Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Harriet Tubman

February is Black History Month and I would like to pay tribute to one of the greatest Black women in history - Harriet Tubman.

The Underground Railroad was established in the US to aid slaves in finding a route to freedom. With the help of anti-slavery advocates and abolititionists, hundreds of slaves made their way north to escape the shackles of slavery. Many continued on to Canada because slavery had already been abolished here.

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland sometime between 1820 and 1822. She was a well-known abolitionist, a nurse, a Civil War spy, a humanitarian and a suffragist, among other things. Harriet was one of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad, which was the means she used to escape slavery. She took her own life into her hands many times to help her people escape to freedom. She earned the name Moses because of her dedication and determination to free her people from slavery.

Tubman's master died in 1849 and it was at this time that Tubman sought out the Underground Railroad and traveled by night using the North Star as her compass. Finally, she reached Philadelphia and found work as a domestic. She saved her money to help her own family escape the bonds of slavery.

Between 1850 and 1860, Tubman conducted approximately thirteen escapes and brought seventy-five slaves to freedom. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act had been passed and all escaped slaves were in danger of being returned to their owners.

In 1851, Tubman brought her family to St. Catherines, Ontario. On Christmas Day, 1854, she helped her brothers escape and led them first to Philadelphia and then on to St. Catherines where she had established a home for herself. She and her brothers attended the African Methodist Episcopal Church which was just behind her home. It still stands today and is pictured below.

In 1857, Tubman brought her parents to St. Catherines because she learned her father was to be arrested for helping slaves escape. The following year, John Brown visited Tubman at her home on North St. in St. Catherines. Tubman was a strong supporter of Brown.

Tubman worked as a cook, laundress, nurse, scout, spy and teacher during the Civil War. She was the first woman to lead Union soldiers and defeat the Confederates. More than 700 slaves were freed in the raid. Tubman returned to Auburn, New York in 1857, taking her elderly parents with her.

Due to Tubman's efforts, Auburn, NY was a hub of activity in support of women's rights. She established a home for the aged and indigent in 1908. She lived there until her death in 1913 and is buried at Fort Hills Cemetery, Auburn.

I have visited the African Methodist Episcopal Church where Harriet Tubman attended a few years ago. At that time her house was still standing. I'm not sure if it still is, but I certainly hope so.

The legacy that Harriet Tubman left to the world is a great one. She was a courageous woman who was years ahead of her time and she left her mark on the world.

Photo of Harriet Tubman
Courtesy of the Library of Congress 5910
No known restrictions on publication
Photographer: H.B. Lindsay
Photo is believed to have been taken between 1860 and 1875

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mary at Answers to the Questions has tagged me to the six things meme. I'm to tell six non-important things about me. Here are the rules:

Link to the person that tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
Let your tagger know when you entry is up
Six unimportant things about me:

1. My hair is not dyed. It's all natural. That is the way God made me.

2. I drove many years without a license until Dad made me go and try the test.

3. I was widowed young.

4. I was a single mother for 17 years.

5. My favorite color is green.

6. My first car was a 1963 red and white station wagon.

I won't tag six people, but if you'd like to participate, please leave a message so I can read your list. Have fun.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Eagles of Squamish

It is estimated that 10,000 eagles visit the arteries of the Squamish River between mid November and mid February. The largest known group of wintering raptors of Bald Eagles on Earth was counted at 3,796 in 1994.

Because of pollution, urban encroachment, poaching and decreased salmon stocks, eagles are hard pressed to find suitable habitat. The Squamish River system offers eagles the perfect nesting and feeding grounds. The combination of old tree growth for night roosting, cottonwoods for perching and gravel bars for catching salmon during the summer “run” attracts the birds to the area.

The bald eagle is the largest of the raptors, though it usually confines its hunt to fish. Native only to North America, the bald eagle has a distinctive white head, white tail and featherless ankles. It stands approximately one meter tall and its wings often span 2.4 meters.

Young bald eagles are different shades of brown. When the bird matures to four years, the white head and tail feathers, bright yellow eyes, beak and talon appears. These eagles live as far north as the edge of the Arctic Circle and as far south as North Carolina. A pair of nesting eagles often claims a territory as large as 4,200 hectares. Abundant food supplies mean a smaller territory.

The mainstay of the bald eagle’s diet is fish. They flock to British Columbia during the annual salmon run. If fish are unavailable, the bald eagle’s second choice is waterfowl, though if the need arises, they will eat other types of meat.

The eyesight of the bald eagle is four times sharper than that of a human. Despite this, eagles are scavengers and think nothing of stealing food from other species. They are also carrion eaters and often feed on dying salmon or road kill.

Of the 70,000 bald eagles found in North America, 20,000 live in British Columbia. They usually lay two eggs each season. The first hatchling often kills the second. If both survive for three weeks, a truce is called. The young eagles leave the nest when they are ten weeks old. Half die from starvation during their first winter alone. The oldest recorded bald eagle was twenty-eight years old.

In 1995, the Squamish Estuary Conservation Society and the Eagle Watch Interpreter Program organized volunteers to teach visitors to the Squamish River area about the wintering bald eagles. They answer questions; teach eagle viewing ethics as well as eagle biology and critical habitat requirements. The goal of the Eagle Watch Program is to educate visitors so they will not disturb the wintering bald eagles. In 1998, fifty volunteers interacted with 4,400 visitors who visited the Eagle Run viewing site. Though the eagles ignore people, they require some privacy for feeding and nesting.
If you are in the Squamish area and would like to view the magnificent bald eagles, take Highway 99 to Garibaldi Way and turn right on Government Road, which runs along the dike. All sections of the road offer a view across the river where the eagles nest.

The West Coast Railway Heritage Park is also a great place to view the eagles. Take Highway 99 to Industrial Way and follow the signs.

When you arrive at the dike, seek out the information kiosks. Community groups maintain these. They offer information on the bald eagle’s habitat, biology and behavior. On weekends from December to February members of the Eagle Watch Interpreter Program are available at Eagle Run which is located on Government Road near the Easter Seal Camp. They offer information on services and amenities available in Squamish as well as tips for eagle viewing.

The Brackendale Eagle Reserve is a newly declared provincial park that is located across the river from the Eagle Run. It consists of 755 hectares of land. It stretches north to where the Cheakamus River joins the Squamish River and south to where the Mamquam River feeds into the Squamish.

The Eagle Run viewing area is on the east bank of the Squamish River and is outside the park’s boundaries.

If you are going to be in the Squamish, area between December and February, don’t miss the awesome spectacle of the wintering bald eagles. Be sure to take your camera and lots of film. Viewing these majestic birds and capturing them on film will create memories to last a lifetime.