When looked at closely, the collective worldview that the Europeans brought with them to Canada was based largely on elements of resource extraction and military rule. The domination and control of the ecosystem allowed the Empire to take root, and progress and privilege to flourish. A heinous side effect of this unimpeded growth was the genocidal devastation of many earth-connected indigenous peoples, landscapes and wildlife species. As today’s societal problems worsen and environmental degradation intensifies, it has become clear that the unsustainable worldview of our founding fathers is highly destructive to the Earth and all life.
Among other insidious concepts brought to the “New World” by the settler society was the idea of “Terra Nullius” - that the land was empty and devoid of life, requiring a European presence and sensibility to make it bona fide. This is exactly why books like Following Nimishoomis, an account of Anishnaabe culture just prior to and during contact, are of primary importance to all Canadians. Beyond our urban cocoon we learn that this beautiful country is a four-season paradise, and that there are actually people who have lived here happily for millennia, and survived and thrived and flourished! But more importantly, we learn that human beings are meant to honor the Earth in all they think, say and do, and that there is a better, more harmonious way for us to live, interconnected with nature and all life.
Following Nimishoomis is based on the stories and recollections of Helen’s mother Dedibaayaanimanook (now in her 90’s and going strong) who is also the mother of Alice Williams, Curve Lake’s renowned artisan quilt-maker. The voices of Dedibaayaanimanook and her relatives come through on every page, illuminating their traditional values and lifestyle of following game, fishing harvests, wild rice, berries and healing plants in seasonal migrations. Deeply bonded to the earth and each other, they exhibit gentleness, kindness, good manners and appropriate protocol in their respect and care for all living things.
Ancestral knowledge and the consciousness of indigenous people are embedded in the land, and the cultural meaning this provides is essential to their individual and collective identity and well-being. Dedibaayaanimanook’s story will assist in correcting the misconception that Canada was a tract of “wilderness” devoid of human history, whereas every square centimeter of this continent was someone’s traditional homeland.
Pegi Eyers is the author of "Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community," a brand-new book that explores strategies for intercultural competency, healing our relationships with Turtle Island First Nations, decolonization, recovering an ecocentric worldview, rewilding, creating a sustainable future and reclaiming peaceful co-existence in Earth Community.