Monday, March 01, 2010

Hockey Night in Sheshashui

All week in the schools of Goose Bay and surrounds I've been selling the message that we can make our own history and history is what we make of it. Today in a classroom of Lake Melville School at North-West River ("'Striver," we Labrador old hands have learned to call it) I had an experience I have never had in any other school. I often talk about personal histories with school classes, and I asked how many of these kids, maybe fifteen of them, had not been born here in Labrador. Not a single hand went up. (It's not like that in Toronto.)

Historical moment: North West River is one of the few towns in Labrador still largely focussed on trapping. Donald Smith, the guy in the famous photograph hammering down the Last Spike, spent years running the HBC post here. No red mittens in his day, I think. Update, March 4: He lived mostly at Rigolet down the bay, I'm told. But Smith's DCB biography shows links to North-West River too. They take such things seriously here.

Here in the territory of the Labrador Innu, I also went today to Sheshashui Indian School, a spectacular building with a magnificent view of Lake Melville. We were talking about the land and resource issues of the Innu and how they compare to the Haida and the Mohawk and others around the country. I was arguing, based on a passage from The Story of Canada, that the Innu have claimed a place in Canadian history by insisting they are there, they know who they are, and they have their claims to attention. And aren't we all doing that? Communities get to be in history by valuing who they are and declaring it.

The kids in schools today, the boys in particular, were still pretty pumped from the hockey results from last night. I had been reading all week from "The Greatest Goal," a vignette from The Story of Canada about the 1972 Canada-Soviet Union series. Hockey is part of our history because we make it be. And all week I had been saying that when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal on Sunday night, that would be history too.

School kids all over Goose Bay may think I know the future as well as the past.

(Chris O'Meara photo from
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