Cel­e­brat­ing the beaver

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

A pe­rusal of the Glen­garry County Area Place

Name Lo­ca­tor web­site – com­piled by the late Alex W. Fraser and his wife, Rhoda Ross – re­veals a to­tal of seven en­tries con­tain­ing the word “beaver.”

There’s Beaver Av­enue (spe­cific lo­ca­tion un­known); Beaver, lo­cated some­where on the 4th Con­ces­sion of Lochiel town­ship, circa the 1880s; Beaver Brook (Beaver­brook) Road, still in ex­is­tence, con­nect­ing Mart­in­town to County Road 18; Beaver­ton, which was ap­par­ently in the Glen Sand­field area, circa the late 1800s; and Beavervill­e, pos­si­bly in Char­lot­ten­burgh town­ship, near Mc­Don­ald’s Grove, around the same time.

There are also Big Beaver, which was lo­cated on Con­ces­sion 8 in the for­mer Kenyon town­ship; and Cot­ton Beaver, one con­ces­sion over, east of Fiske’s Cor­ners.

Ob­vi­ously, one of Canada’s most en­dear­ing – and en­dur­ing – sym­bols has been a sig­nif­i­cant part of the Glen­garry land­scape for some time.

So it’s only fit­ting that lo­cal res­i­dents of all ages will have the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate In­ter­na­tional Beaver Day this Satur­day (April 7, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m) at the Cooper Marsh Con­ser­va­tion Area in South Lan­caster.

Ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral gov­ern­ment web­page de­voted to of­fi­cial sym­bols of Canada, it wasn’t un­til March 1975 that a pri­vate mem­ber’s bill au­thored by the late Con­ser­va­tive MP for Hamil­ton-Went­worth Sean O’Sul­li­van re­ceived Royal As­sent, pro­vid­ing for “the recog­ni­tion of the beaver ( cas­tor canaden­sis) as a sym­bol of the sovereignt­y of Canada.”

But the in­dus­tri­ous – and very large ro­dent – had been a part of the Cana­dian iden­tity long be­fore that.

The found­ing of the first per­ma­nent colonies in New France in the 17th century, and their sub­se­quent ex­pan­sion, can be at­trib­uted di­rectly to the fur trade – pri­mar­ily in­volv­ing the beaver – an eco­nomic off­shoot of the pop­u­lar­ity of broad-brimmed fur hats in Europe.

In 1621, King James I of Eng­land granted ti­tle of a large chunk of what we now re­fer to as the Mar­itimes – in­clud­ing mod­ern-day Nova Sco­tia – to Wil­liam Alexan­der – who would later be­come the first per­son in the New World to in­cor­po­rate the beaver into a ter­ri­to­rial coat of arms.

The Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany (HBC), rec­og­niz­ing the im­por­tance of the hard-work­ing an­i­mal to its suc­cess, out­did Sir Wil­liam, plac­ing four beavers on its coat of arms in 1678 where they re­main to this day.

In 1833, Jac­ques Viger, the first mayor of Mon­treal, de­signed the city’s coat of arms, com­plete with a beaver perched atop.

The first Cana­dian postage stamp – de­signed by Sir Sand­ford Flem­ing and is­sued in 1851 – was the Three-Pence Beaver.

Sim­i­lar to the HBC, the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way adopted the beaver as a cor­po­rate sym­bol, in 1886.

And while it was on hia­tus for ex­tended pe­ri­ods since then – from 1929 to 1946; 1968 to 1997; and again from 2007 to 2016 – CP re­stored the iconic beaver to its for­mer home atop the com­pany’s shield logo in early 2017.

As for In­ter­na­tional Beaver Day, it was first cel­e­brated in 2009 by a Dol­geville, N.Y.-based non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion known as Beavers: Wet­lands & Wildlife , as a way to rec­og­nize beavers’ en­vi­ron­men­tal con­tri­bu­tions and their im­por­tant role in cre­at­ing and main­tain­ing nat­u­ral ecosys­tems and land­scapes.

It also hon­ours the long-time ef­forts of Dorothy Richards, a na­tive of Lit­tle Falls, N.Y. – born on April 7, 1894 – who died in 1985 af­ter spend­ing 50 years liv­ing with, study­ing and writ­ing about beavers.

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