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Acquisition of a collection of Pauline Johnson letters

OTTAWA, December 14, 2000  --  A descendant of an Ottawa Valley pioneer family, Joan Ritchie of New Jersey has donated her great-uncle’s letters from the Canadian poet Pauline Johnson (1861-1913) to the National Archives of Canada. The Archibald Kains papers include eighteen letters from Pauline Johnson, an important nineteenth century poet of Mohawk and English descent who was born and raised on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Most of the letters date from 1889 and 1890, a period not previously well-documented in Johnson’s life. They describe her burgeoning literary career as well as her enthusiasm for the theatre. They also reflect her passionate defence of aboriginal rights and her belief in equality for women. The recipient of the letters, Archie Kains (1865-1944), was raised in London, Ontario, but became a prominent banker in the United States. He was a youthful admirer of Pauline Johnson’s, who escorted her around New York and introduced her to the art of painting. Their flirtatious correspondence appears to have ended with his engagement to another woman, whom Archie Kains married in 1895. A final letter, dated 1912, when Pauline Johnson was in difficult financial circumstances and dying of cancer in Vancouver, reveals that Kains sent her money to help ease her last remaining months of life. Archie Kains died in Ottawa in 1944, and the Kains papers have now been returned to Canada by his American descendants.

Pauline E. Johnson, 
Brantford, Ontario, ca. 1885-1895.

National Archives of Canada

The material donated by Joan Ritchie has been accessioned at the National Archives as the Archibald Kains fonds (accession 2000-01315-5). Other documents relating to Pauline Johnson can be found by searching ArchiviaNet, the National Archives’ on-line database. McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, holds the Pauline Johnson fonds, and has produced a Web site on Pauline Johnson in co-operation with Industry Canada (

For more information contact:

Pauline Portelance
Media Relations Officer Telephone: (613) 996-6128