Monday, November 8, 2010

Mission Among the Blackfeet by Howard L. Harrod (University of Oklahoma Press, 1971)

This book is a bit dated, it's nearly 40 years old, but the history it contains is a good illustration of the transition of the Blackfeet from their traditional culture to the Western ideal and the vicissitudes in between.

The Blackfeet lived on the Great Plains according to their ways in the area known now as Montana, more or less. For a long time, the buffalo were their main source of food. In the mid to late 1800's, that way of life drastically changed when the buffalo disappeared. On top of this came the wave of Americanism through military (ie. a short campaign against an aggressive Chief, although THAT chief and his people weren't attacked, it was another group - it seems that any Indian would do as an enemy for those particular soldiers).

What this book looks at primarily is the establishment of Christian Missions amongst the Blackfeet. This involved Methodists, Jesuits and Roman Catholics. Overall, there were many failed experiments from the 1860's to the 1960's in converting Blackfeet people from savagery to "civilization". The experiments failed for (at least) a couple of reasons: 1) the Christians were too few in number to effect any real change at the outset of their mission work 2) the Blackfeet sometimes saw little difference between their way of serving the Great Spirit and the superstitions of the Christians.

Overtime, as the Blackfeet lost their way of life, and as a replacement for day-to-day living (in the absence of the buffalo hunt) would only come many, many decades later, the ill social effects of poverty increased. On top of that, segregation between Christian sects as well as segregation between Indian and non-Indian congregations in that area did nothing to fix the rift between Indians who suffered from White encroachment and Whites who generally profited from the demise of Indians.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Life in Aikido: the Biography of Founder Morihei Ueshiba by Kisshomaru Ueshiba (Kodansha International, 2008)

With reference to my previous post - O Sensei was a man at the other end of the spectrum of human potential. The man was driven! His focus, determination and will to help Japan and the world at large, along with his super-human martial arts skill became - in one lifetime! - one amazing martial art!

Kami Waza are divine techniques. Perhaps Aikido waza were given to O Sensei for a life of supreme dedication. Possible, especially if you consider that O Sensei would "radiate" golden light and could use that golden light (?) to remain aware even when sleeping!

This book really gives an Aikidoka insight into the mind and spirit of the founder of Aikido. Miigwetch!


Monday, October 25, 2010

On The Farm: Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver's Missing Women by Stevie Cameron (Knopf, 2010)

What a horrific situation.

Lots of things happened while reading this book. 1) I realized the commonalities of many of the missing ( murdered) women: abuse, addiction and the downward spiral into prostitution - despite some variations in upbringing, these variables were common amongst the women - which is a topic unto itself. 2) The apparent negligence of the Vancouver Police to take the missing women as a serious case. 3) The sickening horror of what Pickton did. 4) I don't know what to think about "the justice system" and how the grotesque murder of 49 women can turn into 6 second-degree murders. 5) I realized that I pray, and 6) Stevie Cameron is an amazing writer.

Pickton didn't seem to prey on Native women specifically, but, because some Native women ended up in Vancouver's Downtown East Side, their stories are part of this story.  Abuse predominates the histories of most of the women.  Some were physically and sexually abused as children, came from broken homes and ended up with abusive boyfriends who turned them onto drugs and in some cases actually began pimping them. In the cases of the Native women, their families had been hard hit by the effects of Residential Schools.  While this didn't figure predominantly in Cameron's narrative, it is an interesting footnote to the far reaching effects of institutional abuse. It seems to be likely, whether Native or non-Native, that abuse, neglect and chaos, especially in childhood, leads to a teenaged life filled with angst, drug experimentation and shitty boyfriends. Addiction and abuse from "friends," family and partners just pushes people deeper. Many of these women had tried kicking their addictions, often to be together with their children, but were unable to.  Because of Pickton, they'll never get the chance.

Early on, the police seemed to make special effort to be incompetent. Basically, they didn't care that hookers were "missing" (they figured because they were prostitutes that they were just somewhere partying) and the families of the missing women had to not only put up with the loss of their family member, but the lies (ie. saying that they were looking for her when the truth was otherwise) and derision. Even when Rossmo, an officer who developed serial crime software that helped with cases all over the world, was there in Vancouver, his "fellow" officers rebuked him - could lives have been saved if a different attitude had been exhibited by these people?

I actually got sick when the severity of what Pickton did hit home. I had to put the book away and go outside for fresh air. Cameron could've been more graphic in her details, thankfully she was not. A testament to her story-telling ability. The verdict has floored me - how can so much evidence result in a verdict that seems so far removed from reality? I don't know, and I hope that one day this is explained sufficiently to me.

I noticed while reading and thinking about what I've read that sometimes I would think to myself, "Oh my God." I prayed - to what I don't know - I thought to myself, "God, whatever you are, I hope...I don't know...that these women are safe? That judged?" I don't know...but I very seriously considered an ultimate being akin to the Judeo-Christian All-Father.

One person from this sad tale who I'd like to know more about is the cell plant. I think that what he did, how he essentially got the confession about 49 murders took guts and brains that I don't think many people have, including myself.Stevie Cameron has done an amazing thing with this book. It is an incredible feat of journalism, research and compassionate story-telling.

Links from the book:

Links related to themes from the book:  <---Stevie Cameron on YouTube