Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Mishkeegogamang


I'm currently reading Mishkeegogamang: The Land, The People and The Purpose. The Mishkeegogamang Ojibway Nation in northwestern Ontario commissioned Rosetta Projects to record the history of their region and people. Since it was privately commissioned, you won't see it on Amazon any time soon, but I think that may be a shame. The rich personal stories, legends and history make for outstanding reading and help me understand their past and present lives, both the struggles and the beauty of their people.

Rosetta Projects is the company started by my mom (Dianne Hiebert) and our long-time friend Marj Heinrichs -- they researched, recorded, collected, edited and wrote the materials that became the book, so of course I'm biased. And I'm not sure that the Mishkeegogamang people would want this history to have a wider audience. In the introduction, Chief Ronald Roundhead talks about the purpose of the project: "The book is an effort to form a bridge between our forefathers and the younger generation."

Near the end of the book, one of the elders expresses longing for more cross-cultural understanding and tolerance as well, but that goal is certainly secondary. As I read through the chapters, I feel great empathy and respect for the people, shame for our government's role in their marginalization, and grief for the loss of their way of life. The mainstream Canadian public has no understanding of the problems facing First Nations people, and I wish everyone could read this book.