Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Societal developments

October 22nd, 2011

It made sense. The degree and distribution of intelligence amongst a given society must surely be largely constant. Independent of its environment. But it was the latter that determined the rate of development. Food surpluses, competition from neighbouring peoples, all fuelling advancement. Which seemed to explain why Australia’s Aboriginal hunter-gatherers had remained firmly in the Stone Age until the arrival of European settlers.

I’d been lent a copy of a book exploring societal developments. Unfortunately unable to read the entire text before I’d be heading off, back on the road. Instead settling on reading the first and last chapters. An articulate, engrossing treatise. But I’d have to return to it later.

Earlier in the evening I’d been discussing the treatment of Australian and North American indigenous people by European settlers. Suggesting that whatever the answer was, the only certainty was that nobody had got it right. Found myself wondering about Africa, where the colonists had pretty much withdrawn. Resolving to go and see for myself.

[The book referred to is "Guns, germs and steel" by Jared Diamond]

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Pengwen on patrol

October 20th, 2011

Her school friends had called her Pen-Gwen, for her name was Gwen and she’d always a pen on her. But I could call her Pen if I wanted. She explained she did "security" for the First Nations reservation I’d ended up stopping for the night in. Checking out strangers she explained. She’d asked me my name, to which I’d replied "You can call me John". A choice in deference to a reporter who’d kept mistakenly calling me that a few days earlier. Was that my real name, she’d enquired? I chose not to reply.

My trusty steed finally concealed for the night after a long, hard day’s ride through the mountains from Lillooet, I’d wandered to a nearby gas station for a few provisions. I’d noticed Pen on the way in, and she’d intercepted me on her hand-pedaled tricycle as I’d left. She was pleasant enough, but, for all her well-intentioned community spiritedness, she wasn’t a police officer and I wasn’t obliged to share even a jot of information with her.

She sensed my reluctance, asking if I felt intimidated. No, I replied, for it I felt threatened, I’d bear spray and the compunction to use it. I laughed. She explained that using it on another person would simply divert a bear on to them. I pondered this for a moment, then replied that I’d little difficulty with that.

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Up for sale

October 17th, 2011

Up for sale from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken makes a short stop at the now closed Bednesti Lake Resort…

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Thin veneer

October 16th, 2011

No, she explained, they’d no rooms. Lost their license. I nodded, shrugged my shoulders, and left. Fifteen precious minutes of daylight wasted. Outside, across the car park, lights on in a few of the cabins. Frustrating. I’d queued patiently, trapped between two bickering women. Stuff of soap operas. One accusing the other of raking up an old affair with her brother five years earlier.

I’d reached Burns Lake close to sunset. On the face of it respectable enough. Smart elementary school, similarly the by now closed information centre. But a brief ride around and it was soon clear there were issues. Drugs. Foetal alcohol syndrome. Quick foray into the Municipal campground. Skateboard park close by. Too many people taking too much interest in me. And too late to head out of town.

I’d remembered a small motel on the way in. Sign proclaimed it was First Nations owned. And the Rainbow symbol suggested inclusiveness. And cheap. Decided to see if I could get a room for the night. Secure. Away from prying eyes. But no. I’d half a suspicion they’d lost their room license through plain apathy. Making enough with a brisk trade in cigarettes and alcohol.

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Reservations

October 14th, 2011

His father had come from the Forest of Dean. Did I know the place? Yes, I explained. Quite well. His Dad had married a local indigenous girl from a nearby reservation. I was curious to learn a little more, for, on the surface at least, there appeared to be some striking similarities between the issues faced by aboriginal peoples of Australia and North America, and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand.

He offered me a beer. I politely declined, explaining that, as I’d earlier seen signs of a bear in nearby bushes, I’d rather not wish to dull my senses. Leadership, he explained, of the various First Nations peoples was hereditary rather than on plain merit. Some engaged in negotiations over land rights with the Government, he added with a disenchanted look. And nobody quite understood what they exactly they were seeking, or even if they knew themselves.

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First Nations

September 30th, 2011

I was thirsty. We’d been told Kluane Wilderness Village was closed. Another First Nation venture that had failed. Maybe not their fault. Empty motel units, doors ajar, grass, small shrubs taking root. On the other side of the road a small garage, set back from the highway. Shabby cars and an old tow truck parked askew outside.

Thought I could see a drinks dispenser by the garage. Told Mike I’d like to make a brief stop. We were quickly running out of daylight to find somewhere to camp, but I really needed some fluids. Couldn’t quite make out his reply, but he followed me, albeit reluctantly it seemed.

A couple of old men were tinkering with cars in a poorly lit workshop. At first I was ignored, then one said, quite abruptly, "We’re closed". I asked if there was a shop nearby, already suspecting I knew the answer. "Twenty miles. Burwash Landing" he replied. More neutral tone this time.

As we rode away Mike explained these were probably First Nation people – indigenous Canadians – elaborating a little on their history, their place in society. I was intrigued. Some remarkable similarities – in terms of integration – with indigenous Australians – the Aborigines, the Torres Strait Islanders. Very striking.

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