A new indigenous Monument of Peace has been constructed by Douglas Cardinal. The monument, finished and revealed October 7, was created to represent the role that First Nations peoples played in aiding Laura Secord, the Canadian heroine who brought information about an American attack to the British during the war of 1812.
The Monument of Peace, designed by Canadian architect and human rights activist Douglas Cardinal, is constructed of over 22 tonnes of handcrafted limestone, positioned by Smith and Barber Sculpture Atelier Inc., an Ottawa-based heritage restoration firm. Additionally, the project was spearheaded by Friends of Laura Secord, a not-for-profit community group dedicated to Secord’s memory as well as local histories.
Cardinal explained that the curved walls of the monument are symbols of longhouses, opening to the east and west, with two graphic wampum belts fixed into the two sides. In the middle of the monument there is a spot for a sacred fire. The monument is a symbol of the restoration of peace between the First Nations allies and the British after the war of 1812.
The pathway leading into the monument also leads to a circular garden where a singular white pine tree was planted; the white pine is an Iroquois nations symbol of peace. The white pine is also planted in honour of the first nations women, honouring their strength and intelligence. The pathway itself is also accessible to allow those with mobility issues to experience the site more easily thanks to the support of the Rick Hansen Foundation.
The Monument of Peace stands near the very spot that Laura Secord first encountered the First Nations peoples on her long journey to convey information to the British about an American attack. Had Secord not had the help of the First Nations peoples, she likely would not have made it to her destination. The actions of Secord, as well as the assistance from the First Nations allies, helped contribute to the shaping of Canada today.
The Friends of Laura Secord’s website echos the moment by explaining that, “Laura Secord’s uneasy but extremely important interaction with First Nations warriors in her fateful encounter in Decew’s Field is powerfully symbolic of the deep roots and inherent complexity of relationships amongst indigenous peoples and more recent settlers of the North American continent. It is an invitation to understand and reflect upon the divisions that extend back to our earliest days, in a spirit of respect and reconciliation.”
The First Nations garrison not only escorted Secord to the British garrison that had been stationed at Decew House, but later helped in defeating the Americans at the Battle of Beaverdams.
Additionally, the monument was also created to coincide with Canada 150. This is due to its contemporary relevance in context of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The creation of the monument comes at a time where Canada is beginning to acknowledge the role Indigenous peoples have had in the shaping of Canada’s culture and national character while also coming to terms with the injustices that First Nations peoples have experienced. The commission has outlined actions, items that include commemorative events, youth programs, education, culture, and health.
The Monument of Peace was funded in large part by the Canada 150 fund which donated over $132,500 to the construction of the memorial, with additional funding coming from other generous sources. Tim Johnson, a Mohawk from Six Nations and advisor to the Friends of Laura Secord community group, also worked in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian for ten years — a museum that had been designed by Cardinal. It was through Johnson’s mutual acquaintance with Cardinal that drew the world-renowned architect to the project.
Cardinal had not only been motivated by Laura Secord’s story but also the chance to make a lasting artistic contribution to the Niagara Escarpment; the monuments design was created by Cardinal for free.