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What if Davey Crockett had been Black? Scratching the surface of historical whitewashing

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If Davey Crockett had been black, would he have been celebrated in songs and TV shows created about him? Canadians may soon have to answer that question for their own Davey Crockett, a man named Jean Côtè.

The usual narratives about the Americas express little interest in chronicling the history of people of color. These accounts have gone to incredible lengths to overlook or hide the contributions of people of color. But if we scratch the surface of these narratives, we begin to see an untold history.  

Mathieu Da Costa is one of the most famous and mysterious characters in Canadian history. He could very well be the father of the Canadian Davey Crockett, Jean Côtè. Da Costa is firmly acknowledged, even by white Canadian historians, to be the first African to set foot in Canada. As an interpreter and explorer for the first French governor of New France, Pierre Du Gua de Mont, Da Costa was instrumental in helping the French settle in Canada. He is assumed to have died after 1619 in Quebec.

Thought to be of Portuguese/African ancestry, Da Costa helped the Portuguese, Spanish, French and Dutch explore Canada and communicate with and learn the culture of the Native Americans of Nova Scotia and Quebec. Da Costa not only spoke Spanish, French, Dutch and Portuguese but was a grumete (translator) who spoke the pidgin and Mi’Kmaq languages of the Indians of Nova Scotia.

Many Canadian historians have let Da Costa’s story end there. But historians of color have begun to scratch the surface of this story to uncover another historical narrative. It likely started more than 100 years earlier, on the coast of Africa.

In the 1400s, Portuguese explorers began to venture down from the North of Africa to the West Coast of Africa to trade for gold, pepper and other goods. The trading was so lucrative that the Portuguese forbade sailors to speak of where they had been, but inevitably other European powers discovered the secret. 

Eventually, Portuguese sailors were allowed to settle in African towns like Elmina on the Gold Coast. These settlers were called lançados. They married into local families, usually influential ones, to strengthen social ties with their trading partners. 

Because the Portuguese and other Europeans found African languages too hard to learn, they relied on translators called grumetes. These grumetes understood the language, but more importantly the traditions and business approaches of both cultures. They became indispensable to white traders. 

When French explorers came to the West Coast of Africa after the Portuguese, they used similar tactics to form strong relationships with the Africans they traded with. They too married into influential families. The new class of Afro-French offspring became known as signares. The French would carry this custom further by taking Native American women as wives in the New World. 

How did Da Costa first come to Canada? It’s very plausible that he was a descendant of a Portuguese lançado and an African mother who was hired as a grumete in Africa and the New World. Or that he was an African sailor who was aboard a Spanish or Portuguese vessel that visited fishing areas off the coast of Canada.

Portuguese and Spanish vessels were known for having diverse crews. For example, Columbus’ ship the Santa Maria was piloted by a free black man named Pedro Alonzo Niño. Hernando De Soto (the Spaniard who discovered the mouth of the Mississippi) was known to have left a free African crewman in Louisiana with friendly Indians. 

It is likely that Da Costa accompanied Portuguese or Spanish fishing expeditions to Nova Scotia in the late 1500s. The Native Americans and the first Spanish and Portuguese fishermen to visit Canada developed a “pidgin” language that was used for trade. Da Costa had an affinity for learning languages. To have learned the pidgin and Mi’Kmaq language and the Native culture as he did, Da Costa probably stayed in the area for lengths of time and married a Native woman. This was a common method used by the first explorers to be accepted into and learn Native culture and language. We know that Da Costa came back to Canada with Samuel de Champlain in 1605 aboard the Jonas from New Rochelle, France. 

Da Costa was signed to a lucrative three-year contract to help Canada’s first French governor. His talents were so valued that when the Dutch seized two French ships in 1607, the French sent negotiator Jean Rallau not only to retrieve the seized ships but also to retrieve the valuable translator Da Costa, who was on board. 

A growing number of historians of color including myself believe that Da Costa had a son with a Native American, and that son was Jean Côtè. Jean Côtè and his wife Anne Martin are considered to be one of the first Canadian families. Their children and descendants married into other prominent first families of Canada. Like frontiersman Davey Crockett of the U.S., Côtè helped settle and tame the French frontier in Canada. Most historians agree that Jean Côtè worked for the second French governor Jacques Hualt de Montmagny. He served as a grumete, translating Native American languages for the French, as had Da Costa.  

Where did Jean Côtè learn the Mi’Kmaq language? If he was the child of Da Costa, he would have learned the language from his Native American mother and Da Costa. As a native speaker of Mi’Kmaq, Côtè would have been the logical candidate to be sent to France to be educated, so he could return to Canada and use that education to help the fledgling settlement. Some historians believe that as a child, Jean Côtè was sent to France to be educated and lived with a French foster family named Loisel, then returned to Canada in 1634. This was a common practice. For example, in 1687, my Canadian ancestor François Hazeur sent his son back to France to be educated by the Jesuits. My ancestor returned to Canada from studying in France and was also married there. His father François Hazeur was my 8th –great-grandfather, and also the grandson of Ann Martin, Jean Côtè’s wife.

Some historians believe Jean Côtè was born in France to Abraham Côtè and Françoise Loisel and came to Canada in 1634 for the first time. Yet no genealogists have been able to provide evidence of Jean Côtè being born in France. This narrative can’t explain how Jean Côtè learned languages in one year that French and Dutch explorers found so difficult that they instead relied on highly-paid interpreters. This narrative also denies the importance of African and metis (of mixed heritage) families in the founding and settling of Canada.

On November 17, 1635, Jean Côtè married Ann Martin, a woman of Native American and Scottish ancestry. She was a member of the Wendat Clan who the French derisively called Hurons. After their marriage, Jean Côtè and Ann Martin became one of the first couples in a settlement of Wendat (Huron) Christian converts established by the Jesuits on Île d’Orléans in Quebec.

At the time of Jean Côtè and Ann Martin, there were just a few hundred French settlers living in and around Quebec City. The French were incredible bureaucrats and they had relatively few births and baptisms to keep track of them. If either Jean Côtè or Ann Martin had been of solely French ancestry, it would have been very likely that their births and baptisms would have been recorded. However, neither was recorded. Only their marriage was recorded by the Jesuits after they converted to Christianity.

It makes sense that Jean Côtè and his bride Ann Martin were both metis. Jean Côtè would have been Native American and African; Ann Martin was Scottish and Native American. Otherwise why would they have lived in Île d’Orléans, a settlement established specifically for Native American Christian converts? 

Jean Côtè and Ann Martin had eight children. Of special interest is their son Mathieu, born in 1642, who was likely named after Jean Côtè’s father Mathieu Da Costa. In 1644, they had another son, Jean Côtè. He was known as Le Noir and Le Frise, French for the “black” and “frizzy-haired”. 

White historians and genealogists controlled the story of Mathieu Da Costa, Jean Côtè and other narratives for over 400 years, and shaped them into comfortable stories of European dominance. The idea that one of the first prominent families in Canada were African and Native American and all their descendants were metis, flies in the face of the historical narrative of white domination in Canada and the U.S. As black genealogists and historians increasingly share their research and are allowed to have a forum to contribute, they are revealing how history has been whitewashed to obscure the important contributions of people of color.

General News

GACA, 2021 Rewards Arts And Culture Industry Excellence 

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GACA, 2021 Rewards Arts And Culture Industry Excellence

The 2021 Ghana Arts and Culture Awards came off on Saturday 20 November 2021 at the Alisa Hotel, North Ridge in Accra. The Ghana Arts and Culture Awards seeks to reward individuals and brands excelling within the Arts and Culture industry in Ghana. The event was in partnership with the National Commission on Culture, Ghana Tourism Authority, National Folklore Board and Tourism Society of Ghana under the auspices of Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. The event was also sponsored by Alisa Hotel, Planet drink, Verna Mineral Water, Ceejay Multimedia, Ankobra Beach Resort, Virtual Hub, Beyond the Return and the Ghana Tourism Authority.
In all, there were 24 categories for various awards on the night.


Check the full list of winners below;
1. Lifetime Achievement Award – Osibisa Band
2. Honorary Award – Amandzeba Nat Brew
3. Honorary Award – Alisa Hotel
4. Honorary Award – Bob Pixel
5. Outstanding Cultural Personality – Nana Krobea Asante Kwahu Mpraeso Adontehene
6. Corporate Support for Arts and Culture – Ghana Tourism Authority
7. Cultural Heritage Entrepreneur – Theophilus Agyekum Sarpong ( Getbusy Art Konsult)
8. Ghanaian Artiste – Ssue
9. Indigenous Caterer – Dimensa
10. Arts and Culture Media (Radio) – Angel fm
11. Arts and Culture Media (Television) – Kantanka Tv
12. Arts and culture media (blog) – Voyageafriq
13. Arts and Culture Media ( Photography) – Dromotion Pictures
14. Arts Festival Event – Black Arts Street Festival
15. Ghanaian Fashion Designer – Eugene d’ Wise
16. Discovery of the Year – Patti Blueh Art
17. Traditional Dance Group – African Music and Dance Foundation
18. Traditional Music Group – Ananse Band
19. Cultural Television Program – Efiri tete (Garden City Tv)
20. Cultural Radio Program – Odomankoma (Opemsuo fm)
21. Spoken Word Artist – Fapempong Acheampong
22. Ghanaian Visual Artist (Sculpture/Ceramic) – Kumi Samuel
23. Ghanaian Visual Artist (Drawing) – Rosebird Ama Dadzie
24. Ghanaian Visual Artist (Painting / Graffiti) – James Mishio

The night also witnessed energizing cultural dance and music performances from Fapempong Acheampong, Akuma Dance Ensemble, Miishe Band and African Dance and Music Foundation. The High Commissioner of South Africa (Her Excellency Grace Mason), Mr. Kifalu S. Masha General Manager of Alisa Hotel, Prophetess Mercy Coffie Chief Servant of Mesukkah Organization Ministry International and CEO of Aunty Aku systems, Mr. Kofi Atta Kakra Kusi Deputy Corporate Affairs Director of the Ghana Tourism Authority ,Mr. Bessa Simons Ag. President MUSIGA, Mrs. Brandina Djaba Wear Ghana Ambassador, Mrs. Alisa Osei Asamoah President of Tour Operators Union of Ghana, Mr. Eric Bannerman CEO of Goldstar Air, Mrs. Delphine Brew Hammond CEO of Miss Tourism Ghana, Mr. Isaac Larmie CEO of Miss Culture Ghana, Mr. Joel F. K Abakah General Manager Ankobra Beach Resort, Mr. Benjamin Oduro Arhin Jnr Asst. Lecturer of School of Creative Arts University of Education Winneba, Gregg Kofi of Osibisa band, Amandzeba Nat Brew, Mr. Peter Akai Anum Executive Director The Head of State Award Scheme and past winners of Miss Tourism Ghana were present at the award ceremony.

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Apostle Ekow Ansah Aggrey lashes out on galamsey activities in Ghana

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Apostle Ekow Ansah Aggrey lashes out on galamsey activities in Ghana

General Overseer of the Fountain of Grace Royal Chapel, Apostle Ekow Ansah Aggrey has condemned galamsey activities in certain parts of the country leading to the destruction of River bodies and arable lands.

He has therefore called on Ghanaians to halt the practice and find alternative means of livelihoods.

Apostle Ansah Aggrey who said this in a sermon during a Sunday Church Service in Takoradi on the theme,” Ye Are The Salt and Light of the World, said the pollution of the river bodies by galamsey activities was a source of worry as the mercury and cyanide were toxin to fishes consumed from the polluted river bodies.

Apostle Ansah Aggrey said as the salt of the Earth, it behoved on believers to preserve the natural environment and some cocoa farmers were selling their farmlands for galamsey activities due to obsession about money.

“Some of the lands for the cultivation of crops are also being degraded beyond reclamation”.

The Minister of the gospel said though people tend to blame foreigners in the galamsey business, most Ghanaians were neck deep in the galamsey menace.

He said while the Western world usually planned ahead for the third and fourth generations and would always preserve resources for the coming generations, African countries were only selfish and did not think about generations yet unborn.

Apostle Ansah Aggrey appealed to government to take steps to redress the galamsey canker.

GNA

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Child labour still endemic on the Volta Lake – Gender Ministry 

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Child labour still endemic on the Volta Lake – Gender Ministry

Madam Abena Annobea Asare, a Director at the Human Trafficking Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, says child labour is still endemic on the Volta Lake.

She said despite the collaborative efforts from the Child Labour Unit of the Ministry, Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service, and other stakeholders, 20 per cent of children labourers were rescued from the Volta Lake.

Madam Asare was speaking at the opening of a two-day workshop in Accra on building a sustainable protection network to eliminate child labour as a result of human trafficking on the Volta Lake.

The workshop was part of a project implementation by the Labour Department, in collaboration with the Network for Community Planning and Development (NECPAD) and its partners.

The project is a 30-month intervention, dubbed: The Sustainable Nets Project.”

She said the fishing sector was one of the main areas of child labour and exploitation, which came in the form of trafficked, forced into labour or bondage, and even work in hazardous conditions under the purpose of exploitation.

From 2017 to 2020, there had been 1,917 victims of human trafficking and labour cases recorded.

A total of 997 of these victims are children, whilst 920 were adults.

Similarly, 1,040 are victims of labour exploitation as 151 fell prey to sex abuses.

Madam Asare said Ghanaians involved were 1,427 with other nationals totaling 489, with the number comprising 979 females and 938 males.

“Trafficking is an organised crime and must be fought by a well-organised agency,” she said.

“We must continue to work together, work as a team so that our efforts will be greater than the traffickers.”

“The 1992 Constitution, The Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 560), The Human Trafficking Act, 2005 (Act 694) and some other policies and regulations protect the interest of children, but traffickers somehow have not relented on their illegality.”

Madam Asare said the perpetrators used deception, offer juicy agreement to parents when the purpose was to be exploitative, adding that some of the signs associated with the victims were bruises, cuts, poor living conditions, and depression.

All the rescued victims had been rehabilitated and reintegrated with their families and a session of them had been engaged in apprenticeship whilst others were in school, she said.

Chief Superintendent Michael Baah, the Head of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of Criminal Investigations Department, said the prosecution had led to 44 convictions between 2018 to date.

Also, hundreds of victims had been rescued with 556 investigations between 2016 and 2020.

He said it was the responsibility of every citizen, particularly agencies mandated by law to protect the children, to give them a better future to save them from becoming miscreants to torment the very society that shirked its responsibility.

The Ghana Police Service, since 2015, introduced a child-friendly policing programme into its mainstream policing, with the idea being to empower officers with skills to engage and rescue children in a friendly manner.

Mr Paul Asamoah Kukwaw, the Director for NECPAD, said the Network targeted rescuing between 60 and 120 children with a rollout of a sustainable livelihood scheme to put them into apprenticeship training.

He pledged his organisation’s commitment to work in unison with all stakeholders to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims.
GNA

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