Monday, March 2, 2009

Preparing For the Encirlcling Light Conference

Towards the summer conference on the North / Encircling Light - Expectant Silence in Whitehorse:

One of those rare convergences takes place when the last arrangements for this conference are on the way and a book appears that is a wonderful preparation for it: A Fair Country by John Ralston Saul.

I am indebted to Treasa O'Driscoll, who drew my attention to its importance. In his writing the author draws again and again one's awareness to the origins of Canada and what makes this country so specifically different in all its ethnic diversity: the roots being the aboriginal culture. Based on this culture rests the principle of an ever enlarging circle, welcoming all newcomers, as opposed to a linear increase of population. He asks the reader and all Canadians why there is to this day still the difficulty in characterizing what makes Canada unique in the circle of nations and why this country cannot yet accept that its origins do not lie in the European nations, but in the peoples who inhabited this piece of earth from the beginning.

Because there is a whole chapter on "the North", my attention was drawn to this one before all else, and from there to all of its parts: "We are a people of aboriginal inspiration organized around a concept of peace, fairness and good government", until this concept was changed into peace, order and good government. The significance of changing one word: fairness, welfare - to order, is astonishing. The meticulous and brilliant survey offered in this book of life in Canada and its government is eye opening. It appears as if Canada will only begin to recognize itself anew now in the first years of the 21st century.

I will close with a quote by Chief Dan George from the chapter: "Within an ever-enlarging circle": "Am I to come as a beggar and receive all from your omnipotent hand? Somehow I must find myself. I must find my treasure. I must wait until you want something of me, until you need something that is me. Then I can raise my head and say to my wife and family...listen...they are calling...they need me...I must go."

Ute Weinmann

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks, Ute. Very interesting final quote.

Regarding Canada's identity as tied to aboriginal origins: I taught Canadian History (once) and was struck by the strength and uniqueness of our Metis culture. In the end, I felt it as a deep tragedy that the Metis were destroyed/denied/assimilated, and this thought that in our hearts our origins may still lie in the aboriginal soul is some comfort to an abiding sadness.