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Welcome to the Buffer State


Welcome to the Buffer State

words & music Mike Ford


Well they gathered up the muskets and canon and rolled out the maps

Status quo ante bellum, cigars and brandy and no hard feelings chaps

But what about Beaver Dams and Detroit, what about Chateauguay

Without the tomahawk we wouldn’t a stood a chance – this would all be USA


Another century rolls by and how do you feel

Maybe it’s time to be thankful and back it up with something real


I know they say justice can take such a long long time

We’ve only got the northern lights to answer to – they’re tryin’ to give us a sign

But Ohhh little snowbird, you’re too young to understand

What it’s like to become a refugee on your own ancestral land


Another century rolls by and how do you feel

Maybe it’s time to be thankful and back it up with something real


So build another monument, have some more cake and parade

But there’s the question of unfinished business here– don’t think it’s gonna fade

But maybe in another two-hundred years they can all celebrate

They’ll say Happy Anniversary everyone, and welcome to the Buffer State


Another century rolls by and how do you feel

Maybe it’s time to be thankful and back it up with something real


Happy Anniversary from Sea to Sea to Sea to sea and Welcome to the Buffer State






I wanted to create something on this topic to be the closing song for my 1812 song-cycle. I believe there is a great lack of appreciation and awareness of the contribution of First Nations groups and First Nations individuals (including Metis) in The War of 1812. When I learn of the immense importance of Aboriginal involvement in the fight against the invasions of US forces in 1812/13/14, I cannot help but conclude that without such involvement, there would be no such Country as Canada today – or certainly not of its present size. Then, when I contrast that importance with the apparent lack of importance our society gives to issues affecting Aboriginal Canadians today, I see a great gap that needs attention.

During the War of 1812, the British and Native leaders spoke of the idea of a buffer state –a territory between the US and Canada where Aboriginal society could flourish. Suffice to say it did not come to pass….. but on this anniversary, if I may…I imagine a future day, when a great synthesis is known and lived

….. a kind of Buffer State, perhaps….

It reminds as well of this quote, from 70 years later:

"Mon peuple va s'endormir pour cent ans et ce seront ses artistes qui le réveilleront." - Louis Riel

My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.


Discussion Questions

1.Historical research shows that, before the end of The War of 1812, British leaders and negotiators spoke of the idea of creating an Aboriginal ‘Buffer-State’ between Canada and the USA. Today, there are over 200 Reserves in Canada for First Nations peoples. How is the ‘Buffer State’ concept different from the reality of these Reserves?

2.In The War of 1812, were British soldiers and European settlers in Canada fighting for the same thing as First Nations warriors?

3.In what which war of 1812 battles were First Nation warriors most involved? Which ones are mentioned in this song?

4. Did the manner in which British and Colonial soldiers fought differ from the methods First Nations warriors used? Did either group learn methods from the other?

5.Do you feel Canadians have an adequate understanding of the role of First Nations groups and individuals in the War of 1812? If not, what would help to increase this understanding?

6. Mike Ford says in his song that “maybe its time to be thankful and back it up with something real”. Who is he proposing Canadians should express thanks to? And what could the ‘something real’ be that he suggests?

7.In talking about ideas such as the ‘Buffer State’, it can be said that we are discussing historical ‘What Ifs’, as in: What if they did create a Buffer State? What would be different? or What if the British/Canadian side won The Battle of Lake Erie? Etc. Would life in North America be different if this Buffer-State ‘What If ‘had occurred? What other What If does Mike Ford suggest in the first verse of the song?

8. What other historical ‘What Ifs’ or ‘hypotheticals’ can you suggest about The War of 1812? About any period in history? Is there a benefit to these kind of ‘what if’ questions?


Related Activities

1.Using a map of North America, show where you feel this proposed ‘Buffer State’ would have been created. Explain the reasons for the area you have indicated.

2.Using a map of North America, show which First Nations groups were involved in The War of 1812, and where. 

3.Music: Create a “Historical What If” song, in which a) the questions are clearly asked, such as: “What if the US sent a much bigger army to The Battle of Queenston Heights?” and, b) possible outcomes are clearly stated, such as: “The US would have captured all of The Niagara Peninsula and today Niagara Falls would all be in the USA” or “The British/Canadian side would have had its supply lines cut and would have lost all of Upper Canada!”. Feel free to add even specific possible differences that would created for today, such as: “…and now when I go to the store, all the money is green!” or “…and now Ontario is called North Pennsylvania!”.