Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Legacy Continues - Part 3- Meyer

I have spent the last five weeks traveling around through 3 Canadian provinces and 5 USA states. What I have found is that people in general have very little knowledge of First Nations/Native American people – their history, culture and the challenges they face. The general consensus on both sides of the border is that “they” should become like “us” – get an education, get a job and stop all the whining, complaining and protesting.

What I have also found is that people in general are not mean-spirited; they are simply unaware – and they are eager to learn and be informed. There just seems to be a real disconnect between the mainstream culture (including Christians) and the First Nations/Native American culture.

The books that I write are set in a fictional First Nations community and have primarily First Nations’ characters in them. They are well-endorsed by First Nations/Native American people. I believe they can build a bridge of understanding between our two cultures. As non-First Nations people read them, they will have an opportunity to learn, even as they are enjoying a fast-paced compelling story.

In the last two blog posts (The Legacy Continues – part 1 and 2), I wrote about what had happened to the First Nations people in my mother’s generation and in my generation. Now, I would like to share a bit about what is happening in my children’s generation.

A couple of days before I left, I had the privilege of attending a high school graduation where we live in Norway House. Most of the kids were First Nations. It was such an awesome moment. The valedictorian was a young man who is Cree. The guest speaker was a doctor, a young lady who was also Cree and had grown up in Norway House. An elderly lady, a residential school survivor, spoke of how wonderful it was to be present at her grandson's graduation. She herself had never had the opportunity to graduate from high school.The principal (non-Aboriginal) spoke of how these graduates, in completing school (some with high honours) had had to face more than most teens their age. Each of the graduates had an escort to walk them into the ceremony. For some that was a boyfriend or girlfriend; for some it was their son or daughter. One young father proudly walked in with his newborn baby - you just know he's going to be a good daddy to her. There is hope for the future for First Nations people. There are many, many good things happening. When thinking about the atrocities committed against the Aboriginal people of Canada, our response should not be pity. It should be a sensitivity to the barriers that have had to be overcome by a people who have been crushed down but not destroyed. Another wrong attitude would be to idealize any one cultural group. Cree and Ojibway people blow it occasionally just as those from Irish or English descent do.

We need to respect each other’s differences, honour each other’s cultures, and understand that we are all created equal and God desires for us all to be brothers and sisters together in His family.There is no them and us. There is only us.

Dorene Meyer
Author of Deep Waters, a compelling contemporary novel that will give you the opportunity to “walk a mile in the shoes” of Gracie, a First Nations residential school survivor, and experience her reconciliation to Sarah, the daughter who had been taken away from her at birth.

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