“A Strong Race Opinion” (1892) by E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

E. Pauline Johnson originally published “A Strong Race Opinion: On the Indian Girl in Modern Fiction” in the Toronto Sunday Globe on 22 May 1892. In this opinion piece, Johnson critiques one-dimensional, reductive depictions of Indigenous female characters by Canadian authors, including John Richardson. Although Johnson uses some terminology that is now considered outdated (for more information, see A Note on Indigenous Terminology), she makes an important argument against racialization in a time when sterotypical portrayals of Indigenous peoples were considered the norm.

Read “A Strong Race Opinion: On the Indian Girl in Modern Fiction” here, and then answer the questions below.

For help with critical reading, see “Close Reading Prose.”

Reading Questions

  • Racialized Representations: What are Johnson’s main objections with the way Indigenous women were portrayed in fiction at the time? Give specific examples of the way Johnson critiques racialized representation in works such as Tecumseh, Wacousta, and An Algonquin Maiden.
  • Gender: What critiques and assumptions about gender roles does Johnson make?
  • An Indian Heroine: What characteristics does Johnson wish to see in a literary Indian heroine? What values inform Johnson’s assessment of what makes a good or a bad figure?

Critical Interactions

Norman Shrive integrates many passages from “A Strong Race Opinion” into his article What Happened to Pauline? while discussing Victorian romanticism in Johnson’s poetry and performances (see especially 32–34). Do you agree with this integration of her essay, and with his assessment of her poetry? Why, or why not?

Works Cited

  • Johnson, E. Pauline. A Strong Race Opinion: On the Indian Girl in Modern Fiction. 1892. CanLit Guides. U of British Columbia (Canadian Literature), Apr. 2013. Web. 5 Apr. 2013. (PDF)
  • Shrive, Norman. What Happened to Pauline? Canadian Literature 13 (1962): 25–38. Print. (PDF)