Category Archives: History

Listening to “Finding Cleo”

How the search for the truth about one young girl who disappeared forty years ago can bring the greater tragedy of Canada’s Indigenous peoples to the forefront.

Find Cleo PodcastIts remarkable how one family’s story, the story of one young girl, can represent a larger tragedy. As I’ve listened to this story unfold, that thought has come back to me again and again. I recently listened to the first episode of the podcast “Finding Cleo” podcast through David Ridgen’s “Someone Knows Something”. I highly recommend all the seasons of that podcast as well, as David is so thoroughly Canadian and polite and wholesome as he investigated unsolved disappearances, you can’t help but be sucked in by it.

Before I’d even finished the first episode I was searching for more information and had started writing what would become an Instagram post and then this blog post.

The story of Cleo is a haunting and disturbing introduction to one woman’s search for the truth about her sister and the broader, dark chapter in Canadian/Indigenous history. This story does not just exist within Canadian history, however.  Examples of similar attempts at eradication can be found in the United States’ treatment of its own Native tribes or the treatment of those who were or considered inferior or intellectually disabled in the early twentieth century. While the abhorrent behavior of those in power toward those who had none is not new, this podcast  is able to narrow a broader tragic story down to focus on the dismantling of one family and the mysterious end of one little girl.

CBC News is launching Season 2 of the podcast “Missing and Murdered” with host Connie Walker about a family’s search for Cleo Semaganis Nicotine, who was adopted out of her Saskatchewan First Nations community and sent to live in the U.S. 44 years ago. During the first three episodes the mystery of just what happened to Cleo deepens as it’s revealed she may not have been adopted to Arkansas as originally believed.

The last time any of them saw her was in 1974 in rural Saskatchewan when Cleo was allowed to say goodbye to one of her brothers before she was taken to her new adoptive family. Her brother was himself adopted to the States, with government officials essentially bribing him in order to gain his complacency, before he sending him to a childhood of what amounted to slave labor in the United States.

Cleo was nine years old when she was stolen from her family, and she was one of thousands of Indigenous children caught up in what is now known as the Sixties Scoop.

Cleo was believed to have been sent to a foster family in Arkansas and killed while trying to hitchhike back to Little Pine First Nation in Canada, but no one had been able to say for sure how much of that was true.

Now Christine Cameron is joined in her search for the truth about her sister, and answers about the Canadian government’s attempted eradication and forced assimilation of First Nations people.

Listen to “Finding Cleo” on iTunes and visit CBC for photos and more.


Reflecting on National Walkout Day

“I have never let my schooling

interfere with my education.”

—Mark Twain

Regardless of your politics, your allegiances or your stance on guns, we should all recognize the importance of this act by students across the country.

I hope we can all take a moment today, if not more, and watch those who are marching, walking out, pouring from their schools and classrooms to protest against those who have refused to listen. Watch them, hear them, listen to what they are begging for. Do not dismiss them.

Do not dismiss that the role of education and the point of our schools and teachers is to teach the next generation to think for themselves, to recognize problems and discover solutions; to act in a way that will spur the evolution of our culture and society.

Do not dismiss these protests or infer they are the temper tantrums of children while criticizing those same individuals as spoiled kids who expect things to be handed to them. They are refusing to let their schooling and the failures of the school system and the politicians meant to advance it define their education any longer.

Do not dismiss this protest or those to come. Do not dismiss this generation that you have created.

Do not dismiss this moment…

Buffalo’s Bison Plumbing

Bison Plumbing DIscount Center
I came across this old ad for Buffalo Plumbing Discount while digging around in a basement crawl space in my other life. There were several old newspapers, Buffalo Evening News and Courier Express from the 1960s and 70s.

Most were in pretty rough shape, but they were still better to work around then the pile of broken windows on the other side of the crawlspace.  The few Metro pages that didn’t disintegrate had some cool old ads in them.  Most were pretty much what you’d expect; Sattlers, Kleinhans, Sears.  One smalll ad that caught my eye was for Buffalo Plumbing Discount Center.

When I saw it, I thought it was actually for a different plumbing place we’ve passed over on Fillmore on our way to B&L.  For some reason, that place had stuck with me, so when I saw the ad I took a few pictures of it.  It wasn’t until later I double-checked the addresses and it looks like they’re different bison plumbing companies. There seems to be (or at least have been) a lot of “Bison Plumbing” companies.

Apparently naming every business in Buffalo with some variation of Buffalo, Bison, Queen City or Nickel City in the name wasn’t limited to the city’s renaissance and was just as prevalent back in the day when Broadway and Fillmore were lined with successful businesses.

562 Broadway, Buffalo NYThe Bison Plumbing City on Fillmore is now a boarded up building, and Bison Discount Plumbing Center on Broadway is just an empty lot.  It isn’t the only empty lot along Broadway or throughout the city’s East Side and the Broadway-Fillmore District.  Those empty lots, sadly, represent the sum total of redevelopment that the city had invested in for those areas while Canalside and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus swell and absorb millions of dollars.

The newspaper wasn’t in the best shape, but that was cool, it gave the logo a distressed look. The problem was keeping that distressed, worn look without there being a lot of white scratchiness in the letters when I added a background color. There are probably actual ways of fixing that, but I don’t know what they are; I layered a couple copies each of the logo and background color of varying opacity, merged them, and then tweaked the lighting. It’s worked for the past when I’ve wanted to layer in a texture or old paper look, like on my Whistle Pig logo, and it did the trick here, too.


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