Across Continents

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Apache country

December 16th, 2011

P1070508

Bylas, said the road sign, was the home of the Apache. I’d sat on a bench opposite the grocery store, which, together with the Laundromat next door, was the only sign of economic prosperity. Small, smart shop units close by empty. Federal funding. Difficult to tell if they’d ever been used. I doubted it.

In the store window various posters. Food distribution. Auctions of now defunct vehicles, open only to Apache. Warnings about abuse. Here crystal meth. In Canada, amongst the First Nations, it’d been Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. Locals drifting in and out, pulling up, for the most part, in their large SUVs.

Earlier I’d stopped at Peridot’s Apache Burger diner for a mid-morning coffee. Known the town was in a native American Reservation, my expectations drearily low. Half expected the place to be closed. But, instead, quietly pleased to find what appeared to be a well run business. Attention to detail.

Gazing into my coffee, I’d mulled over the whole Reservations concept, be it in the US, Canada or even Australia. Often lambasted for being economically unviable land. But I thought that rather missed the point. It was much more about isolation rather than integration, intentional or otherwise. And integration need not lead to assimilation, a loss of cultural identity. As plenty of immigrants had admirably demonstrated.

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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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