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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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This book by Madeleine Thien won the Giller prize this year, so I was anxious to read it.  I watched Madeleine Thien receive the award, when the Giller prize was announced, and she impressed me as a speaker.  Reading her book later impressed me by her writing and her wisdom.  She tells the story of an extended family in China during years that I knew about slightly through Canadian media.  However, this book shows the rich humanity and passion of the individuals, over years and generations.  Sad.  Sobering.  I cried, and I learned.  I wanted these people to live, and live well, and reconnect.  I wished I played piano and had experienced Goldberg and Brahms and Glenn Gould.  I have only a smattering of knowledge to bring to these pages, so I received much more in return.

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This book, by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett, describes Amanda’s life and her early years as a reporter/photographer.  I remember when she was captured in Somalia and followed her story through Canadian media.  I have read her articles in the United Church Observer, so I knew she had been released.  However, reading about her imprisonment, and how she managed to survive the years of deprivation and torment, has been fascinating to me.  She didn’t give up.  She persevered.  She has a phenomenal memory, and her descriptions of attempts taken and lost mesmerized me.  She found ways to cope, and eventually envisioned living in a house in the sky that sustained her.  At times I was frustrated by her early naivety and her youthful confidence, but I realize that’s because I am old and hesitant to risk.  She wasn’t.  She paid a huge price.    I

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After I read ‘Away’ by Jane Urquhart I phoned my friend Carolyn Pogue to see if she had read it.  Not yet, but she suggested her latest read, ‘Confessions of a Pagan Nun’; by  Kate Horsley.  She teased that the central character seemed similar to her and I, so I was intrigued.  Fortunately the library had a copy available, so I have read it.  Perfect!  It follows a woman through her life living in Ireland at the time of the transition from Druids to Christians, so it’s dark ages, historical, full of impoverished hungry people and dramatic changes.  A sobering read, and makes me realize anew all the horror stories about the Christian doctrine, including the stupid practice of celibacy for priests and nuns.  What a sad history.  Well-intentioned, but inadequate to meet human needs.   Ever thus, I fear.

 

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