Thursday, January 28, 2016

Storytelling Realness

Started "Without Reserve" by Lynda Shorten yesterday.  I  liked that she clearly identified where she was coming from in doing this project and her awareness of her own potential bias as a non-Indian person.  It set the book off on a good tone.  She describes it as being the stories of urban Indians who wanted to tell their stories.  She makes no promises of representativeness.  If people wanted to tell their stories she listened.  However from the first story  it is clear that she was genuinely engaged in the telling of these stories and in that particular case, developed a friendship with the man.  The story is a hard one to read.  It is the story of abuse, foster homes and the street, but I found it really good to hear the story in the words of the person living that experience and to get the sense of what he was thinking of.  He self described himself as scary and it was interesting to peer past the outside layers of that person.  I live a block from the homeless shelter and this type of guy is our neighbor, I felt like I got a little bit better understanding of all the conflicting influences behind the stereotype.

"Following the Wind - Bird, Dog and Geese" - Gigi Mills
I am also reading "Buffalo People - Prehistoric Archeology on the Canadian Plains" by Liz Bryan.  This book is kind of the antithesis of Without Reserve.  The personhood of the prehistoric people is totally lost as is the connection of the writer and the reason why they care about this subject.  This is a well written and interesting book, but it is clinical.  I find this strange for two reasons 1. We love Time Team and in an hour, with three days of digging they can usually tell a pretty fulsome story about the people they were investigating, to not be able to do that with a whole book and years of data seems strange.  There must be some stories, some peoples that capture the imagination. 2. This book is late enough (1991) that casually mentioning a museum stealing a medicine wheel off somebodies land or the fabulous find of a graveyard where a whole bunch of prehistoric people could be dug up, should elicit some kind of negative reaction.  The first story is totally glossed over, the land owner complained and the museum returned it.  The second story is just gleeful about the find as it allows us to know about burial practices.  I want to learn like the next gal but these were real people who were put into mother earth by their families to be part of all our relations.  To disturb them just for knowledge is not right.  While I am learning a lot about the history of this part of Turtle Island from reading this book, it is starting to feel like that knowledge is a little tainted.  At this point, I would read this one with caution.  I'll let you know if it gets worse.

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