Pauline Johnson Biography


(Critical Survey of Native American Literature)

Emily Pauline Johnson grew up in a bicultural environment, the youngest of four children of George Henry Martin Johnson, a Mohawk leader of his Six Nations Iroquois community, and Emily Howells, originally from Bristol, England. Her father was an influential leader of the Iroquois community, receiving guests from England and other countries at his home on the Six Nations reserve. Her mother encouraged her to read widely and to become interested in literature. Johnson attended the Brantford Model School and, as a teenager, sent her written verses to periodicals in Canada, the United States, and England. Many of these were published. She also spent much of her time while still living at Six Nations canoeing on the Grand River, which she thoroughly enjoyed and at which she excelled.

In 1892, Johnson began reciting her works in public before an audience of literary highbrows at the Young Men’s Liberal Club of Toronto. After success with this event, she became a frequent platform entertainer before both fashionable Toronto audiences and audiences in bars in small-town Ontario. She traveled to England, where she received many invitations to recite her poetry and other written works and became a minor celebrity. This was in part because of her warmth and attractive personality and in part because of her Mohawk ancestry, which she highlighted in her work and in her appearance. She usually wore buckskin clothing, a bear-claw necklace, traditional Iroquois trade...

(The entire section is 504 words.)