There we sat, in the café, a lot of Canadian history between us. Her ancestors indigenous Canadian and holocaust survivors, mine ‘Scottish Presbyterian’ and English settlers who imposed themselves on land that may never have belonged to them.
If my ancestors had only realized what a rich culture and vast store of knowledge they discarded because of beliefs. “Savages”, they believed. What ‘savagery’ existed in some tribes was probably not worse than the savagery that existed at that time among some clans where my ancestors originated – the Scottish Highlands and the Orkney Islands – tough territory.
Indigenous people, the children of holocaust survivors and yes, even the children of those Orkney Island descendants, all have suffered in their own way. And ironically, the very religion rigidly followed by settlers, which added to the misery of indigenous peoples as their identities were brutally erased, is the same religion followed by many of today’s First Peoples in their need for emotional support.
For so long, “our people” held onto our cultural identities, many of us believing ours was superior to the others. And now she and I, with our matching wild, thick grey hair, she the Christian, and I the atheist, agree we have to sacrifice and leave behind some of our “heritage”, but will gain so much more in the process.
After all, what is a heritage, if not whatever we choose to treasure in our store of memories and knowledge? And if ‘saving a heritage’ means ghettoization of peoples, the human race will not survive. But if it means sharing the best of what we are, we will.
Better for Mother Earth if we all embrace and learn from each other.