Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Road to Raven's Path...and Beyond


When I was young, I lived near Saint-Marie among the Hurons. Anytime someone came to visit, we brought them to this historical recreation of the mission that existed on that site in the 1600s. I experienced the village time and again, soaking in the atmosphere and the sense of history. Even as a child, I felt a presence there and a comforting connection. I still do.

When we moved back to Newfoundland, I asked for snowshoes and a hatchet. I spent many a day trampling through the forest and dreaming at the base of the mountain. I would imagine I was living in the time of the Ouendat, that I was one of them. I think I have always craved a simpler time. Certainly, a more peaceful time than the angst of those teen years.

I happily lived in my illusory bubble until I found a tattered old book about the princess of Terra Nova. It told the true story of the life and death of Shanawdithit—the last surviving Beothuk. A tragedy so heartbreaking that I set my romantic images of the time aside, and replaced them with a lifelong fascination with the intersection in history of Indigenous peoples and Europeans.

In Raven's Path, I had a chance to capture some of my thoughts and feelings. I both vilify and glorify the tribes as well as the Europeans, because that is the essence of all humanity. We cannot neatly categorize any culture despite our continual efforts to do so. Purity and evil do not exist as white and black within any nation. Some humans bear a darker stain than others. Some carry the light. Mostly, we're just grey, neither fully good, nor truly bad. We are all people who dream and desire, who laugh and cry, who hate and love.

Raven is born of my wonderings about those who are lost between cultures. How many children were born because of the strangers that wandered these lands? How did they straddle two worlds? Did they feel like they belonged to anyone? What heritage did they embrace? Eventually the M├ętis would give many a sense of identification but, by the original definition, the father was European. What if it was reversed and the father was Indigenous and the mother European?

My explorations into the past, both through historical research and fictional experimentation, have also heightened my awareness of Indigenous peoples today. I am excited to live on a new coast. I have much to learn about the tribes here. I am anxious to hear each band's story. But, I am saddened almost daily by the news. The history of abuse. The missing women. And, I am reminded that my life here has come at a cost to many—and that the price is still being paid.

So, I can lose myself in the adventure and romance of the past when I write. That is okay. But, I also have an obligation to think about the atrocities buried in our history, that echo in the harsh reality of today. I must not forget whose land I walk upon and I must question what my role is now, in a modern world. What can I do? What can we do? How can we balance the scales of injustice?

It is a question I ponder. It is an answer I have not yet found.


 

6 comments:

  1. I didn't know that's how it all started. It's very nice to hear the stories behind the stories.

    We all have an obligation to learn from the past, and protect the people of today.

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    1. Spesh,

      You never know where the seeds of a story are sown, do you? I mean, this is what I remember. I suspect there's more.

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  2. Beautiful statement of the importance of being one together in the Human Race instead of forever dividing along false lines of difference. Thank you for sharing the "backstory", Rose.

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  3. Zan Marie,

    Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we could all truly internalize and embrace that fact?

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  4. Great blog. I really enjoyed this article in particular.

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  5. Thank you for dropping in and checking it out!

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