Monthly Archives: June 2016

Lesson 2:3; Assignment 2:6; Question #2

Susanna Moodie’s introduction to Roughing it in the Bush lacks the rough-and-ready “civilize the West” bravado common to immigration manifestos, and states the truth of most immigrant stories. It begins with a somber sentence: “In most instances, emigration is a matter of necessity, not of choice” (Moodie, n.p.). Moodie goes on to state that few people who live comfortably and well in their native lands chose to leave that comfort and stability for the wild unknown. It is those who wish to better their “condition, and… escape from the vulgar sarcasms too often hurled at the less-wealthy by the purse-proud” (Moodie, n.p.) who immigrate — people who have experienced “want of wealth” (Moodie, n.p.), through, the sense is, no fault of their own. Moodie clarifies this point by claiming that the rich and the poor are from “the same parent stock” (Moodie, n.p.), or descendants of Adam and Eve, and therefore equal in body and soul despite the material disparities they face on Earth.

As I don’t know much about Susanna Moodie, I will draw a little on what I do know about the majority of immigrants to the colonies. Most were, as we’ve been taught in lesson 2:2 and 2:3, tradesmen and farmers, but all (generally) were religious. The first immigrants who set up New England were Puritan dissenters, who believed that America was given to them as a re-do of civilization, a chance to become a “city upon a hill,” as John Winthrop wrote, to which all other cities steeped in sin and corruption could look for guidance. Moodie brings with her the same sense of renewal, even if her introduction is somber — Canada is a place where people can strip away the injustices which society has placed upon them and reinvent themselves as they “hew out the rough paths for the advance of civilization” (Moodie n.p.). This, then, is an instance where Moodie’s introduction demonstrates the stories which European settlers brought to the “new” continent which Professor Paterson elaborated in lesson 2:3 — the stories which name the Americas as a gift from God, sent to the right people as a second Garden of Eden; in essence, Canada as a continental second chance.

Yet Moodie does not completely buy into the idea.  As is evident from the succeeding paragraphs of her introduction, Moodie blames the  “speculators in the folly and credulity of… men” and their “hired orators” (Moodie, n.p.) for spreading the notion of Canada as an empty/wasted land ripe for cultivation. The immigration enthusiasts’ words masked the hard work and struggle the settlers faced in the colonies. Moodie’s critique shows that she, at least, was aware that calling Canada a gift wasn’t right. It was more something that had been stumbled upon and which was ripe with possibility; thinking of it any other way hurt the settlers and by extension, though Moodie does not explicitly say it, the Native Americans. For if something is given as a gift, it makes sense that the receiver believes that he/she can do anything they want with it. If something is found, and multiple people profess interest or claim ownership, cooperation must exist for there to be success (especially if the finders refuse to leave, as was the case in the “discovery” of the Americas). Moodie does seem to have carried the idea of Canada as a second Eden with her from Europe, but it was a moderated Eden, conditional on hard work, strife, struggle, and coexistence with the “wild land” (Moodie, n.p.) — and, presumably, its people.

But Moodie is not completely innocent of Lockean concepts of property. The concluding paragraph in her introduction demonstrates that she believed that land, once earned, was owned: “The Great Father of the souls and bodies of men knows the arm which wholesome labour from infancy has made strong, the nerves which have become iron by patient endurance, by exposure to weather, coarse fare, and rude shelter; and He chooses such, to send forth into the forest to hew out the rough paths for the advance of civilization. These men become wealthy and prosperous, and form the bones and sinews of a great and rising country” (Moodie, n.p.). In those last few words it is clear that Moodie believed that sweat and hard work were what validated ownership, and that Canada only became a country (in the sense of laws and roads, schools and farms, instead of just a land mass) through the tireless struggle of the settlers.

Moodie’s attitude in those last few words is echoed by her character’s appearance in Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water. Moodie is at a diner in Alberta with a few of her friends, and proudly proclaims to Latisha, the diner’s Native American owner, that “[w]ith the exception of Archie… we’re all Canadians. Most of us are from Toronto. Archie is from England, but he’s been here for so long, he thinks he’s Canadian too” (King, 158). The irony here is that Moodie’s aside about Archie can be applied to herself and everyone in that diner that isn’t Native American, as long as “for so long” encompasses the few hundred or so years of European immigration to Canada. Moodie’s character in Green Grass, Running Water seems to believe in a time limit to immigrant status — she is completely Canadian because she is from Toronto (though before that, where did she come from? Where were her grandparents born?), while Archie is a foreigner. Yet to Latisha, and every other Native American in King’s book, every person not of Native American descent can be grouped under the umbrella of “been here so long, [they] think [they’re] Canadian too.”

I think there was a level of self-awareness in Moodie that is evident in her introduction to Roughing it in the Bush. Or perhaps not a self-awareness, but a cultural-awareness — she knew that claiming Canada as a glorious, empty, ripe-for-the-plucking second Eden was a malicious lie. She seems more concerned about the effect that lie had on the immigrants who believed it — who, putting aside the land-stealing and cultural genocide they as a group committed, did live hard and dangerous lives in Canada as they eked out a living, and shouldn’t be forgotten — than she does for the Native Americans being displaced. Yet I think that there are hints in Moodie’s writing which suggest why she believed calling Canada a second Eden was a misnomer — Eden had been empty, Canada was not. Moodie’s conflicting views on colonization, Native Americans, and immigration is perhaps best summed up by this quotation early in her book:

“…the Indian is one of Nature’s gentlemen—he never says or does a rude or vulgar thing. The vicious, uneducated barbarians who form the surplus of over-populous European countries, are far behind the wild man in delicacy of feeling or natural courtesy” (Moodie, n.p.)

While here we might accuse Moodie of classism or xenophobia (after all, it’s the European countries she sees the barbarians arriving from, not the British Empire), we also see her fight against one of the common stereotypes that Native Americans were dirty, uncivilized people. Of course, by doing so she taps into another stereotype — the Noble Savage à la Rousseau — but I believe Moodie made an effort to see what was going on in Canada, and not just report the idealized stories and anecdotes which were popular at the time. (We see modern examples of this in Green Grass, Running Water, with the Western films having the same plot of a kidnapped damsel, a love between a proud Indian chief and said damsel, and the final scene where the cowboys kill the Indians (King, 182-214). Many battles were fought where the Native Americans came out the victors, but those are rarely shown, and so each Western perpetuates the myth of Native American inferiority. So, too, could Moodie have based her description on Native Americans who were rude, and she would have had no one question her because it fit with what people already “knew” .)

In conclusion, I think that to subtract Moodie from the stories with which she had been inculcated since a child would be difficult — not only did the stories form a part of her country’s identity (Britain superior), but they were reinforced by her religion which still had a weighty influence. But I do think that Moodie’s personal experience in Canada made her think for herself — and the immigration enthusiasts, the priests, and her racist or xenophobic peers could not completely pull the wool over her eyes.


King, Thomas. “Green Grass, Running Water.” Toronto: HarperCollins, 2007. Print.

Mathews, R.D. “Susanna Moodie.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, April 10, 2008. Web. Accessed June 28, 2016.

—- “Roughing it in the Bush” title page

Moodie, Susanna. “Roughing it in the Bush.” Project Gutenberg, August 2003. N.P. Web. Accessed June 28, 2016.

Tuckness, Alex. “Locke’s Political Philosophy.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,  November 9, 2005. Web. Accessed June 28, 2016.

Winthrop, John. “City Upon a Hill.” Digital History, n.d. Web. Access June 28, 2016.



Lesson 2:2; Assignment 2:4; Question #2

Reading as a way of understanding stories, new information, or difficult concepts is never a 100% guarantee. We’ve all experienced this in class —  for example, when we lean over to a friend after the perusal of a textbook or a new sheaf of notes and go, “Huh?”

“It’s like this,” says our friend, and suddenly, through their oral retelling of the written words in front of us we understand. But it’s not just the oral retelling — it’s the hand gestures our friends use to describe a scientific process or the significance of water in a certain passage from a book, it’s the expression on their face as they mangle the new terms or try out a simpler style of phrasing from what the textbook does its best to make complex, it’s the look in their eyes as we watch them performing, and the connection we form between a speaker and a listener.

Or, a storyteller and an audience.

Comprehension is undoubtedly aided by oral retelling, and I think this was the point Professor Paterson was making in her introduction to lesson 2:2. It’s hard for us — white settlers, or even Indigenous people disconnected from their history, to understand Native American stories.This is because we, more often than not, read Native American stories, in print or online — but to experience and understand the full purpose of the story, it must be told, or performed, as the story was at its conception. This aids not only in our comprehension, but allows us to see the stories as both stories and bigger than stories — as histories, as truths, as myths, as things which reveal the secrets of the present while detailing the past. Of things which are magical but also real, a contradiction which Chamberlin pays so much attention to in chapter two of If this is your land, where are your stories? (pages 32 and 34 in particular).

The second difficulty that Professor Paterson pointed out was the forced enrollment of Indigenous children at residential schools and the disastrous effect this break from their culture, language, and history had on their comprehension of their stories. This point, I feel, does not need to be explained further — only an unfeeling person could wonder how a break from family and tradition at a young age, being subjected to an alien culture, physical and/or sexual abuse, and being taught that one’s culture is wrong could have any effect on a generation’s ability to know, understand, and even want to learn their stories.


The third difficulty which I picked up in reading Wendy Wickwire’s introduction to Harry Robinson’s Living by Stories: A Journey of Landscape and Memory is that Western scholarship has mismanaged Native American stories since its first attempt of collecting them. Even the concept of collecting stories and binding them into a book — essentially binding the words, and creating that disconnect between reader and words that I mentioned above — is an example of the bungling nature of the West’s approach to Native American story. This binding of words is not unique to Native American story — I had a professor who taught Old English Literature, and he described that great epic Beowulf as “a fish swimming through time.” The paper copy we had in our hands was just one x-ray, one two-dimensional slide of that fish that was Beowulf, captured at that moment in time by pen and ink but in no way representing the hundreds of tellings before and after that moment of penmanship. Trying to capture a story once, and hold it as the definitive, does not work for Old English literature as much as Native American story. Wickwire experienced this herself when she researched creation myths, and found four myths which were all published in the early 20th century as Creation with a capital C myths, yet which had no “common storyline” (26). And why should they? Lack of cohesiveness is sometimes taken as evidence of the falsity or fantastical nature of Native American stories, but as Wickwire argues in her introduction, lack of cohesiveness should not and does not prove unreliability; rather, it proves that stories grow and evolve with the times and with their people. An example of this is Harry Robinson’s story of Coyote’s son going to the moon, to which he added the presence of white men after he learned of the Apollo 11 moon landing (Wickwire, 29). This addition didn’t, in Robinson’s mind, make the story untrue, and in its inclusion of ancient story with modern events we again find myth and reality living in harmony.

Wickwire attributes the confusion of Native American story — and its truth, or relevance, or falsity — to the practice of dividing Indigenous cultures into “hot” or “cold,” based on the theory of Claude Lévi-Strauss — “‘cold’ zones were associated with Indigenous peoples with a mythic consciousness that tended to resist change; ‘hot’ zones, on the other hand, were associated with Western peoples with a historical consciousness that thrived on constant, irreversible change” (Wickwire, 11). This discourse essentially broke up native cultures into two groups — one group who lived only on prehistorical myth, and the second who moved with the times. In what seems obvious now, this breakdown did not leave room for cultures that lived outside of the breakdown, cultures that, like Robinson’s story, incorporated myth and reality, the past and the present — this was the point with which scholars took issue, and sought to counteract.

AND YET. Wickwire points out that the acknowledgement of the futility of dividing cultures into “hot” or “cold” merely ushered in an era of over-correction: that of  attempting to create what Michael Harkin called “an overarching, static, ideal type of culture, detached from its pragmatic and socially positioned moorings among real people” (qtd. in Wickwire, 22). Instead of separating cultures scholars aimed to unite them into one conglomeration of myth-loving peoples; Wickwire found evidence of this in Franz Boas’s work, when he removed the word gun from a traditional Native American tale in what Wickwire called an effort to edit “a historical account to make it fit his vision of a prehistorical myth” (23).

All three of these issues — unsuitable mediums, cultural genocide, and Western mismanagement — contribute to the difficulty of understanding Indigenous stories. However, though printed, I do believe that Wendy Wickwire’s collection of Harry Robinson’s stories was a good step. I think that the difference in her case was the use of a tape recorder, and her decision to print the stories in an almost verse/poetic form — catching the idiosyncrasies, as well as the lyricism, of Robinson’s stories.


Chamberlin, Edward J. If this is your land, where are your stories? : Finding common ground. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2004. Print.

“Claude Lévi-Strauss.” 2012. Web. Accessed June 16, 2016.

NASA Administrator. “July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind.” NASA. July 14, 2014. Web. Accessed June 12, 2016.

Wickwire, Wendy. Harry Robinson: Living by Stories — A Journey of Landscape and Memory. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2005. Print.

X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside Out. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. 2012. Web. Accessed June 16, 2016.


Lesson 2:1; Assignment 2:3 — Similarities concerning “home”

Of the three blogs I read I found that all three writers believed that home is not necessarily a place, but a state of mind, a place to feel comfortable, or based more on people than places.

This was interesting, because I picked these blogs at random by scrolling down the class Facebook page, and yet all three echoed my own sentiments. We four all somewhat scorn — or disregard — the concept of “home” that we’re force-fed through books or TV/movies. That notion of “home” doesn’t survive divorce, tension between nationalities, warring identities, or the unconventional home/drifting childhood. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and neither, I think, did the three writers of the blogs — because what we get in return for the disillusion of “home” is something that actually works, filled with some unhappiness, some introspection, but also growth, happiness, and just an effusion of MORE — more family, more history, more ranges of religion, or cultural practices, more experiences, more opportunities, which in turn make US into more than we would be originally. Adaptable, stronger, smarter, independent people — as well as knowing the true value of a family that you choose.

Interestingly enough, this concept of home not being a place, but being wherever you’re comfortable, or a home that you make for yourself, reminds me of Chamberlin’s point that the concept of European “settlers” and Indigenous “nomads” is backwards (29-30). Following the tradition of immigrants in Canada, one would assume that I (I hesitate to include the three ladies in this, as I am not 100% sure of their nationalities and don’t wish to offend) would feel at home in Canada, because it is, to over-ring that bell, my “home and native land.” But it’s not, not really, and I don’t feel at home in it just because I grew up here — I feel at home, as I mentioned in my blog, wherever my dogs feel comfortable (and by extension, my family).

This concept of aimlessness — or disconnect from the land, and focus on the people — is I think a really important concept to explore. Why do we feel disconnected? Is it because we’re immigrants, no matter how far back? Do Indigenous peoples feel a connection to this land deeper and better than I do? I really do wonder.


Chamberlin, Edward J. If this is your land, where are your stories? : Finding common ground. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2004. Print.

Lesson 2:1; Assignment 2:2 — Home

Mr. Finnegan, age 8 weeks

Mr. Finnegan, b. April 1st, 2016

What Home Means

Me and my family have always had dogs. When I was a newborn my parents were living in a van in Whistler, parking in the ski lots at night, working at restaurants full-time, and looking after me and their two German shepherds — Bandit, and her daughter, Ziggy. When I was about four we moved from the farmhouse they had moved into and shared with a few friends in Pemberton to Braylorne, a small mining town past Lillouet. There we lived in a trailer, and me and my sister — she was two to my four — shared the shower for a bedroom. Hard to picture, I know — I think my Dad stuck a few two-by-fours in the middle of the shower; my bed was on the top, hers on the bottom. I faintly remember using the drawer handles on either side of the shower to clamber into bed. We still had one of the dogs then, Ziggy — Bandit had passed away after a terrible accident with a bear-trap.

We lived in the trailer for a while, then moved into the house my Dad and his friends had been building in the mean time. Ziggy had puppies, and we sold all but Bo — a half German shepherd, half husky black puppy with thick fur and big feet. I don’t remember much of him as a puppy, except that once he *ahem* eliminated on a wasp nest, and my Dad had to beat his hindquarters with a fly swatter to get the wasps to stop stinging.

We moved to Salt Spring Island when I was about five, and only took Bo with us — Ziggy had been run over a few months before, and we buried her outside our house in Braylorne. Bo took to Salt Spring Island like a fish to water — and got in trouble a couple times with running away to chase the sheep in neighbouring farm fields. I remember him then — lanky, big and furry. He had a penchant for grapes and apple cores, and once hopped in the back of a stranger’s car because he wanted to go for a ride. I’m sure he caused my parents a few headaches, especially in the hot summer months when his thick black fur would cause him to pant like the blazes — but he hated to swim, so he could never truly cool down.

When I was eight we moved to Whistler. I remember my Dad went ahead of us, and my Mom drove us in the Jeep. Bo sat in the front seat, stinking up the car with his breath. We moved to a house in Alpine Meadows that had strange cut-out shapes in the balcony. Once Bo got his head stuck in them; other times he’d sleep on his back on the porch with all four paws in the air. He was good at scaring away bears — his sheep-chasing finally came in handy there! But he came back when called; bears, after all, are a bit feistier than sheep.

When I was thirteen we moved to Emerald Estates, a different residential area in Whistler. Bo followed me to the bus one day, and I told him repeatedly to go home — which he would, until I had my back turned, then he would follow me again, keeping a sneaky distance away. He liked to sleep at the foot of the stairs, and would shed each spring and autumn huge, fluffy clumps of hair that would float on the breeze and collect under the car tires.

When Bo was about fourteen we got a new puppy, Eddie. Eddie was a rescue from Whistler Animal Galore, or W.A.G., with huge feet, floppy ears, and a tendency to fall over when he tried to run. Bo hated him — I would tear myself out of bed at the break of dawn (or as my parents called it, 10 AM) and yell at someone, anyone, to stop the dogs from barking at one another.

But eventually they got along, grudgingly. Bo became slower as Eddie got faster, and soon enough Bo just lay and watched Eddie lunge and bark at him, too tired (or wise) to retaliate.

We had to put Bo down in March, 2013, after a long, wonderful life of being our big dog who slept on his back with his feet in the air. Eddie missed him, and still sleeps at the foot of the stairs where Bo used to sleep.

I’m now living in Vancouver, having moved out to go to school and figure out what to do with my life. I’ve recently gotten a dog of my own — Finn, a fluffy Shih Tzu/King Charles spaniel cross, who at eight weeks old is 0 to 60 in half a second, and the same backwards — a  nippy little crocodile who likes to chew toes and sleep with his nose tight up against my neck.

He hasn’t met Eddie yet, but he will.

Home, for me, has never really been one house, or one town. We moved a lot when I was younger, and sometimes into places that wouldn’t necessarily adhere to the common definition of a “home.” But what has always been a constant is our dogs. Though some passed before I was capable of noticing them, and others have gone with tears and an aching heart, in some sense every dog we’ve had is still with me, with us, in the dog we have. I sort of see each special dog — with their own stories, and their own characters — as morphing into this analogous dog shape that’s followed me from childhood to now.

So what I mean to say is that home isn’t a house — it’s where my dogs feel most comfortable, where they can sleep with all four paws in the air, or curled at the foot of the stairs, or upside down on their towel with a toy still half-chewed in their mouths.


Picture of Finn — my own