Saturday, January 30, 2016

Missing the Forest for the Trees

Today the piece I wrote about in the last post is to be auctioned off in a charity fundraiser. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. realizing I had missed an essential component in my story of the map – the leadership role of the First Nations people in the whole thing.

My Eurocentric perspective shames me. Working from sources that privilege the French missionaries’ side of the story, I completely skirted the truth. Which is: the Jesuits only knew about the existence of the Mississippi because they were told about it by aboriginal people, and their canoe expedition was guided and powered by their aboriginal crew, whose names are long forgotten. The contributions of Marquette and Joliet were in mapping, and having the jurisdictional authority to “claim” the territory for the French. This totally ignored the fact that First Nations people had been using the Mississippi for hundreds of years of traveling and trading.

I knew all this, of course, but I didn’t cover it in my essay. This omission is startling and significant to me. I, as always, owe a debt to my unconscious being that knows much more than my waking self, and I am grateful for the dreams that reveal themselves and guide me to greater understanding.

I may rewrite the whole essay in the future, but I have chosen to acknowledge my mistake in a separate post for now, to draw attention to how easily we can tell a story that purports to be true, but is in fact evidence of our culturally narrow and blinkered perspective. I apologize for my well-intended but blissfully ignorant approach.
Marquette getting directions. (In so many images of European explorers, they are depicted standing in the canoes. Very tippy and potentially dangerous behaviour.)

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. I am always impressed by your integrity Heather, and this is another example. Also - I get my best ideas during sleep...our mind never stops working, just like our body never stops digesting. x

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  2. I agree with Judy; thank you for keeping us aware of how large the truth is and how complicated things can get when you want to put it into words and share....I met a guy not so long ago, who is an excellent debater for which he has to do loads of research, so much so he can pursuade you into voting one way and within the spate of an hour the exact opposite; he concluded that the more he knew about a subject the less he was inclined towards holding any opinion......there are just a lot of facts and at any given time you tend to sway back and forth, if any of this makes sense.

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  3. dream on, well done!

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  4. Anonymous9:19 AM

    Well said. Edward Said wrote a seminal book about the Eurocentric depictions of "oriental" cultures called Orientalism, which forced people to confront the unacknowledged discrimination manifest in European culture towards Asian cultures. Perhaps what you are talking about, the unacknowledged contribution of First Nations' people to North American expansion/discovery, is similar. Somebody needs to write a book about this. Maybe called something like Americas-ism.

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  5. you are so right here, but the important thing is that you realize it and can correct it. i think so many don't acknowledge or even believe they could have a point of view that could be essentially wrong.

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