Monthly Archives: November 2016

Reconciling Two Visions of One World

In the November edition of our blog we hear from Dr. Paul Chaput. In his blog piece, Paul beautifully captures through poetry the complexity of seeing and understanding the world through multiple lenses and ways of knowing.

It is an honour to contribute to Together We Are. My wish is to give you an inside view of the world that I experience daily while contemplating decisions regarding human interaction with the environment. To create a place from which to begin, I will introduce you to two disparate worldviews and explain why reconciliation of one with the other is challenging. Then, through poetic imaginings, I will paint a picture of the reconciliation of brothers.

It is my privilege and challenge to see the world through the lenses of both European and Indigenous worldviews. European explorers were apparently motivated by the prospect of riches and the gratitude of King and country. While seeking a shorter ocean route to the wealth of Asia they discovered the infinite bounty of “undeveloped” lands and their welcoming peoples. However, the prospect of gold blinded them to the “inner gold” of the Indigenous worldview that governed the stewardship of vast natural resources. Rather than honor the land and its beauty, they took what the land offered and often left Indigenous peoples bereft and broken. My poem Rivière Rouge speaks of the pain that flows through the veins of Indigenous people of the Red River of Manitoba from whence I come.

Rivière Rouge

From the wound flow
Red encoded drops of identity
From which mountain did they originate –
As it passes through this valley of open flesh
The victim, transfixed by the colour of the loss
Forgets the source.

My blood flows from many mountains
To this fountain in my chest
Métis, poly-cultural
Français, bi-lingual
No voice, multi-faction
Can’t get no status-faction.

So many wounds
So many streams
Too few bridges
The colour of the river says it all.

I am Métis and embody Cree, Ojibway, and Chippewa ancestries. My European predecessors are French, English, German, and Jewish. They rarely concur. They often argue – especially concerning the management of resources. A needle in the hands of a master storyteller pulls the thread of my ancestors though the fabric of far-flung stories. To weave my scattered peoples into the fabric of a new nation requires that the thread of each ancestor be woven into the cloth.

Sweat Lodge

Straining to hear the silence
Leaning like saplings
In the hands of an elder
Bent to a sacred purpose
Arching now, touching the Earth
In two places
Saplings whose thin railing pliance
Entwine to form this man-made womb.

I enter and parry the Darkness
For fear of losing the Light
I listen, fending off the Silence
For fear of unwanted unknowns
Yet, when the rocks no longer hiss
And the saplings point again to the stars,
I wonder at the presence
Of the Eagle feather in my hand.

The saplings are pliant and able to touch the earth in two places and provide the infrastructure of the sweat lodge. Our youth, by seeing the earth from two perspectives, can create the possibility of reconciling the Indigenous and settler worldviews and engender a unified worldview that is based on respect for all life.