- Histories of Kanatha: Seen and Told
This is a text of contrasts woven gently into a tapestry of hope for all humanity. It is an appeal for thought about all that must concern us and seeks not to educate with academic solipsism, but instead speaks to our sense of what is so obviously right for the earth and each of its inhabitants. Sioui speaks of the past as present, and as a potential map for the future, asking if we can see wisdom in treading upon the path he speaks to as opposed to that of mindless capitalism and rampant development. He is at once serious and irreverent when pointing out the profound flaws in what he terms the 'Euro-American way of life' and the fact that 'America itself is now sick from diseases shamefully similar to the ones that the Euro-Americans had fled by coming here.' He asks us to rethink our collective vision of history, and to initiate new thought for what can be salvaged and resuscitated globally.
His elegant style, both French and English, evokes that of other writers in his genre: Tom Porter, Art Solomon, Basil Johnston, I.M. Ramsden, and other elders of our world community who have never deviated from powerful but quietly delivered messages of restraint and respect for the land and each other. Sioui notes that it is for us never to forget who we truly are and never to forget where we came from. This remembering is re-spoken as the foundation of identity for Native peoples across Canada, but it applies to peoples everywhere and he is careful to say so. Our collective history remains the bedrock of understanding and truth for our survival in this century. Sioui's contribution to that history is his gentle, yet insistent, reminder that we can all play powerful roles [End Page 556] as citizens of this world, and his vision is an inclusive one: '[T]here is but one human people, one heart, one prayer, one song.'
His proposition of 'Indianizing non-Indian society' by encouraging us to step off the linear pathway we have wrought is not only timely, it fulfils a prophesy long iterated by Indigenous elders. They knew that patience would pay all, and the 'whiteman' would eventually come to realize that his way of life, or 'civilization' as he has long articulated it, would ultimately be unsustainable. John Trudell (2004), in solidarity with many of Sioui's suggestions, noted that 'Indians' have long been suspicious of the idea that 'civilization is good.' Moreover, they have been even more poignantly aware of the fallacy that 'civilization is good for us.'
'Society is undergoing a reflection about how to recover a sense of balance' long lost through colonization, linear thinking, and hardening of the heart through separation from the earth and natural things. Sioui boldly suggests that women will play a central role in that rebalancing, articulating a sensible contrariness that is refreshing and sensitive. This is the impetus of new directions, a sound rejection of the tired patriarchy that has long held us captive, in society, the academy, and our very households. This text reminds all humanity that a 'true, viable human culture is circular in nature: it has not lost consciousness that Life is the vibrant, pulsating expression of the great Circle of relationships linking all beings together, material and non-material.' This is a book that has the potential to open the eyes of both Native and non-Native peoples to a kinder reality, one that invites hope for understanding and acceptance at a global level.
Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto