There is little here that is new...

Even the native history is retold simply by shifting narrative positions. The sources are the same old documents familiar to Canadian schoolchildren. We stand on the land and watch the boats arrive, strange men skulk out and plant a cross claiming the land for a European king. Ancient Land, Ancient Sky questions where their authority to claim the land comes from. It points out the convenience of "twistory" which tries to make everyone in North America an immigrant, with no claim more legitimate than the next. Ancient Land, Ancient Sky also shows how the people who were already here welcomed the Europeans not only as new trading partners, with new and interesting trade goods, but also as potential allies who, if wooed properly, could help them shift the balance of power in ongoing struggles that pre-dated contact. The hosts assume not only their own equality but also their superiority, as people who know how to survive in this land, how to get from here to there. As long as the numbers are manageable, the visitors are not a threat.

The fact that the Europeans came to trade is stressed, and that the people who were here first had well-established trading customs that welcomed new goods. Thus, the First Peoples were economically equal to the newcomers and wished to interact, to trade, nation to nation. The priests are introduced into the mixture. Etienne Brule, the first Frenchman to "go Indian," is executed, a sacrifice to the gods of war. Traders get caught between warring tribes. When Peter and Wayne get to Winnipeg, they stumble upon the monument to LaVerendrye, the first Frenchman to explore the west. "He found these lands and then he opened them to humanity and faith," the inscription says. Well, I got it way before that. The lands were not lost, and the people already here were human, with their own faith, their own civilizations. After Winnipeg, I stopped looking for insight, and I was just along for the ride. | Back

-- J.M. Bridgeman