John’s Believe It Or Not… April 13th

* 2000 – Nisga’a Treaty gets Royal Assent. * 1919 The Amritsar Massacre * 1964 Sidney Poitier wins Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field * 1990 Soviets admit to Katyn Massacre * 1360 Hail kills English troops

Poitier at the Academy Awards

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 2000 – Nisga’a Treaty gets Royal Assent.

The Nisga’a Treaty is a negotiated agreement between the Nisga’a Nation, the Government of British Columbia (B.C.) and the Government of Canada. It came into effect on May 11, 2000.

The Nisga’a Treaty is the first modern-day treaty in B.C. and is the fourteenth modern treaty in Canada to be negotiated since 1976.


The Nisga’a quest for a treaty began over 100 years ago, with the formation of our first Land Committee in 1890. However, from 1927 to 1951, the Nisga’a could not pursue our goal for a treaty because Canadian laws made it illegal for Indians to raise money to advance land claims. After these laws were repealed in 1951 the Nisga’a Land Committee re-established itself as the Nisga’a Tribal Council in 1955.


The Nisga’a Treaty provides for an open, democratic and accountable Nisga’a Government. It includes representation for all Nisga’a through the Nisga’a Lisims Government, four Village Governments, and three Urban Locals, which provide a voice for Nisga’a citizens who live outside the Nass Valley.

Nisga’a Government operates within the Constitution of Canada and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Nisga’a Treaty establishes decision-making authority for Nisga’a Government within a model that the Nisga’a have been accustomed to and have accepted for many years. The Nisga’a Government model is designed as a practical and workable arrangement that provides the Nisga’a Nation with a significant measure of self-government that is consistent with the overall public interest and within Canada’s constitutional framework.

The Nisga’a Lisims Government may make laws in many areas and has principal authority over some, including administration of government, management of the Nisga’a Nation’s lands and assets, Nisga’a citizenship, language, and culture. However, the treaty also includes limitations on Nisga’a Government authority. For example, Nisga’a Government cannot make laws about Nisga’a citizenship that deal with immigration or Canadian citizenship.

All Nisga’a laws operate alongside federal and provincial laws, similar to other jurisdictions in Canada where Canadians are subject to federal, provincial and municipal laws simultaneously. The Treaty includes important rules, which set out what will happen to address any conflicts or inconsistencies between laws.

In addition, many Nisga’a Government authorities are subject to federal or provincial standards, where a “meet or beat” approach is taken. This approach is taken in a number of areas, including education, child and family services, adoption, and forestry. Child welfare is a good example of how this works. Nisga’a laws have priority if they meet or exceed provincial standards for child protection — but federal and provincial laws requiring the reporting of children in care continue to apply. The provincial government can continue to act as needed to protect a child at risk within the agreement between the Nisga’a and B.C.

Nisga’a Government may also make laws in areas where some local authority is appropriate, such as environmental protection, health and social services, and traffic and transportation. However, in these areas, federal or provincial laws prevail.

Did you know?

1. Subject to age, all Nisga’a citizens may run for office and vote in Nisga’a elections;
2. Nisga’a elections must be held every five years;
3. Nisga’a Conflict of Interest guidelines and financial accountability mechanisms must be comparable to those that apply to other governments in Canada;
4. Protections to ensure standards in services, health and safety have been built into the Treaty; and,
5. Protections for non-Nisga’a residents who live on Nisga’a Lands are set out in the Treaty — this includes rights of consultation, participation, and appeal where decisions of the Nisga’a Government directly and significantly affect them.

Map: The Nisga a Final Agreement, also known as the Nisga a Treaty
The Nisga a Final Agreement, also known as the Nisga a Treaty (SlidePlayer)

* 1919 The Amritsar Massacre

In Amritsar, India’s holy city of the Sikh religion, British and Gurkha troops massacre at least 379 unarmed demonstrators meeting at the Jallianwala Bagh, a city park. Most of those killed were Indian nationalists meeting to protest the British government’s forced conscription of Indian soldiers and the heavy war tax imposed against the Indian people.

A few days earlier, in reaction to a recent escalation in protests, Amritsar was placed under martial law and handed over to British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, who banned all meetings and gatherings in the city. On April 13, the day of the Sikh Baisakhi festival, tens of thousands of people came to Amritsar from surrounding villages to attend the city’s traditional fairs. Thousands of these people, many unaware of Dyer’s recent ban on public assemblies, convened at Jallianwala Bagh, where a nationalist demonstration was being held. Dyer’s troops surrounded the park and without warning opened fire on the crowd, killing several hundred and wounding more than a thousand. Dyer, who in a subsequent investigation admitted to ordering the attack for its “moral effect” on the people of the region, had his troops continue the murderous barrage until all their artillery was exhausted. British authorities later removed him from his post.

The massacre stirred nationalist feelings across India and had a profound effect on one of the movement’s leaders, Mohandas Gandhi. During World War I, Gandhi had actively supported the British in the hope of winning partial autonomy for India, but after the Amritsar Massacre, he became convinced that India should accept nothing less than full independence. To achieve this end, Gandhi began organizing his first campaign of mass civil disobedience against Britain’s oppressive rule.

Painting: Bloodbath on Baisakhi: The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, April 13, 1919
Bloodbath on Baisakhi: The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, April 13, 1919 (

* 1964 Sidney Poitier wins Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field

On this day in 1964, Sydney Poitier becomes the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his role as a construction worker who helps build a chapel in Lilies of the Field (1963).

Poitier was born in 1924, while his parents were visiting the United States from the Bahamas, where his father was a tomato farmer. As a teenager, Poitier dropped out of school and returned to America to enlist in the U.S. Army during World War II. After his military stint, he became interested in theater and applied to the American Negro Theatre in New York City. Rejected initially because of his strong island accent, Poitier trained himself in American enunciation and reapplied, this time successfully. He debuted on Broadway in 1946 in an all-black production of Lysistrata, and by 1950 he was appearing in Hollywood films, beginning with No Way Out.

By consistently refusing to play the stereotypical roles that were offered to him as a black actor, Poitier blazed a trail for himself and the performers who followed him. By the time he earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for The Defiant Ones (1958), his work in such films as The Blackboard Jungle (1955) had made him America’s first prominent black film star. With his historic Oscar win for Lilies of the Field, Poitier became only the second African American to win an Academy Award. The first was Hattie McDaniel, who won in the Best Supporting Actress category in 1939 for Gone with the Wind. McDaniel played Mammy, the tough but indulgent slave governess to the spoiled Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara. Critics of the film, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), later pointed to the role as an example of the typical black stereotypes that Hollywood was keeping alive.

When presenting Poitier with his Oscar statuette, the actress Ann Bancroft congratulated him with a kiss on the cheek, a gesture that caused a mild scandal among the show’s most conservative audiences. Poitier took part in a more momentous kiss three years later, when he and Katherine Houghton shared the first interracial on-screen kiss in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967).

Scene from Lillies of the Field showing Sidney Poitier pumping water outside.

* 1990 Soviets admit to Katyn Massacre

The Soviet government officially accepts blame for the Katyn Massacre of World War II, when nearly 5,000 Polish military officers were murdered and buried in mass graves in the Katyn Forest. The admission was part of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s promise to be more forthcoming and candid concerning Soviet history.

In 1939, Poland had been invaded from the west by Nazi forces and from the east by Soviet troops. Sometime in the spring of 1940, thousands of Polish military officers were rounded up by Soviet secret police forces, taken to the Katyn Forest outside of Smolensk, massacred, and buried in a mass grave. In 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and pushed into the Polish territory once held by the Russians. In 1943, with the war against Russia going badly, the Germans announced that they had unearthed thousands of corpses in the Katyn Forest. Representatives from the Polish government-in-exile (situated in London) visited the site and decided that the Soviets, not the Nazis, were responsible for the killings. These representatives, however, were pressured by U.S. and British officials to keep their report secret for the time being, since they did not want to risk a diplomatic rupture with the Soviets. As World War II came to an end, German propaganda lashed out at the Soviets, using the Katyn Massacre as an example of Russian atrocities. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin flatly denied the charges and claimed that the Nazis were responsible for the slaughter. The matter was not revisited for 40 years.

By 1990, however, two factors pushed the Soviets to admit their culpability. First was Gorbachev’s much-publicized policy of “openness” in Soviet politics. This included a more candid appraisal of Soviet history, particularly concerning the Stalin period. The second was the state of Polish-Soviet relations in 1990. The Soviet Union was losing much of its power to hold onto its satellites in Eastern Europe, but the Russians hoped to retain as much influence as possible. In Poland, Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement was steadily eroding the power of the communist regime. The Katyn Massacre issue had been a sore spot in relations with Poland for over four decades, and it is possible that Soviet officials believed that a frank admission and apology would help ease the increasing diplomatic tensions. The Soviet government issued the following statement: “The Soviet side expresses deep regret over the tragedy, and assesses it as one of the worst Stalinist outrages.”

Whether the Soviet admission had any impact is difficult to ascertain. The communist regime in Poland crumbled by the end of 1990, and Lech Walesa was elected president of Poland in December of that year. Gorbachev resigned in December 1991, which brought an effective end to the Soviet Union.

Katyn massacre, the mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the Soviet secret police
Katyn massacre, the mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the Soviet secret police (

* 1360 Hail kills English troops

On so-called “Black Monday” in 1360, a hail storm kills an estimated 1,000 English soldiers in Chartres, France. The storm and the devastation it caused also played a part in the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.

The Hundred Years’ War began in 1337; by 1359, King Edward III of England was actively attempting to conquer France. In October, he took a massive force across the English Channel to Calais. The French refused to engage in direct fights and stayed behind protective walls throughout the winter, while Edward pillaged the countryside.

In April 1360, Edward’s forces burned the Paris suburbs and began to move toward Chartres. While they were camped outside the town, a sudden storm materialized. Lightning struck, killing several people, and hailstones began pelting the soldiers, scattering the horses. One described it as “a foul day, full of myst and hayle, so that men dyed on horseback [sic].” Two of the English leaders were killed and panic set in among the troops, who had no shelter from the storm.

The heavy losses suffered by the English were seen by many as a sign from God. King Edward was convinced to negotiate peace with the French. On May 8, 1360, the Treaty of Bretigny was signed, marking the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War. Edward agreed to renounce all claims to the throne of France, though he was given control of land in the north of the country. Fighting resumed nine years later, when the king of France declared war, claiming Edward had not honored the treaty. The last phase of the Hundred Years’ War did not end until 1453.

The largest hailstone recorded in modern times was found in Aurora, Nebraska. It was seven inches in diameter, about the size of a soccer ball. Hail typically falls at about 100 miles per hour.

King Edward III implores the forgiveness of God while facing the storm of 1360
King Edward III implores the forgiveness of God while facing the storm of 1360 (Ancient Origins)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* Nisga’a Lisims Government                         

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                                            

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

17 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… April 13th”

  1. Btw, even after Poitier won that academy award he was still treated like a “Negro.” In his auto-biography he writes about how when he would fly into airports and eat in restaurants there more often than not they’d put a screen around him so white people wouldn’t have to watch him eat. That’s so ridiculous, isn’t it?


  2. You would think one could go under a shield instead of dying by hailstone. Of course, I wasn’t there. The photo on the left accompanying the Katyn Massacre story is definitely one of two Germans shooting people. I would say it was the wrong photo for the wrong event. The other looks like the Germans uncovering the massacre.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Weather affecting war has been a recurring theme. The Spanish Armada’s plight through the English Channel is one of many examples. But, a 7-inch hailstone falling at a hundred miles an hour? Good grief! Run for cover!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Christina Ochs’ historical/fantasy series, The Desolate Empire, is based on the players in the 100 years war. I had the privilege of being one of her beta readers for the first three books. Her 6th and the finale are going to be released in two days. She does some great world building in her series…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not in the three books I’ve read. I haven’t been able to read much since last May, so I missed 4 and 5 altogether and now 6 is coming out. I’ll have to ask her about it. I’m in her cabin at Camp NaNoWriMo.


    1. I saw that movie when I was a kid – I loved it but was disappointed they filmed it in black and white – like the old TV programs. I saw an interview recently with Denzel Washington who said that Sidney Poitier was his mentor and they live nearby each other – the have coffee on a regular basis. I admire both of them. Thanks, Mae.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. The hail storm story was shocking to read. It’s hard to imagine a 1,000 or so killed by a pelting of hail. I guess it took something as unusual as that for rulers to come to their senses and stop the war. On a much lighter side, I have always loved Sydney Poitier. Years back, I met him at a reception, a real gentleman. Have a great day, John.

    Liked by 3 people

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