The Homing Place
What is interesting and compelling about this book is the pointed reference to the use of such statements as, “He is a Cape Breton native,” to refer to someone of settler ancestry born in Cape Breton, and a brilliant assessment of Maritimers who refer to themselves as “belonging to the land” that actually belongs to someone else. Settler families who identify as “Irish” or “Scottish” or “Dutch” etc. have significant pride in the heritage of their ancestors, who came to this land to begin again, to make a life for their families and who by doing so, trampled a people who lived in peace and sustainability and governed themselves with respect and spiritual goodness.
The Homing Place will no doubt cause some stir among those who see themselves as owners of the land and those who have inherited parcels of land from generations of their families. The reality is, it was stolen land to begin with, used to lure settlers to various locations of the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoq, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Territories. This process pushed Indigenous people farther and farther away from their homelands and into swamps and unsuitable plots of land where nomadic travel—from fishing and living near waterways in summer and inland hunting grounds in winter—became complicated and in some cases, impossible. There were also subtle attempts to terminate Indigenous ways of knowing.
I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by Bryant’s acknowledgement of the events of the fall of 2013 in New Brunswick, on Mi’kmaq Territory. That’s when federal officials and the Mi’kmaq (who were supported by allies including the Acadians and other Indigenous nations) became national news after a violent surprise attack upon the land defenders who were camped out. The land defenders’ aim was to prevent resource extraction by Texas-based multinational Southwestern Energy Company.
The company planned to frack in Kent County. Women, youth, Elders and men were pepper sprayed and in many cases bruised and battered by the representatives of the federal government, sent to extinguish the defenders’ desire to continue to be traditional land stewards and protect the Mother, the earth and water.
Bryant’s reference to Rita Joe and the beautifully cryptic way she told her stories is also magnificent.
If you are of settler ancestry and are open to the reconciliation process in its truest sense, and if you are willing to learn as part of that process, The Homing Place is a good place to start. It’s not an easy read but it is worth the time and highlighter ink.
I particularly appreciated the author’s acknowledgement that Indigenous people did not ever attempt to dismiss Christianity; in fact, this new religion was incorporated into their existing belief systems and practices, without the European “doctrine and exclusivity.” Indigenous people were willing to accept aspects of Christianity and were more than open to welcoming the settlers prior to their abhorrent disregard for the Indigenous lives they stomped on. Indigenous people today still welcome newcomers into their homes and hearts and are willing to teach them their ways, culture and knowledge.
Governments continuously use phrases like “nation to nation.” Yet they encourage corporate and not-for-profit Canada to use funding grants that are specific to Indigenous people, persisting with the practice of obtaining funds to “help” and “teach” and “include” Indigenous people, attempting to bring them into the settler fold.
Our reality is, Settler Canada still has not accepted the fact that there are thousands and thousands of people who live on Turtle Island who are indigenous to these lands and were banished from their own spaces. They were locked up and traumatized in residential schools, stolen during the Sixties Scoop and are now subjected to environmental racism in each part of this nation.
Rachel Bryant reminds her readers that there is a huge amount of work to do. I’m very glad to have come upon this book, the truth within its pages and the author’s dedication to making a positive contribution to the reconciliation process.