A Mohawk history lost, a Mohawk history found

Rope Loft lives in Six Nations on the Grand River and works mostly in the Mississauga and Toronto area, but you won't see him there unless you're in a helicopter.

He's a Mohawk ironworker, often up high building skyscrapers, in the tradition of the Mohawk Skywalkers. As such, he can see for miles out into space. But, until recently, not so far through time, into the past. He couldn't even see the horizon of his own personal ancestry.

Then one day about six years ago, Rope was poking around on the internet, one thing led to another, one website to the next, several links to several more, and much to his astonishment, over the course of a computer search that day, he realized he is the great-great grandson of Frederick Ogilvie Loft.

That name, Frederick Ogilvie Loft, might not mean much to many people now but in the early 20th century, during and before the First World War and well after it, on into the 1920s, it was in the news often and prominently. Probably the foremost Indigenous activist of the day.

Frederick Loft raised alarms about the residential school system as early as the late 1800s. He wrote for the Brantford Expositor and the (Toronto) Globe. He once was accorded a personal audience with King George V for his efforts recruiting Indigenous soldiers from Canada to fight in the First World War, and later he went on to found the League of Canadian Indians, which led to the Assembly of First Nations.

Why don't we know more about Frederick Loft? The reasons are both obvious and complex. For one, the history of Indigenous people in North America is too often a history of history itself being lost, taken away.

Whatever the reasons, his descendant Rope Loft has devoted the past half decade to redressing the omission, compiling information and trying to spread the news, if one can call it news after 100 years.

"It has been said," Rope remarks, "that when you lose your history, you lose your people."

Him finding out about his great-great grandfather by accident is like someone named Bell stumbling across a forgotten ancestor who, it turns out, had invented the telephone. Can we imagine that? No, I didn't think so.

"I'd been wondering about my grandfather Emerson, who died in 1967. My mom remembers a Freddie Loft, Emerson's father. So I punched in Freddie and this guy (Freddie's father Frederick) comes up."

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