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I just finished reading a provocative article in the May 2017 issue of CCPA (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) The Monitor, which is called Views of Canada.  In it, an indigenous writer, Tara Williamson, writes about the current move toward reconciliation as just another attempt by white settlers to assuage their guilt at forcing assimilation on the first peoples of this land.  She writes “If reconciliation were actually about making amends from the past it would involve actions that accounted for the ongoing legacy of colonization.  We would be having conversations about land repatriation.  We would talk about dismantling structural inequities.  You would give us back our children:”.  (CCPA The Monitor, May 2017, p. 22)

Harsh words.  Hard for us settlers to hear and understand, let alone accept.  Land repatriation won’t happen.  No elected government would ever support that, and I don’t think any government anywhere (nor in recorded history) has ever repatriated land.  Armed struggle and revolution is the only way that land has been redistributed.  Yet there is truth in Williamson’s words.  So what now?

What would Jesus do?  Did he live in a land that had been stolen from its inhabitants?  Oh, yes, the Romans ruled Israel during Jesus’ lifetime.  Yet he said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.  Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Who is my neighbor?  What would it mean to love first nations people as we love ourselves?

How would we see land use and land ownership differently?  The early Jewish people believed they were stewards of the land, not owners.  Could we get back to that?  What would it take for our society to change from land ownership to land stewardship?  Would the banks suddenly stop collecting interest on mortgages?  Are the environmentalists who believe in land respect and stewardship in line with aboriginals?  Do aboriginals and environmentalists work together?

As I weeded my back yard I realized I would not give my land away, not to anyone, no matter what colour their skin or their needs.

“Terra Nullius” is one of the principles followed by the European settlers.  It means “land belonging to no one”.  That belief justified making the Indian tribes who lived on the land invisible, despite their initial welcome to newcomers and their principles of “sharing the land”.  The key words are “belonging to”.  Land ownership is at the heart of settler mentality and colonization.  After all, most of our European ancestors came to the new world as impoverished tenants with no resources, and they came because of the promise of free land upon which to start over.  Are we willing to look at that?  Is land ownership just another of the structural inequities that we must examine?  Could “terra nullius” also mean “land belonging to no one yet everyone upon it”?

Without a common understanding of the land and our place upon it, and without an agreement to live in love and respect for all our neighbours, reconciliation is just a word.

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I bought ‘Away’ at a thrift store, because I always browse the book section when I visit a thrift store.  I had heard of Jane Urquhart so picked this up.  ‘Away’ was one of her earlier books, and it just grabbed me and kept me spellbound while I read it.  This could be because of my Irish heritage, or maybe my desire to be a better writer, or perhaps the combination of dreaminess and rugged poverty.  I thought of others who have mined their families for historical myth and fact.  Sad and brave people.  Our ancestors.  The early settlers, searching for a place to start anew and to grow their own food and be sustained in safety.  I had tears frequently.

Another of Jane Urquhart’s books was ‘The Stone Carvers’, which I read mostly on the weekend of the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.  The Stone Carvers tells the story of a broken family of settlers, whose children were raised by a woodcarver father and a distressed mother.  Eventually the brother and sister move to become carvers of the Vimy memorial, but that doesn’t happen until near the end of the book.  Leading up to that is a tale of loss and pain, of love and despair.  Magical, which Urguhart is so good at displaying,

When I read her book ‘Night Stages’ I was carried away again to Ireland, but not a part that I have visited.  It also makes me want to visit Gander Nfld to see the mural at the airport.  This book was well-researched.  I thought a lot about marriage and mistresses, and sibling rivalry.  Sad.  However, one part I wrote into my journal, because she tells the legend of Oisin. She writes how Oisin thought he had been asleep for only 3 days, and he wanted to find his hunting companions.  St. Patrick met him and told him he had been asleep for three centuries, and his companions were long dead.  It had been a long time since the wars.  Oisin wept.  Patrick said, “I will instruct my monks to write down your stories and those of your kin, so they will not be lost.  for your world has been vanquished my my world, and will never come back.”  (P. 155)

This part moved me to tears, because I thought about the First Nations desire for restoration and our settler need for reconciliation.  This is sadness.  Acceptance of loss.  Sorrow.


Another book I read was historical fiction, set in China before the communist revolution.  The Russian Concubine was a great read, entertaining as well as informative.  It followed two women, a mother and daughter, and taught me about the expatriate community in one of the larger Chinese towns.  Very good, and I can’t recall who wrote it.  Based on fact, I’m sure, but the characters were cleverly developed and gripped me with the intensity of young love.  The teen-aged daughter seemed totally real, disclosing her thoughts which often were in opposition to her behavior.  She could be a brat at times.

 


I love to read, as well as write.  I’ve taken a few good fiction books to the little library box down the block.  I can’t recall who wrote “Tiger Hills”, but it was a great read.  It also taught me about narcissism, because the protagonist, Devi, infuriated me.  I looked up the definition of narcissist online the next day.  Narcissism: a distorted self-image – the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes – only listens to herself – lacks empathy – who changes the topic, gets defensive, or gets mad at you when you try to talk about difficulties you’ve been experiencing.  The desire to sustain a relationship can quickly fade.  1. unilateral listening  2. it’s all about me   3. the rules don’t apply to me  4. your concerns are really criticisms of me  and I hate being criticized  5. I’m right.  You’re wrong.  So when things are wrong between us it’s always your fault.

How well a person listens is a primary indicator of mental health or narcissism.  Disparaging or ignoring others’ input suggests narcissistic patterns.  Excessive altruism invites co-dependency and enabling behaviours.  The ability to hear both oneself and the other is bi-lateral listening.  That’s healthy.

I copies this from my journal, written on May 3rd.  I find that writing about the books I read is a great way to remember them.


This book by Bernard Cornwell describes an uneasy peace between Northumbria’s Vikings and Mercia’s Saxons.  Uhtred of Bebbanburg plans how to recapture his birthright home from his uncle and cousin who usurped his land in a previous battle.  Uhtred has leaned the skills of war fighting throughout Britain, and his reputation inspires and scares others.  This is a fast-moving historical fiction read, full of lusty passionate people, and offers a glimpse into life as it was. Bernard Cornwell has written several novels that describe ancient times, and this doesn’t disappoint his readers who expect fast action, brave heroes, and compelling challenges.


This book, written by Diana Jones, tells the story of a stretcher-bearer in World War I.  It contains detailed information about the region of Picardie, France, and helps us experience the days and nights before the battle of the Somme.  Inspired by tales from her grandfather, who was a stretcher-bearer in WWI, Diana has researched and expanded the story into a tale of fiction.  Since I have known Diana for several years I have heard about the many revisions to her manuscript.  I had no idea she was a skilled writer as well as a thoughtful wise woman!  I am thrilled to have a personalized copy of her book, which I have recommended to many others.  The Bearer’s Burden may be fiction, but it could be true.  Historical fiction that grips the reader, and makes me want to read more about the European men and women of the last century.


This book, by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, is another of their historical books about the First Nations people of North America.  This book tells the stories of people who lived 7000 years ago.  Major climatic change was ushering in a 3500 year drought, A young dreamer and a courageous woman from another tribe united to lead their people to a new destiny.  As usual, the authors, who are archaeologists and anthropologists, teach as well as inspire, as they show how people lived during a tumultuous dangerous time.  They have the same emotions and thought processes that we have today, so despite their way of life, the decisions made resonate with us still.