Last week I crossed the border for the first time on my own. It was quite an interesting experience, the length of the wait, lines of cars, the questioning by border security officials. In my first blog post, I mentioned that the settler constructs of Canada and the United States, including borders, don’t define the responsibilities that indigenous peoples have to the lands. Wherever we go – there they are.
I recently finished reading The Hobbit, and so the title of this post is a little play on Bilbo Baggins writings about his travels. And I was reminded of the Tolkien quote that Maude Barlow used at the start of Blue Covenant and which also speaks of responsibilities to lands and life. It's a wonderful quote:
"The rule of no realm is mine, but all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" - Gandalf/The Return of the King/J.R.R. Tolkien
I think seeing the world without borders but instead, knowing and paying attention to sacred spaces and places, has helped me strive for balance in different ways every day. It has transformed how I think about lands and waters, the passage of time and the importance of leaving the world as unfettered with waste as possible for future generations. But I can appreciate the notion of community and that spaces have names so that we can share stories about them with one another. There is a value in that - in sharing and belonging.
I was exhausted on my way back to Six Nations but decided to take a short detour to visit my sister in Niagara on the Lake. At least this was the plan until I happened to stumble upon Queenston Heights. Having never been there before, I stopped to walk around, climb the cliff side a bit (the ‘Treacherous River Cliff” according to the plaque), and take a few pictures. I thought about my ancestors a great deal and the depth of their stories.
There aren’t many things more fascinating to me, but in some ways while I was standing there, I lamented that much of what I know is gleamed from books and narratives written or shared in english. Too much really, considering there’s another way of knowing and it’s time I work a bit harder for that. And I’d rather not lament any longer.
So this week marks the start of a real effort on my part to learn to speak our languages and I am both nervous and determined, having drawn on many different experiences to develop my learning plan. Mostly, I am excited and like someone making a health resolution to their family and friends, feel like this is my opportunity to make a public sort of commitment to this endeavour. Let the learning begin!