With a big thank-you to the Writers Collective of Canada for a prompt that allowed me to process my Canada Day.
I walk along the Kitchi Sibi—the “great river” as it was called before it was named the Ottawa River. I live in a place near to its legendary rapids. Their rumble washes my mind clear. Low on the flat-rock shore, a gaggle of geese—four adults and at least 25 teenagers–promenade in the water along the shoreline then veer up the bank, walking a trail they’ve made beside the one I took to get down here. They nibble constantly as they go, the sound of grass tearing in beaks adds a static to my meanderings, like a radio fizzing as you drive out of range.
I spent most of the day completing a course called 4 Seasons of Reconciliation, created by a First Nations University in Saskatchewan that I hadn’t heard of until now. A year ago, I printed out the 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s report and have felt overwhelmed and frustrated about it since, not understanding what I could do. When this course popped into my email a couple of months ago, I finally had my answer: start learning. Or unlearning. Or fill the gaps in my Canadian-settler education.
I’m on the river now, late in the afternoon, because I saved it as a reward for accomplishing my goal of finishing the course on Canada Day. I think of this river as “mine”, this river that that is nobody’s and everybody’s, really. I’ve always been conflicted about the concept of ownership of land and water. It’s an odd thing—like money—purely a metaphor we’ve created and made stick. I’m left wondering what it is about certain cultures—British, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch—that their metaphors turn out this way while others, like First Nations, imagine the world in a completely different way.
The course taught me so much and it was hard, too—I took breaks to cry, to shake off anger. But it inspired my next step, too. I’ve downloaded reading lists from 6 different Indigenous Literature in English courses so I can start to fill those gaps in my previous education in English and Canadian Literature. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by big problems and is a relief to have found an entry point that works for me.