The Peace Arch's International Mission Begins at Home

By Richard E. Clark | 1996-09-01 12:00:00

Standing on the 49th parallel of latitude, where the international boundary separates Canada from the United States, is a monument celebrating peace. The International Peace Arch, dedicated by founder Samuel Hill on Sept. 6, 1921, has been bearing its testimony of harmonious relations between Canada, Great Britain, and the U.S. for 75 years.

Towering as high as an eight-story building, with a base equal to its height, this white concrete structure is said to be the world's only arch dedicated to peace. Its bipedal architecture is designed so that one massive foot is planted in Canada and the other in the U.S. Standing in acres of beautiful lawn and gardens, the arch radiates a feeling of strength through peace.

Realizing that the 75th anniversary of the Peace Arch coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Treaty (signed by Great Britain and the U.S. to establish the Canada/U.S. boundary), local citizens formed an association called the United States/Canada Anniversary, Inc. Christina Alexander, founder, coordinator, and president of the organization, finds widespread interest in promoting the history of the arch.

The words "Children of a Common Mother" are emblazoned on the Peace Arch, and the association has taken a special interest in children's education. It created "The Portal of Peace" teaching curriculum for acquainting elementary school children with the Peace Arch's history. Relevant treaties including Oregon and Ghent (marking the end of the War of 1812) are covered. The boundary survey is reviewed, Samuel Hill's biographic sketch is presented, and the roles of two ships, the Mayflower and Beaver, are described. A cut-and-paste model of the arch lets children familiarize themselves with its design. They then have an opportunity to experience history by way of "Pennies for Peace," a reenactment of a fundraiser held in 1930 during the Great Depression. About $1,200 was donated from public schools across Washington state, allowing the creation of gardens that over the ensuing decades have become a tourist attraction.

Utilizing historic film footage, TCI Cablevision of Washington produced a 30-minute educational video, The Peace Arch Rises. Short battle scenes of World War II and Vietnam are followed by views of the Peace Arch under construction and by lessons on the Treaty of Ghent and the Oregon Treaty. Exciting movie scenes show Hill delivering his address at the dedication of the Peace Arch. The video includes interviews of four elderly people who attended the dedication as children. It concludes with a discussion of the definitions of peace, inviting the audience to meditate on the cause for which the Arch stands. The Peace Arch Rises has been selected by Arts and Entertainment to air internationally early next year, honoring those whose perseverance provided us with the 49-acre park that people from around the world enjoy.

On the Sept. 6 weekend, a reenactment of the 1921 dedication will kick off an international effort to establish an interpretive center in the park.

The directors of the association were recently guests of the British-American Business Council of the Pacific Northwest at a gala for Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. The prince visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time in connection with the 150th anniversary of the Oregon Treaty.

The British Consulate in Seattle will donate an exhibit wall dedicated to the treaty and a fundraising performance by the Band of the Adjutant General's Corps from Winchester, England.

More information about the association and copies of "The Portal of Peace" and The Peace Arch Rises may be obtained by contacting the United States/Canada Peace Anniversary, Inc., P.O. Box 4564, Blaine WA 98231-4564, U.S.; phone 360/332-7009; fax 360/332-7165.

Richard Clark is author of Point Roberts, US: The History of a Canadian Enclave and Blaine's 1996 proclamation,"Promoting World Peace."

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1996

Peace Magazine Sep-Oct 1996, page 25. Some rights reserved.

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