that his passion for sports helped him connect with young people when he shared the gospel with them. His sister however was deeply disappointed that James chose sports ministry instead of looking after a local congregation. Sadly she never attended any of his later basketball games.
To pursue his sports ministry, James Naismith moved to the International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. The YMCA was a pioneer in the ‘muscular Christianity’ movement, being among the first to integrate prayer and bible study with athletics. By 1905, almost 50,000 men took part in YMCA college Bible studies, including 1,000 at Yale University. Naismith greatly admired Coach Stagg who made a point in the dressing room of saying “Let’s ask God’s blessing on our game.” Naismith noted that Coach Stagg “did not pray for victory but he prayed that each man should do his best and show the true Christian spirit.”
James was asked by another coach Dr Guilick to create an indoor winter game for bored students. Calesthenics, involving sit-ups and marching, was not exciting enough for them. Alluding to Ecclesiastes, Dr. Guilick had made the statement: “There is nothing new under the sun. All so-called new things are simply recombinations of the factors of things that are now in existence.” James responded by saying: “All that we have to do is to take the factors of our known games and then recombine them, and we will have the new game we are looking for.” Two weeks later on December 21st 1891, basketball was invented. The thirteen rules of basketball which James drew up have remained as the foundation of the game. Drawing on another game called ‘duck on the rock’, Naismith had the students throw soccer balls into baskets. Initially they used real peach baskets and there were no backboards to bounce off. James intentionally invented a game that would encourage less violence and more sportsmanship. By placing the goal way up in a basket, the participants were less likely to harm each other near the goal as in hockey. By not allowing players to run with the ball, he also eliminated the violent tackling found in rugby and football. Even today basketball has far less group violence than other active sports.
William Baker said that basketball was first spread around the world by believers using the YMCA gospel of godliness and good games. Canada was the first country outside of the United States to start playing basketball. Ironically because British women were the first to start playing basketball, British men saw it as a women’s game and initially refused to play it. Basketball did not enjoy instant success at first. But now over 300 million play basketball around the world.
Both Canada and the United States claim James Naismith, with both nations dedicating special postage stamps to his memory. Though Naismith is honoured in eight Canadian and American Halls of Fame, he never profited from his invention of basketball, even losing two houses to foreclosure. Unlike basketball players today, Naismith did not endorse sports equipment, or sell products in ads. In contrast to the twenty-three million dollar top-NBA salaries today, Naismith saw basketball as being for fun, not for profit. James’ stated vision was “to win men for the Master through the gym.”
Naismith was not just the inventor of basketball. After his brother Robbie died unexpectedly from infection, James decided to also become a medical doctor. As a minister, coach and medical doctor, he was able to minister to the body, mind and spirit. The Journal of Health and Physical Education eulogized Naismith as “a physician who encouraged healthful living through participation through vigorous activities” and a builder of “character in the hearts of young men.” As one of his students mentioned, “With him, questions of physical development inevitably led to questions of moral development, and vice versa.” Naismith challenged the National Collegiate Athletic Association to “use every means to put basketball (as) a factor in the moulding of character…”
With good coaching, said Naismith, basketball could produce the following results: “initiative, agility, accuracy, alertness, co-operation, skill, reflex judgement, speed, self-confidence, self-sacrifice, self-control, and sportsmanship.” James saw self-sacrifice as “a willingness to place the good of the team above one’s personal ambitions”, saying ‘There is no place in basketball for the egotist.’ Sportmanship was described by Naismith as ‘playing the game vigorously, observing the rules definitely, accepting defeat gracefully, and winning courteously.’ In short, James wanted athletes to play by the Golden Rule and to love their neighbour. May Naismith’s vision continue to inspire our young athletes to greatness and godliness.