This week is Aboriginal Awareness Week in Canada. Yesterday I took a stroll into Olympic Plaza (another one of the perks of working at the Central Library) and watched some of the events that celebrated the theme “Power of Youth, Wisdom of Elders.” There were young dancers and drummers in their traditional costumes, young people that carry the pride of their ancestry and the continuation of the old ways into the new millennium. I also listened to the speech by Narcisse Blood, who brought the wisdom of his elders into the debate on the relationship of man and nature in this new, commercial world.
In this blog I talk about our built environment, the historic buildings that are under threat or have been repurposed. I also talk about genealogy, which celebrates the past and our ancestors place in that past. I often think I have my head buried in the past with only passing concern for the future. But watching the young people celebrate their past and listening to Narcisse talk about moving into the future, using the wisdom of the past, I came to the realization that one is inseparable from the other. I know it is a cliché to say that those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it, but I believe that not only is there a very great chance that we won’t learn from what we know of the past, but that if we don’t learn, there may not be a future. Originally I had posted an entry this week about endangered places but listening to Narcisse’s speech, I realized that the First Nations people in this area of the country had already lost their places. The grasslands that supported the people are gone along with the buffalo which was hunted to near extinction in a very short period of time. Narcisse passed on the wisdom of his grandfather, who, rather than be impressed by his grandson’s catch of nine beautiful whitefish, admonished him to only take what he needed. This, possibly, is the way we need to approach what we have. This applies to places, to people, and to things. Let’s use only what we need. Let’s fix what we have and celebrate our successes. Let’s bring the past into the future and learn from what both our youth and our elders have to tell us. To quote Narcisse: “Greed is not an option.”
The Calgary Public Library has lots of resources for anyone who is interested in the history of the first peoples of this area. There is a very good collection in the Community Heritage and Family History section of the Central Library including some early accounts by explorers who were among the first to encounter the people who lived in this area.
Postcards from the Past, PC 849