Wednesday, February 16, 2005
The warmest welcome we've received so far has been at the Siksika Nation High School yesterday for our debates. A proud nation, squeezed into a reservation 45km by 15km , a nation in name, but surrounded by Canada. It's sad thinking how these people were invaded, displaced, and then "granted" a small piece of land from the vast stretch that was theirs by inheritance and right. Sadder still to think that the Canadians have been fairer by far to the First Nations than their neighbours down south.
Outside the school, I noticed that the Canadian flag and Union Jack were both torn: the outer third missing from the Canadian flag, and the edges of the British Flag ripped and shredded. I didn't get a chance to ask someone why the flags were in this state, though I could probably understand the sentiment behind it.
They put on a demonstration pow-wow for us (itself an ironic post-colonisation ceremony that evolved as a means of continuing native culture in a form acceptable to the white man), and I really appreciated seeing a glimpse of their culture and tradition. The drumming and singing were eerie: I thought of their ancestors migrating across the Bering Straits into North America, the long winter nights above the arctic circle where the sun never rises, the darkness filled with wolves and bears and demons, and thought, yes, I would sing and drum like that just to keep the darkness at bay.
In other news, the debaters have made us very proud today: they fought Scotland to a 2-1 split (though we all felt it was a unanimous victory, but judges will sometimes split on you like this) and gave South Africa a run for their money - they lost 1-2 to SA, but they did so well I don't care: what matters is that they are finally living up to their potential, that Chris Erskine said that there was nothing more he could say on how they could improve (and he gave 79 out of 80 to one of them), that they went toe to toe with one of the toughest teams in the tournament and stared them down. Tomorrow is the octo-finals, and they face England in a fight that I am confident they will win, because we're seeing here some of the best debaters ever just reaching their peak form. It's been incredibly stressful watching them debate, and S and I are perpetually one word, phrase, or sentence away from a heart attack, fingernails (metaphorically) chewed to a nub, mentally cheering them on.