Posts Tagged 'British Columbia'

Log: Wild Fires, Wild Lives

By early July we’re fully on island time. Swinging at anchor, reading books, and day dreaming. When we’re low on bread and eggs and our laundry bag is stuffed to the limit, we head for our favorite resort, Gorge Harbour. Then back into the wilderness.

Looking out on morning blue and Vancouver Island.

Looking out on morning blue and Vancouver Island.

Wednesday, July 1 Von Donop Inlet to Gorge Harbour Marina 50º05.9’N 126º01.3’W

Ochre Sea Stars are back!  Mostly purple ones.

Ochre Sea Stars are back! Mostly purple ones.

We reluctantly weigh anchor from our lovely anchorage and motor down long narrow Donop Inlet, an excellent find, able to manage dozens of boats. On the way out we spot a cluster of bright purple Ochre Stars: they are back after almost being wiped out by a mysterious disease. This winter, after hundreds of marine study centers and citizen scientists had submitted samples, Cornell University researchers identified the virus responsible for star wasting disease and the mysterious die off from Alaska to Mexico.

After entering the narrow opening of the nearly enclosed Gorge Harbour, we see a resort staffer on near-empty docks waiting to help us tie up. That done, our first question is whether marriage equality has prevailed in the US. We’re relieved to learn it has.

It’s hot. After stripping off clothes and shoes, I go to pay our moorage. “Oh, great”, I say to Sarah, the dock girl, “The last two days of June means lower mooorage fees.” Only later do I realize I’m on a mental time lag, two days out of sync with the rest of the world. I struggle to see where my log has gone a askew and, having made corrections, go online and make a couple of posts.

Since it turns out to be July 1, it’s Canada Day, one of those holidays we’ve almost always missed celebrating. The dock is lined with flags. In the evening, a funky band made up of of what ten years ago I would have called “old timers” sets up under a couple of tents out of the still-hot sun. They play the gamut but square dancing is on the agenda. As families and dogs arrive from the campground and docks to play on the grass, the band’s caller invites them to form squares. Soon the entire deck is filled with dancers.

Canada Day's sunset and moonrise.

Canada Day’s sunset and moonrise.

Though not one to miss celebrations, I’m worn out from the modest effort of laundry and the extreme heat. My single celebratory gesture is to take down the pink and white maple leaf pennant, flapping in tatters under the spreader. Nelson gave it to us the year he and Mona and draft-age American son emigrated across the border, the same year we’d finally learned enough to sail across it. Summers along the BC coast had worn it to shreds so I replace it with the spanking new Canadian flag we’d bought in Campbell River. Soon things quiet down, the tables are pushed back on the dancing deck, and as the sun sets, the moon rises.

Gorge Harbour is great. Local farm goodies from the resort’s grocer. A bike and scooter ride to the ferry dock where Jack finds a phone signal strong enough to restock his Kindle with three new titles. Sun salutations every morning with twenty other yogis and a fine leader. Nightly soaks in the hot tub. But Desolation Sound is waiting.

Saturday, July 4 Gorge Harbour to Homfray Channel 50º16.3’N 124º37.3’W

The sailing is great. Strong winds on the south end of Cortez take us safely around the island’s two long rocky-toothed shoals and past Mink Island. I think to take minute’s worth of video.

VIDEO

Then we head into the Desolation Sound, where winds are just steady. We reach 7.5 knots and are just as smooth as can be. A most beautiful day and nobody out. So I pull out my iPhone for another minute.

VIDEO

Desolation Sound.  Vancouver's misnomer. Always a play of color and light.

Desolation Sound. Vancouver’s misnomer. Always a play of color and light.

We imagine everyone is sleeping in after Canada Day celebrations, with Prideaux Haven and Laura Cove packed to the gills with boats. Not eager to stern tie, we sail up the Sound until the wind dies and the water flattens.  Desolation Sound leads north to Homfray Channel, which in turn connects with Toba Inlet and one of the principal glaciers that feeds the Salish Sea. When we were there in 2012, the water was bright, light aqua, color heightened by white glacial till. But now in this second year of severe drought, the Toba River is likely to be sluggish, its glacier anemic.

But didn’t Helen and Ron mention something about new place on Homfray? Slowly we motor up the long, vast passage that is fairly bereft of anchorages, watching the colors change with the waning day. Ahead I spot what looks like the end of a particularly large log and pick up the monocular. Could that be an elephant seal? Like a piece of wet, shiny, mottled born driftwood, it holds its ugly snout firmly aloft. Finally he moves!

Homfray Lodge is a fine surprise at the end of a long day.

Homfray Lodge is a happy surprise for s?v Aurora and crew at the end of a long day.

At last we turn the corner of Foster Point, and there is Homfray Lodge. A man meets us at the dock, catches the lines, introduces himself as Matt. “Was that an elephant seal we saw?” I ask. Sure thing.

Matt and his brother Dave and at least one other brother acquired the land and built the main house themselves. It was to be a family hideaway. That was until they they looked at the bills and decided it wise to share it. From an old logging operation, they towed in a large float and covered it with smooth planking and a floating garden.  They added a couple of cabins and a micro hydro, which alas, this year they’ve needed to supplement with a diesel generator. Now they host conferences, weddings, retreats and the odd boat that ventures up this way.

My iPhone let me take this pano of the whole Homfray Lodge scene/

My iPhone let me take this pano of the whole Homfray Lodge scene.

When I awaken later that evening and find it’s finally dark, I go to deck to see the stars. There are none! And I smell smoke.

Morning is pea soup, The sun never appears. We can’t see across the channel. We figure the sunset will be vivid beautiful sunset but the sun just disappears altogether in the ochre haze.  Fortunately, Matt is a good story teller.  He teaches us to hear the individual voices of members of a misplaced family of  alpine Pika,  who have chosen to live at sea level here.  He tells us about fishing “outside” off the Brooks Penninsula. About selling his boat and driving a truck on long hauls. About his take on fish farms.  And about how he just stopped fishing.  “Sometimes a guest goes out there in the channel and hooks a big salmon. I think of everything that fish has gone through. Five years of survival against the odds. Not getting eaten as  a fry, making it all the way out.  And then, just when he’s almost home, ready to spawn,,,,,,,” His voice trails off, he shakes his head.

Monday, July 6 Homfray Lodge to Lund 49º58.8’N 124º45.8’W

One hundred eighty fires are blazing around British Columbia. Neighborhoods in Port Hardy have been evacuated. The Spourt Lake fire near Port Alberni grows and grows. But it’s the Pemberton blaze that’s sending its burnt particles down both Toba Inlet and the valleys behind Vancouver.  To escape the choking air, we take off for the open waters of Georgia Strait. On the way out we run into into Mrs. Elephant Seal. She is not quite as ugly, but almost.

Lund's historic hotel, owned by the Sliammon First Nation, and the public boat launch.

Lund’s historic hotel, owned by the Sliammon First Nation, and the public boat launch.

Lund is the tiny town at one end of Route 1. The other end is in Patagonia. It’s a fishing community with 300 year rounders. It’s jointly administered by members of Sliammon Band and non-tribal residents, including cross-continent escapees from the Vietnam War, the draft and Columbia University.

This fine boardwalk has places to sit and planks carved with the names of those who maintain it.

This fine boardwalk has places to sit and planks carved with the names of those who maintain it.

It’s a very fine place. The historic Lund Hotel resembles the Haro in Roche Harbour but is larger and more distinctive. It’s managed by the First Nation and has a general store, with liquor agency, so ingeniously hidden in its lower level that we cannot at first find it even though we’re repeat customers.

Everything else is stretched out around a sweet little bay with a boardwalk. Fresh-from-the-oven loaves, croissants, muffins and cinnamon buns from Nancy’s Bakery infuse the fresh air of every dawn.  Locals hang out there, visitors pick up lunch before boarding the water taxi to Savary Island, the only sand island along the coast.  Not sand, really.  Make that glacial till.

Moorage fees at Lund are the least expensive of our cruise (not counting, of course, days at anchor when we can’t spend a cent) and the facilities among the best. Great restrooms and showers are open to the public 24/7. At night, lamps bathe the wood docks in golden light, while fisher folk relax on the decks of their boats.

Lund's public wharf  after dark.

Lund’s public wharf after dark.

We stay an extra day so I can take a kayak tour to the Raggeds, as the locals call the Copeland Islands. But the air quality isn’t good enough and it’s cancelled. Now there are blazes all over the North Pacific – Siberia, the Arctic, Alaska, BC, Washington and Oregon. Instead I join a peaceful session of yoga at the community center.

Wednesday, July 8 Lund to Pender Harbour 49º37.8’N 124º02”W

Late in the day, after our fill of Malespina Strait, we motor into Pender Harbour and call Fisherman’s Bay Marina on the VHF, no longer worried about whether there would be space. Not many people are cruising right now for some reason. We’ve run into former owner Dave Pritchard farther north on the coast and learned that he and Jennifer have sold the place and settled elsewhere on the Sunshine Coast. New guy managing the docks is great.  Lives in an interesting doubled ended wooden sailing vessel designed by Sam Devlin. Great meal at Garden Bay pub before retiring below deck where new owners have brought strong internet all the way to the nav station.

Thursday, July 9 Pender Harbour to Lesqueti 49º29.8’N 124º13.8’W

In Boho, the best place to drop the hook is next to this rock, topped with a shell midden, courtesy the gulls.

Lots of boats as we approach the roiled waters at the south tip of Texada after crossing  Malespina. Whiskey Gulf is active and boats converge here. Jack rails against Whiskey Gulf and notes how once daily war games become part of the nautical chart, a whole great area of open seas often off limits to fishermen, researchers and recreationists. Boats have to go way out of their way whenever Whiskey Gulf is active and when they stray into the boundaries they get called out on VHF 16.  We worry about the same thing happening in Olympic National Park if the Navy wins the long drawn out fight and gets to conduct electronic war games there. I sit up with my back to the mast listening to KUOW for the first time in over a month and looking out for military patrol boats.

Ah!  At last we’re tucked away for another two days in Boho Bay, large enough to permit a beautiful view and sunset, protected enough to be absolute fun on a day when it rages out on the Straight.

Sunset

This is our third time here and it’s a keeper.  If you’re going to get to know, love and trust and anchorage, it makes sense to keep going back. We drop anchor in 30 feet of water in more or less the same place but radically different conditions. We watch other boats bounce in the new southeasters but we’re in a little hole on next to a big rock and a reef with a nice fix on the setting sun.

This time the birds are all out.  Vultures, heron, eagles, and lots of young pigeon guillemots.  The latter swim up to check us out and then dive, their silly bright red legs splayed out like the toddlers they are.

Saturday, July 11 Lesqueti Island to Ladysmith 48º59.8’N 123º48.7’W

Our early departure from Lesquiti gives us time to sail but the southeaster does not cooperate. Every tack east requires one to the west. Our VMG – velocity made good – is no good at all. In order to make slack at Dodd Narrows, we turn on the engine and furl sails. Fatigue is setting set but we are not without options. Glaciers have scratched long, narrow, northwest-southeast inlets into all the nearby shores. Ladysmith Harbour is a long gash in Vancouver Island.

Monday, July 13 Ladysmith to Stuart Island

Kayaks at the Stuart Island dinghy dock.

Kayaks at the Stuart Island dinghy dock.

The wind is all wrong for sailing so we watch the seals and the birds. We’ve only been down this channel once before so we try to commit it to memory, particularly where huge ferries from Vancouver weird turns to deliver hundreds of cars and people from Vancouver to south Vancouver Island.

There’s lots of space for rec boats at the State Park floats, buoys, and the dock at Reid Harbor. But all the camping spots available only to crews of non-motorized boats are taken. I count 20 kayaks in Reid and another 20 in Prevost. Latecomers tie up at the dingy dock and have to pitch their tents on the rocky slopes above.

Wednesday, July 15 Stuart Island to Jones Island

The shortest passage of the summer takes us five miles along Spiden Island, where we see a rainbow of sailing kayaks against the low tide shore. Timing is perfect for a mooring buoy.

A rainbow of kayaks sail along a low tide bank on the north side of Speiden Island.

A rainbow of kayaks sail along a low tide bank on the north side of Speiden Island.

Friday, July 16, Jones Island to Friday Harbor

We want to sail down the west coast of San Juan Island. Haro Strait is generally smooth – hence all the kayaks – and the J, K and L pods have been hanging out there. Our intention is to gunk hole somewhere around Henry Island. We check out Mitchell Bay and see the Snug Harbor Resort takes up most of it and private buoys the rest. Just another reminder that Washington is not Oregon, where the coast belongs to everyone. Last fall we’d had a great visit to English Camp, going in by road from Roche Harbor, and checked out Garrison Bay. Motoring toward it, a couple of bullying Nordic Tugs push us to the side of the channel where we hit mud. It’s not troublesome but inching along trying to find ten – even six – good feet of water on a falling tide is not fun. We’d noticed only ten sailboat at Roche – lovely in the fall but not our kind of boats today.

So we just put up the sails and head back though Spiden Channel and down into San Juan. We see three historic schooners with sails unfurled but when the wind dies, we assume they are motoring. We tie up at the breakwater float where people come and go and there are never any reservations required. People come and go, including a pretty steel schooner, 36′ on deck, 50′ overall, with a motely crew of about 7. Portlanders, they come over to chat about the Valiant and actually ask to go below deck. We say sure. Throughout the evening the place grows on us. Ferries disgorging weekenders. Friday Harbor is just nice. Unpretentious. It’s chaotic in places, unruffled in others.

Saturday, July 17 Friday Harbor to Port Townsend

I’ve wondered about this before The Prettiest Town on the Inside Passage?

Advertisements

Truth, Reconciliation, and U’mista

We catch the 8:40 ferry from Port McNeill, arriving in Alert Bay about 45 minutes later. It’s our first time in a place I’ve been hankering to visit all the years we were speeding north, usually through the sheltered northern route through the Broughtons. And all the more so this year, since the report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools was finalized on June 2nd. Our Waggoner’s cruising guide says this of Alert Bay : “One can learn more about native culture here, in less time, than anywhere on this part of the coast.” This turns out to be true, although I think that getting a grasp of the cultures of traditional Pacific Northwest peoples from the Nisqually Reach to Sitka is more of a lifelong endeavor.

SunMan

Native public art along the Alert Bay waterfront includes this contemporary representation of Sun Man.

We disembark at the ferry dock, where a carved sign hung from log gate adorned with native art proclaims ‘Namgis First Nation – Gilakas’la – Welcome. We take the fine boardwalk northwest around the Bay. We run into a bald eagle resting on the boardwalk rail, two local elders worrying about its health, and the owner of a nearby coffee shop who will contact animal rescue. We pass the Anglican Church, sugar white Victorian confectionery, 1892-style. At regular intervals along the boardwalk are log pavilions decorated with totem-type sculptures, among them the first of many Thunderbird and a Sun Man motifs we’ll see throughout the day.

Finally, I catch up with Jack at our destination, a traditional plank and beam longhouse that houses the U’mista Cultural Center. The Center represents the culture of the Kwakwala-speaking peoples, also known as the Kwakiutl. If the Salish Sea is the homeland of speakers of the Salish languages, these waters might be called the Kwakiutl Sea. The waters start at Campbell River and extend north deep into the mainland beyond Cape Caution and around the top of Vancouver Island to Quatsino Sound. The local ‘Namgis Band, who migrated here from the mouth of the Nimpkish River near Port McNeill are just one of many many groups.

The U'mista Cultural Center houses a collection of potlatch masks and regalia seized by the government in the 1920s and returned to the Kwakwala-speaking peoples in the 1980s.

The U’mista Cultural Center houses a collection of potlatch masks and regalia seized by the government in the 1920s and returned to the Kwakwala-speaking peoples in the 1980s.

U’mista embodies the idea of ‘return home’. The Center was built to contain the regalia, masks, rattles, whistles and coppers seized by the government, with participants hauled off to prison, in 1921 and returned in 1980. The potlatch, perpetually misunderstood, was outlawed in 1885, but continued underground in the communities on this part of the coast. I’ll let the Center’s leaflet explain potlatch:

Since time beyond recollection, the Kwak’wala speaking groups had expressed their joy through the potlatch. The word “potlatch” comes from Chinook jargon, a trade pidgin formerly used along the coast. It means “to give” and came to designate a ceremony common to peoples on the Northwest Coast and parts of the Interior. The potlatch ceremony marks important occasions in the lives of the Kwakwaka’wakw: the naming of children, marriage, transferring rights and privileges and mourning the dead. Guests witnessing the event are given gifts. The more gifts distributed, the higher status achieved by the potlatch host. It is a time for showing the masks and dances owned by the chief giving the potlatch.

Although there was no immediate opposition to the potlatch at the time of initial contact with the white man, such opposition began to grow with the coming of missionaries and government agents. Frustration over unsuccessful attempts to ‘civilize’ the people of the potlatch led officials, teachers, and missionaries to pressure the federal government into enacting legislation prohibiting the ceremonies.

The exhibit of stolen and returned treasures is introduced by stunning footage contemporary pot latches. It’s possible that no one does potlatches better than the ‘Namgis and the U’mista Cultural Center has kept traditions alive. Rather than borrow the century old masks from the museum – the Tlingit around Sitka periodically don their regalia displayed in the US National Park Visitors Center – they have created their own. Their carvers have created both reproductions and brilliant contemporary renditions. Every family has a capes and tunics hand sewn in traditional styles, many with motifs outlined with hundreds of shell button. The women know how to remove cedar bark in long strips without harming the trees and weave the conical hats. Cedar strips, twisted, knotted or simply hanging loose, hula-skirt fashion, also complete the costumes of the highly acrobatic male dancers.

Filmed in the large ceremonial big house we later walk up the hill to see, the center’s documentary shows a recent celebration. Chiefs, drummers, dancers, and processioners with small children in their arms circle a live fire in the middle of the room. The entire community, turned out in full dress, is seated three tiers deep along the four walls. Dance, costumes and music are spectacular.

At the Alert Bay big house the 'Nagmis have revived elaborate and stunning potlatch ceremonies documented in films produced by the U'mista Cultural Center.

At the Alert Bay big house the ‘Nagmis have revived elaborate and stunning potlatch ceremonies documented in films produced by the U’mista Cultural Center.

We witness some of this live because our visit happens to coincide with National Aboriginal Day. “The band is celebrating with a procession at noon followed by a salmon bake,” the young man at the U’mista reception desk tells us as we enter, “You’re invited to join us for lunch.” Really?

When head outside after our U’mista visit, sure enough, a tent with seating has been set up on the waterfront and several feeble members of the band are being carefully wheeled from the elders’ home on the hill. Soon a small procession led by newly elected Mayor Deborah arrives. It is such a hot day that the walkers immediately cast off their robes, leaving on only their protective cedar bark hats.

Alert Bay's recently elected Mayor Deborah leads the procession to International Aboriginal Day Celebrations   at the U'mista Cultural Center.

Alert Bay’s recently elected Mayor Deborah leads the procession to International Aboriginal Day Celebrations at the U’mista Cultural Center.

“Please, have something to eat,” says a bystander.

“Let us wait until others are served,” we say, noticing the short line. We wander off only to be engaged in conversation by a couple lunching on lawnchairs in the deep shade of a cedar tree.

“Have you had lunch?” they ask. We say no. Having just noticed the site where the Indian Residential School stood we ask when it was taken down.

“Oh just this year,” they say, introducing an attractive man sitting on the grass nearby. “Larry was a student there.”

“I was there until it closed in 1976,” says Larry, shaking his head. “It’s good not to see that old building there. Come on, I’m taking you to get some lunch.”

True, there are copious amounts of food: especially salmon but also potato salad, carrot sticks, tossed salad, water melon and delicious warm morsels of what Alaskans call ‘fry bread’ and people here call ‘bannock’. If the potlatch is central to the local culture and giving is the spiritual core potlatch, it makes sense that there is more than enough food for everybody.

We learn a lot about giving and taking and destroying and restoring during our day at Alert Bay.

In addition to the permanent exhibit of potlatch items, the U’mista Cultural Center also has rotating exhibits. Along the ramp to the main hall are historic photos of native villages throughout the Kwakwaka’wakw region, including many sites where we’ve anchored or docked. Each is paired with documents from a 1980s oral history project: a striking photo of an elder and text with his or her words. These elders speak less about everyday activities and material culture than about the stories that explain the spiritual heritage of that particular First Nation. Several of these refer to quaking earth and deluge, which would be the Cascadia Subduction Zone seismic event of January 1700, also documented by the Japanese the “orphan Ttsunami'” and recently affirmed by contemporary seismologists thanks to the work of geologist Brian Atwater.  (You can download this intensely interesting, profusely illustrated account from the USGS website here.)

Currently at U'mista is portion of the powerful exhibit on Residential Schools from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

Currently at U’mista is portion of the powerful exhibit on St. Michael’s Indian Residential School from the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

But the U’mista exhibit that really wallops me is Speaking to Memory: Images and Voices from St. Michael’s Indian Residential School.  One of the largest of the Indian Residential Schools, St. Mike’s became the home to generations of children who were forcibly removed from their homes throughout the far flung network of islands and Inlets of the Kwakwaka’wakw region.  The gallery at U’mista contains selected items from the larger 2014 exhibit at MOA, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.  Dominating the center of the hall are participatory works of art – a miniature dugout racing canoe covered with thousands of colorful, individually decorated, Scrabble-like tiles and a couple textile panels incorporating messages in the native language. But it’s the text and photographs around the edges that grip me to tears for an hour and a half.

The first wall pairs two photos, one taken in 1930 and the other in 2013. Alert Bay’s St. Michael’s Indian Residential School, one of the 120 federally administrated schools across Canada, was the forced detention center for children from villages throughout the Broughtons and the villages of Vancouver Island. It was operated by the Anglican Church of Canada until 1976 and had stood empty as no appropriate use could be found for the building. Until several months ago it filled the space between U’mista and the attractive modern health clinic and adjacent home for elders. Colorful sticky notes and whiteboard messages in English and Kwakiutl record the feelings of Alert Bay citizens about the final erasure of St. Mike’s from their village landscape.

Photos of the former St Michael's Indian Residential School at Alert Bay in 1930 and 2013.

Photos of the former St Michael’s Indian Residential School at Alert Bay in 1930 and 2013.

Next I move along two walls move on which are tacked floor to ceiling photos of students in BC residential schools coupled with poignant recollections of life in them. I read every single word. The “student” testimonies are those of adults looking back in the early 1990s. Most, not all, refer to heartbreaking injustices inflicted on children. Most, not all authors, are Anonymous: the past has not yet receded and there’s still risk of retribution. (I am too shattered to think about notes; after all, everything is now part of the historical record. But before walking out into the mid day sunlight I snap a quick photo of a couple of the testimonies, a random souvenir.)

And they did not spare the rod, perhaps that’s where our people learned to hit as a way of getting their way. And when we got into alcohol, we drank as if there was no tomorrow. If there is anything good to be said about St. Mikes, it would be soccer. They brought soccer to us. Oh yea, as a special treat on Easter Sunday we had one hard-boiled egg. The only time we had an egg.

Anonymous, 1991

We were not allowed to pass the line. We couldn’t go near the boys and the boys couldn’t come near us, and we weren’t allowed to go outside the gate or outside the fence. If we did that we got punished. We were well protected you know. That’s what I like about that. That saved me maybe from a lot of things, you know. When they get strict with us and we learn obedience and we learn to try and follow the rules, you know.

Anonymous, 1991

I wonder how this all plays out. Alert Bay’s Anglican church is still shipshape and beneath the totems of the village’s contemporary burial grounds is the odd headstone in the form of a cross. Forbearance and inclusivity seem to reign. Mentally I run through the churches we’ve seen all along the coast. From the Bible church at the foot of Washington’s Hood Canal, the graves of its cemetery decked out in tinsel, to the onion-domed gem in Ninikchuk, Alaska, whose Native priest gave us a tour, speaking with pride about Orthodoxy’s deep global roots and the Fourth Century priests who made their way from the Eastern Mediterranean to China. I wonder: is it overarching tradition of Native spirituality that fosters such forbearance and inclusivity?

The village’s Victorian Christ Church was built in 1892.

At last I come to the final room of the exhibit, a series of seven long scrolls bearing official letters of apology from the Prime Minister and from the heads of the churches with whom the Canadian federal government contracted to operate the schools across the country. Here’s an excerpt from the long letter from Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on Aboriginal culture, heritage and language. While some former students have spoken positively about their experiences at residential schools, these stories are far over-shadowed by tragic accounts of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse and neglect of helpless children, and their separation from powerless families and communities.

The panel with the letter from Anglican Bishop Michael Peers is a litany of contrition.

I have felt shame and humiliation as I have heard of suffering inflicted by my people,and as I think of the part our church played in that suffering.

Among the tragedies of the Residential Schools was the loss of dozens of Native languages in British Columbia alone. Bilingual signs are an effort to keep words alive.

Among the tragedies of the Residential Schools was the loss of dozens of Native languages in British Columbia alone. Bilingual signs are an effort to keep words alive.

I am deeply conscious of the sacredness of the stories that you have told and I hold in the highest honor those who have told them.

I have heard with admiration the stories of people and communities who have word at healing, and I am away of how much healing is needed.

I also know that I am in need of healing, and my own people are in need of healing , and our church is in need of healing. Without that healing, we will continue the same attitudes that have done such damage in the past. ….

I am sorry, more than I can say, that we were part of a system which took you and your children from home and family.

I am sorry, more than I can say, that we tried to remake you in our image, taking from you your language and the signs of your identity.

I am sorry, more than I can say, that in our schools so many were abused physically, sexually, culturally and emotionally. …

This resonates with me. This is the time and place for it to do so.  My past is longer than my future. I have experienced – albeit at some distance – so much injustice spiraling without resolution, no end in sight. In the past two weeks, I’ve read two compelling works of fictional realism on the great anti-colonial wars of my lifetime. Kamel Daoud’s recently translated Mersault Investigation is set in Algeria, where we spent our honeymoon in 1971. At the time, the nation’s honeymoon with national liberation following a valiant fight still had not dissipated into violent score settling of age old strife. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen gets to the heart of the sad saga of the war in Vietnam. Our invasion, the war without reason, and its retributive aftermath. Vietnam is where I plan to celebrate my 70th birthday on a bicycle trip with our daughter Selena.

The next book in my queue came just when I needed it. The Book of Forgiving is a new work by Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho, an Anglican priest.  Archbishop Tutu has witnessed some of the worst crimes people can inflict on others. So wherever he goes, he inevitably gets asked this question: ‘How do I forgive?’ This book is his answer. He and his daughter lay out the simple but profound truths about the significance of forgiveness, how it works, why everyone needs to know how to grant it and receive it, and why granting forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves when we have been wronged. This is a How to Book and it’s good. Illustrating with myriad examples,the authors explain the four-step process of forgiveness—Telling the Story, Naming the Hurt, Granting Forgiveness, and Renewing or Releasing the Relationship.

As I start the last chapter of the beautiful, short Book of Forgiving we come in range of wifi and learn this: A young white supremacist, welcomed into a Bible study group at an historic Black church, shoots everyone there, killing most, including the pastor, who is a State Senator. Three days later I watch a video of the parishioners addressing the accused who has been taken into custody. They talk to him one by one, telling him forgiveness is there. Not just from God but also from their community. It’s as if they have read the Tutus’ book.


Archives