||Homes And Native Lands
by Jennifer S. H. Brown
When the Meech Lake accord comes to its three-year anniversary in the summer of 1990, we will have either the beginning of a native people`s agenda, or else you`re going to have a situation where the pressure on the government to do something dramatic is going to be so strong that they are not going to be able to keep the lid on.
George Erasmus, Assembly of First Nations to Larry Krotz, April 1989 LARRY KROTZ has written a timely book. He evidently listened to the prophetic words of George Erasmus last year, and he has listened well, it appears, to the numerous other native people he interviewed during the late 1980s for this volume. The result is a book that rides on the crest of a wave surging across Canada, as native people devise and dramatize their agendas concerning land claims, education, criminal justice, self-government, and other issues.
In the light of the events of the summer of 1990, the chapter on Kahnawake, Quebec, leaves perhaps the strongest impression. It opens with an image of the St. Lawrence Seaway-crossing Mercier Bridge looming "high above the town: grey girders like some surreal structure, some gawky, prehistoric pterodactyl. The sight is symbolic, mythic." Krotz`s historical overview of Kahnawake and of the 20th-century conditions in which it has survived would have served the media and the politicians well as they tried to negotiate with the Mohawks this summer. Yet the chapter poses an implied and unanswered question: how, in the long run, to assess the Seaway with all its hidden ramifications? It has brought us lamprey eels and zebra mussels: should we not also reckon up its human costs for the Iroquois along that river, as their shores and lives were boxed in and their fishing grounds dredged?
Krotz has also followed the journalists` trail to Norway House, Manitoba, where, one trusts, he is more kindly remembered than Heather Robertson, whose Reservations Are for Indians (1970) gave what is regarded as a negative view of the community. His is a reasoned assessment of this historic old fur-trade community, lately so changed by roads, regional hydro developments, and other material changes to the old trapping and trading lifestyles. Appropriately, he leaves the last word to Chief Alan Ross, who well expresses the spirit of his people in these times: as Norway House Cree, he says, despite all the material improvements sought, "we can`t ignore the resurrection of ourselves. We have to start with ourselves."
Indian Country`s other chapters present vignettes of Cape Mudge, B.C., Tobique, N.B., and Onigaming, Ont., interspersed with interviews with Thomas Berger, Lloyd Barber, and Keith Penner, as well as George Erasmus, on native land claims and other political issues. Krotz writes with warmth and respect, making his subjects accessible and effectively setting forth their views. The essay on Tobique, whose women were such important catalysts in the progress towards Bill C-31 (restoring Indian status to women who had lost it by marrying out), has particular interest.
Readers who have not observed the qualities of many of the new Indian leaders -- their breadth, insightfulness, and sophistication -- may indeed find Indian Country "astonishing," as the dust-jacket claims; but the book simply uncovers a phenomenon many years in the making, as Indian leaders have broadened their experience, education, and knowledge of
their own and one another`s problems. It is a well-written account, with enough self consciousness to largely avoid the Journalist-as-Hero syndrome that often afflicts such interview odysseys. Its useful ness would have been increased if Krotz had included a bibliography or short list of topical readings, and maps or illustrations; as it is, pilgrims to Indian Country are
given no tools to help them follow the author "inside another Canada." Despite this qualification, however, this highly topical book is well worth having.