Emily Pauline Johnson was the youngest of four children born to an Englishwoman, named Emily Susanna Howells, and Mohawk Chief Teyonhehkon, a descendant of Hiawatha and Dekanahwideh, the Peacemaker, and other leaders Pontiac and Tecumseh.
Pauline’s family blended and reflected two distinct cultural heritages: one being the customs, traditions, myths, legends and historical accounts of her Mohawk heritage from the Wolf, Bear and Turtle clans, and the other being her mother’s British background.
Birth of Emily Pauline Johnson
After being tutored at home in the early years, Pauline attends Brantford Collegiate Institute. She appears in several plays in Brantford as a member of the Brant Amateurs. Following graduation, Pauline returns to her parents’ home.
Pauline’s father, Chief Teyonhehkon, dies. Mrs. Johnson and her daughters leave Chiefswood and move into rented quarters in Brantford, Ontario.
Between 1884 and 1886 Pauline succeeds in publishing four poems in Gems of Poetry, New York, and eight poems in the Week, Toronto.
Pauline is commissioned to write a poem “Ode to Brant” to mark the unveiling of the monument honouring Joseph Brant after the American Revolutionary War. A day after the reading, Pauline is interviewed by Garth Grafton of The Globe, Toronto.
As Pauline’s reputation grows from writing for magazines and newspapers, to publishing poetry, prose and short stories, to a performing, she begins to sign her work as both E. Pauline Johnson and Tekahionwake, the name of her great-grandfather, emphasizing her Mohawk identity and creating the “Indian princess” persona.
Two of Pauline’s poems are first published in Songs of the Great Dominion by W.D. Lighthall, Editor.
Pauline performs her poems “A Cry from an Indian Wife” and “As Red Men Die” at Frank Yeigh’s Canadian Literature Evening in Toronto. This begins her touring as a performance artist.
For the next 17 years, Pauline tours across Canada, Great Britain and the United States reciting her works. She captures the imaginations of her audiences, Canadians, Americans and British, in sold-out shows. During her tour of the Canadian west, Pauline meets suffragist and politician Nellie L. McClung in Manitoba.
Pauline’s works include: The White Wampum, London, 1895; Canadian Born, Toronto, 1903. She is published in Boys World, 1906; Mothers Magazine 1907; “When George Was King” by the Brockville Times, 1908. Her articles on Native legends appear in the Vancouver Province in 1910, followed by the publications Legends of Vancouver, 1911 and Flint and Feather, Toronto, 1912.
Pauline’s mother Emily Susanna Howells dies, resulting in the loss of the Brantford family home.
Pauline’s performing partnership with Walter McRaye begins. It lasts until 1909.
Pauline visits London, England for the second time. She meets Squamish Chief Su-a-pu-luck (Joseph Capilano) and his delegation who were there to voice their protest against Edward VII’s hunting and fishing restrictions imposed on the First Nations of the British Columbia coast.
Pauline moves her home base from Winnipeg to Vancouver and gives up regular performances to concentrate on writing; she is diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after.
Pauline dies of breast cancer on March 7. At her request, she is buried in Vancouver’s Stanley Park within sight of Siwash Rock.
A monument to Pauline Johnson is erected in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia.