Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cold Dark North

I didn't know that France had a rainy season. My British friends feel right at home. I am wearing an afghan and scarf in my home. The whole month of July has barely been over 70° F, with a constant drizzle. It makes for good reading writing weather, however.

I have been reading about a much colder place; Canada. Where poor peoples' lives are wrecked when their house succumbs to black mold, where the fight for survival, education and understanding is a daily struggle, where alcohol and other substance abuse ruins lives with untold potential.

"What?" you say. "Are we talking about the same place?" I have been to Alberta in summer to see distant cousins and found it all very beautiful and wholesome and homelike. I am discovering a different side, farther north and among a different group of people than my German immigrant cousins. The people who were there before the immigrants.

Lost Angels: Encounters with First Nations is a group of true stories by Paula Laureen Henderson. She tells about her best friend in high school, the old lady who was her neighbor, the Indian chief she interviewed, her mom who worked as a northern outpost nurse on a reservation. These stories, told in first person, are really a conversation with Paula. At first, I wondered why the stories were in no seeming order, chronologically or otherwise. But each story helps to understand the next one, such as the first story talking about black mold. Other details, like her mom being on the reservation, aren't explained until a later chapter.

Here is the cover paragraph: "What will happen as the Canadian Aboriginal population in the prairies out numbers the white population? Will a new youthful generation be able to embrace change and intertwine our visions and goals for the survival of our nation, or will there be a power struggle that shakes Canada's foundation to the core? Will God keep our land glorious and free?"

There were many things of which I was totally ignorant, other things that I would like to research more, understand better. I realize that even though I am from the state of Kansas, named after the Kansas Indians or the People of the South Wind, I don't know any aboriginal Kansans. I lived not far from Wichita, named for the Wichita Indians from Oklahoma, who were displaced to our town for a short time in the 1800's. I don't know any native Wichitans. There is the huge Keeper of the Plains statue, that reminds our little city of its roots but otherwise...

Are there some true stories that we don't want to tell? Is there some real life that is just too shameful or painful to put into writing?  Do you have a story, an experience, a person in your life that needs a voice? Will you give it to them?

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