Monday, June 22, 2009

Reader's Diary #501- Lee Maracle: Polka Partners, Uptown Indians and White Folks

What a jammed packed day yesterday was. Father's Day, the solstice, and Aboriginal Day. It was a beautiful and long day, so it was easy to combine all three.

In honour of Aboriginal Day I went looking for a story by a native author, and found one unfamiliar to me through Native Wiki. Lee Maracle, of British Columbia, has Salish and Cree ancestry and is a member of the Stó:lō Nation.

While set in Vancouver, Maracle's "Polka Partners, Uptown Indians and White Folks" reminded me very much of Yellowknife. The only difference is, when Maracle writes of how they "could turn the largest cities into small towns," one might be quick to point out that Yellowknife is far from one of "the largest cities." However, it is big enough have communities within communities, and so I think the comparison holds.

I also found myself comparing the aboriginal culture in Maracle's story to my own Newfoundland culture. There's a lot of mention of people who follow stereotypical paths, those that have lost a lot of their cultural identity and those that fall somewhere in between. I think I'm one of those in between. I'm proud of my Newfoundland roots, but probably wouldn't fit in all that much with those more traditional types. A part of me regrets having lost my Newfoundland accent. Culture is certainly a double edge sword. If it could preserve itself naturally, identity crises wouldn't be as big an issue. Unfortunately, cultures are so in danger of being swallowed whole that preservation has become militant and when someone does not fit into a "us/them" dichotomy people are left confused or alienated.

Maracle's story deals with these issues but leave them bubbling under the surface. There's a tension but it doesn't become preachy.

I love the ironic line about white people, "Difference among us, and our silence, frightens them."
It's true, of course, but only as a generalization. That the entire white population could be considered "them," suggests that white people could say the same about aboriginals. Isn't the original statement akin to saying, "white people are all racist"? Brilliant line.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


JoAnn said...

I've not heard of Aboriginal Day, but this story sounds very interesting. I've bookmarked it to read later. My story this week is by Louise Erdrich, a new author for me. It's at:

Hope you had a happy Father's Day!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'll head over for a read.

Unknown said...

I suspect we'll see an overall decline in the number of cultures in the world in our lifetimes. My culture for this week's story is Danish. Been reading Isak Dinesnn.

Teddy Rose said...

This sounds excellent John. I printed it to read when I have time.

I hope to participate in Short Story Monday again soon. I wish there were more hours in the day!