Haley Richardson, a Grade 12 student at Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School has won the grand Prize in the Grade 9-12 category of the A&E Lives That Make a Difference Essay Contest.
Richardson’s essay on the Franklin Expedition was chosen from thousands of submissions received this year for the nationwide contest. As a grand prize winner, Richardson will receive $3,000 and her teacher, Shawn Holland, will receive $1,000 for use in his classroom.
Richardson’s essay focuses on the excitement and significance of finding a lost piece of Canada’s history. She described the role Inuit legends played in its success, describing how “it showed that the aboriginal mythology was more than just stories, but as much a part of our history as anything else.
“The Franklin Expedition was a huge international success story for Canada” said Dr. Libby O’Connell, senior vice-president, A&E. “Haley’s essay captures both the excitement of the nation, and the significance of the discovery. Her eloquent writing and unique perspective made her essay standout amongst her peers.”
Here is Haley Richardson’s essay:
There can be little doubt that a significant portion of modern Canada was founded on exploration. This was especially evident this year, as the Franklin Expedition became the forefront of our news. Everyone from the Prime Minister down were caught up in the excitement of finding a lost piece of our history, the legacy of a man who had become a legend of our country. Yet in some ways, Franklin’s impact goes beyond our past, and brings to light many of the ideas shaping our present. Namely, the respect for the oral history and culture of our aboriginal peoples.
For years, scientists and adventurers alike had been searching for Franklin’s lost ships, but it wasn’t until they listened to the legends passed down by the Inuit that they actually succeeded. It showed that the aboriginal mythology was more than just stories, but as much a part of our history as anything else. Far too often have we fallen into the trap that Canada’s history began with explorers like Franklin, and neglected including the aboriginal into our collective consciousness. It is fitting that this realization should come in the form of Franklin, as shows that even our explorer’s history, something we had previously seen as the definitive beginning of our nation, is inextricably linked to our Native Peoples.
In a way, Franklin’s Expedition has made all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, realize that we are more than just explorers. We are storytellers and fable-makers, and that our history–and by extension our culture–is a mosaic, rather than a photograph. Consequentially, Franklin and his Expedition in the 19th century has made us more aware of how we need to redirect our focus in the 21st. There is still much for us to learn, and more places we can learn it from.