SANDRA M STANWAY
The federal government named Black cowboy John Ware a person of national historic significance.
John Ware, who was born enslaved in the United States in 1845 or 1850, arrived in Alberta in 1882 on a trail crew driving thousands of cattle to the site of the Bar U Ranch.
Federal MP and tourism minister Randy Boissonnault made the announcement during a ceremony at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site in Longview, Alberta.
He went on to build a succesful ranching career despite having been enslaved racism and rough frontier conditions.
He first settled near Millarville and later he and his wife, Mildred and their five children (one died as an infant) relocated to the Duchess area along the Red Deer River in 1902.
“He achieved success in a white-dominated industry largely controlled by well-financed corporations,” states the Parks Canada site.
“Ware’s generosity and superior skill as a cowboy earned him an enduring reputation and a prominent place in the mythology of the Canadian West.”
In March 1905 Mildred died of pneumonia and on Sept. 11 John was killed when his horse tripped in a badger hole and fell on him.
“Ranchers from across the region attended his funeral in Calgary. They mourned him as one of their community’s most respected members,” states the Canadian Encyclopedia.
“We still have a lot to learn about the experiences of Canada’s Black cowboys,” said Janet Annesley.
“I nominated John Ware as a positive reminder that anyone of any colour or background can have a place in Canada’s story. Our rich diversity has never been a threat to who we are. It makes us who we are.”
“It makes his accomplishments in agriculture and his skills as a horseman visible to all who will read this plaque, while honouring the complexity of his life and situation. It also simply acknowledges that he was here. We were and are here,” said Cheryl Foggo, a nominator and author of John Ware Reimagined and John Ware Reclaimed.