Thursday, October 15, 2009

All That We Say Is Ours: A Review

Full version here.

. . .Whether it was [Ian] Gill’s intention or not, All That We Say Is Ours helpfully undermines the simplistic and familiar version of these events, set within the thematic conventions of colonialism and resistance, with First Nations taking a stand against the dominant Euro-Canadian culture, and indigenous patriots rising up against the oppressive Canadian settler-state. Gill goes along with all that, but he also reveals a more important story of collaboration and cooperation among and between the Haida and their non-native allies. Indeed, it is a story in which the Haida came late to play the leading role, on their own islands.

By the 1970s, the B.C. government and the forest industry were intent upon the complete liquidation of the towering old-growth forests for which the Haida archipelago was so famous. By 1985, in news footage broadcast around the world, 72 people—most noticeably little old Haida women in button blankets—were arrested at a dramatic logging-road blockade on Lyell Island that lasted several weeks. It was a pivotal event in a thorough transformation of the way most Canadians see aboriginal people and the forests around them.

Now, almost half the Haida homeland is protected in one way or another. There’s Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in the South Moresby region, Naikoon Provincial Park, the Duu Guusd Tribal Park (which the B.C. government prefers to call the Duu Guusd “designated area”), and so on.

It’s true that little of this would have been possible had the Haida not forced the legal issue of their unrelinquished rights and title (they’re still waiting for their main land-title case to be adjudicated). But it’s also true that there would be no title at stake had the Crown concluded a treaty with the Haida in the first place, and it is no accident that it was the tribal leaders of Southern Vancouver Island who happened to sign the only treaties west of the Rocky Mountains. Those agreements secured to them the protection of British guns against slave-taking Haida marauders.

That isn’t a story you will read in All That We Say Is Ours, but it isn’t necessary. To get at the origins of the struggle that has occupied Guujaaw’s life, you need go no further back in space and time than the polyglot community of flute-players, artists, draft dodgers and mushroom pickers who had settled down in the pothead shacks of Delkatla Slough back in the early 1970s. . .


Blogger james mcguire said...

hi terry glavin, well written article, however, youve been duped! regards james mcguire

5:38 AM  

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