Award-winning author Jon Tattrie, whose most recent book, Redemption Songs (2016, Potterfield Press) was about the history of Black Africans in North America, has turned his attention to one of the most prominent First Nations personages, Daniel N. Paul, Mi’kmaw Elder.
Mr Paul is himself an author of several books, in particular the popular We Were Not the Savages (2006, Fernwood Publishing) now in it’s third printing. Mr Tattrie, in full co-operation with Mr Paul has produced a book that is a combination of biography, memoir (for Mr Paul is given pages to relate stories and experiences himself) and Mi’kmaw history, including that of the residential school system, the offensiveness of anything named after Cornwallis, and other lingering testimonials to colonialism and the relegating of First Nations peoples to wards of the state.
One of the more light-hearted reminicences from Danny’s childhood:
One summer day, Danny and his siblings joined their Knockwood cousins rafting on Brown Brook. Danny, five, waits his turn
but when it comes, his sister Rhoda knocks him off the raft and inadvertently sits on him while he is underwater. The older cousins spot the danger and pull Rhoda off him. Danny surfaces on the shore with water pouring out of his mouth and dripping off his clothes. Panicked, Rhoda runs up the hill screaming that she’s “drowned Danny.” The spectacle of her flight dried Danny’s tears, and he joined
his friends laughing at her. Rhoda kept on running all the way home, bursting in on her mother (who had company), yelling and sobbing that she’d killed her brother.
“Go out and play,” Sarah replied, and returned to her conversation. She knew her children well, and rightly concluded that if the boy had indeed drowned, all of the kids would be sounding the alarm.
As mentioned, and as it has been in the news lately, Edward Cornwallis (the founder of Halifax) is exposed for the white suprematist he was and how it was his purpose to drive out the Mi’kmaw from the colony of Nova Scotia:
Edward Cornwallis’s 1749-1752 government created the scalping policy to “root the Micmac out of the [mainland] peninsula
decisively and forever. In order to secure the province from further attempts of the Indians, some effectual methods should be taken to
pursue them to their haunts and show them that because of such actions, they shall not be secure within the province.” He failed to drive them out, as did successive governments. Centralization was an attempt to isolate Mi’kmaq people into two reserves, leaving the rest of the province for white settlement, but it also failed and was abandoned.
“It’s probably very difficult for most non-Indians to conceive of having a plan for the life of their race mapped out and implemented
by the government against their wishes,” Dan Paul later reflected in We Were Not the Savages. “But this is precisely what was done to the Maliseet and Mi’kmaq in the Maritimes by white supremacists.”
Award-winning author and journalist Jon Tattrie has once again performed an honourable service to all Canadians, First Nations and otherwise, in bringing to light the life of Daniel Paul, and his determined struggle to right some of the wrongs of history for the Mi’kmaw people.