aethel: (cloud)
I was going to watch another Canadian movie tonight, but everyone (and by "everyone" I mean my brother) has been nagging me about catching up on Battlestar Galactica, so I guess I'm watching that instead.

While my ice tea is cooling off in the freezer, I'll say a few words about a Canadian book I (finally) finished reading: the much anticipated (by me) Like the Sound of a Drum: Aboriginal Cultural Politics in Denendeh and Nunavut by Peter Kulchyski. The book's main focus is on Dene and Inuit communities' attempts to get local control over government institutions as a way to prevent the extinction of their cultures. The author discusses how the structure of Western-style government itself is assimilating Native cultures. His most interesting (and horrifying) point is that the Canadian government has claimed that Natives are not "ready" for self-government simply because it does not recognize or value Native democratic forms; in the eyes of the government, they will only be ready when they become like white people, and then, of course, it will be too late.

Now, from the title, you'd think it was a dry academic work that quotes Derrida extensively. And you'd be partially right. However, not only does the book quote Geertz, Marx, and (more importantly) Inuit and Dene elders, but it also contains numerous personal anecdotes and long lyrical passages of outrage at the situation that Native people find themselves in at the present:
...the work of the conquest is being completed here and now. By our generation. It is our descendants, a hundred years from now, who will protest that they were not there when land claims were being negotiated, when Aboriginal rights were distorted beyond recognition, when the final acts of the great historical drama of conquest were performed. You who remain silent while this injustice continues, you are responsible. Here. And now. But then again, so am I. (3)

In the midst of that dark time the feeble stirring of a fresh sun over a frozen sea held within it a promise that the long warm bright days of summer would be returning ... a promise like a pulse like an echo like a call like a sound like the sound of a drum. (280)

The next Shakespeare he is not, but the shifts in style held my attention longer than 280 pages of theory on "modes of production" and the "totalizing power of the State," or 280 pages of minutes from meetings in which Dene discussed how to change the band council system to foster self-government. The book gives us a little bit of everything.

However, Like the Sound of a Drum is overkill if your questions are anything like mine were:
  • What is Denendeh? (Dene name for Northwest Territories)
  • Who are the Dene? (a collection of related sub-Arctic Indians/Natives/First Nation peoples)
  • Why are the Inuit not covered by Canada's Indian Act? (Their lands were outside of Canadian territory at the time.)
  • How does the establishment of Nunavut as a separate territory help the Inuit get self-government? (They represent the majority of Nunavut's population.)

But you probably didn't have those questions. Your question was more along the lines of "Why did [ profile] aethel buy an anthropology book on the political conditions of a people whose name she couldn't even pronounce?"
aethel: (cloud)
Sunday I finally finished reading the Canadian propaganda sleep-aid that I checked out from the library a month ago: A Brief History of Canada, written by some French Canadian dude for Facts on File. While reading it, I perfected the fine art of sleeping with my eyes open, so I didn't get much out of it except:

1. The author spends a lot of ink insisting that Canada is NOTHING WHATSOEVER LIKE THE U.S., all while describing events that mirror what I learned in American history class.

2. The Canadian government, at least, is nothing like the U.S. For one thing, it appears that the prime minister can call an election whenever the hell he feels like it.

3. I don't know who the readership was supposed to be, but this book certainly wasn't written for me. The author tossed around those political terms that I hear on the BBC and that MAKE NO SENSE when the only government structure I'm familiar with is the American one. So the prime minister is just the party leader for the party that got more seats in Parliament? And the other politicians can replace him if they decide they don't like him? Minority government? Majority government?? Official Opposition???


aethel: (Default)
æthel the aardvark

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