I went to Victoria Island first on Dec. 21st as a simple act of solidarity and support for Chief Theresa Spence who had put her body on the line to demonstrate how much it hurts for Canada’s Aboriginal peoples to be treated as though their rights, their vision and their traditional ways of making Canada what it is, are worth nothing. She enacted that nullification in her fast.
I returned again and again, bringing more food and, once, firewood. Each time I stayed a little longer because I felt that I belonged. Not because I am native. But because I’d done the homework I had felt called to do some years ago: to trace my own ancestral roots to the Highlands of Scotland, and the particular valley and glen that was my people’s tribal homeland. Having recovered what echoes and remnants of traditions I could, having reconnected with the earth and Creation there, I felt an affinity with what was going on in the Idle No More Movement and its spiritual unfolding on Victoria Island, around the sacred fire outside Chief Spence’s teepee and the wood stove inside it, too. The pieces I’ve written were inspired by my presence there, taking in the ethos of what was happening as well as particular details. Two days before Chief Spence ended her hunger strike, I was asked to find strawberry juice for her herbal medicines. It was an honour to take on and fulfill this quest. It was a last act of solidarity that also fed me in the continued unfolding of the book I’m writing as a fourth-generation descendent of settler immigrants to Canada, fleeing the Highland Clearances.
The story continues, and we’re all part of it whether we choose to be actively implicated and to actively contribute or not.
Heather’s new book is called To the Shieling: A Memoir on Reconnecting with the Earth. She will post something about it soon.