Government of Canada recognizes John Ware as a person of national historic significance

News release

John Ware’s horsemanship, generosity, and strength secured his place in the mythology of the Canadian West

June 6, 2022                                  Longview, Alberta                  Parks Canada Agency

National historic designations encourage us to acknowledge both the triumphs and the struggles that have led us to the Canada of today, and help us reflect on how to build a more inclusive society for today and future generations. John Ware was a Black cowboy who built a successful ranching career despite racism, rough frontier conditions, and having been enslaved.

Today, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced the designation of John Ware as a person of national historic significance under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration. The designation was commemorated with a special ceremony unveiling a plaque at Bar U Ranch National Historic Site.

In 1882, John Ware entered the District of Alberta on a trail crew driving thousands of cattle to the site of what became known as the Bar U Ranch. Here, he wrangled the herds of large ranching outfits before building his own ranch with his wife Mildred and their children. He achieved success in a white-dominated industry largely controlled by well-financed corporations. Ware’s generosity and superior skill as a cowboy earned him an enduring reputation and a prominent place in the mythology of the Canadian West.

Canada honours the resilience, innovation, and determination of Black people and recognizes the major contributions they have made, and continue to make, in all sectors of society.

The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes significant persons, places, and events that have shaped our country as one way of helping Canadians connect with their past. By sharing these stories with Canadians, we hope to foster understanding and reflection on the diverse histories, cultures, legacies, and realities of Canada’s past and present.

The designation process under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made nationwide. To nominate a person, place or historic event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/culture/clmhc-hsmbc/ncp-pcn/application.

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Quotes

“I am pleased to commemorate the national historic significance of John Ware, who embodies the resilience and strength of Black Canadians. Commemoration is about recognizing the many diverse aspects of our history. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring Canadians have the opportunity to learn about the full scope of our history.”

The Honourable Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

"We still have a lot to learn about the experiences of Canada's Black cowboys. The National Film Board's John Ware Reclaimed by Cheryl Foggo exposed some difficult aspects of Ware's story, ones we don't like to see because racism is out of line with our western Canadian values of freedom and merit. I nominated John Ware as a positive reminder that anyone of any colour or background can have a place in Canada's story. Our rich diversity has never been a threat to who we are. It makes us who we are."

Janet Annesley
Nominated John Ware for designation as a person of national historic significance

"Recognizing John Ware as a person of national historic significance illuminates him and his beautiful family. It makes his accomplishments in agriculture and his skills as a horseman visible to all who will read this plaque, while honouring the complexity of his life and situation. It also simply acknowledges that he was here. We were and are here."

Cheryl Foggo
Author, playwright, and filmmaker

Nominated John Ware for designation as a person of national historic significance

“The designation of John Ware as a person of national historic significance contributes its own unique story to the greater story of Canada. Designations like these help Canadians to better understand their country and some of the collective and personal experiences that have contributed to Canadian identity and society. I encourage all Canadians to learn more about the designations that reflect on the important contributions of Black Canadians to Canada’s heritage.”

Arielle Kayabaga
Member of Parliament for London West and Chair of the Black Caucus

Quick facts

  • In 1882, John Ware joined the North West Cattle Company to drive more than three thousand cattle north to the District of Alberta. The company was establishing a ranch on the traditional territories of the Iyarhe Nakoda (Stoney Nakoda), Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot), and Ktunaxa (Kootenay) First Nations. This extensive cattle operation would come to be known by its brand, the Bar U. John Ware worked at the Bar U Ranch until 1884, breaking horses and helping with the building of the Saddle Horse Barn – which still stands at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site today.

  • The John Ware Historic Site and Monuments Board of Canada plaque will be on permanent display at the Saddle Horse Barn. Please visit the Bar U website for further information and hours of operation.

  • The Government of Canada has recognized more than 40 people, places, and events of national historic significance that reflect the importance of Black Canadians to our country’s shared heritage.

  • Canada officially recognizes the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, which began in 2015 and will be observed until 2024. The International Decade promotes greater global recognition of and respect for the cultures, history and heritage of people of African descent.

  • Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national significance of persons, places, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration and these important stories are shared with Canadians.

  • Parks Canada is committed to working with Canadians in our efforts to tell broader, more inclusive stories in the places that it manages. In support of this goal, the Framework for History and Commemoration outlines a new, comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing Canada’s history through diverse perspectives, including shedding light on tragic and difficult periods of Canada’s past.

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Contacts

Kaitlin Power
Press Secretary     
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
819-230-1557
kaitlin.power@ec.gc.ca


Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency
855-862-1812
pc.media@pc.gc.ca

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