Prejudice and the Land

sage and grasslands best

There’s a whole vocabulary that I’m learning on this pilgrimage – a language that maybe I should have learned when I lived here, but never did. Lots of farmers and ranchers know this language. Hugh knows it. It’s the vocabulary of place, of the creatures and growing things on this tawny plain.

I have a beginner’s knowledge. I know words like meadowlark and magpie, speargrass and mule deer. But there’s so much more to know. Lark bunting. Buck brush. Short-horned lizard. Swainson’s hawk. The various geographical formations. Any of the myriad of songbirds that fly up as we approach.

Trevor Herriot read from his book at our Val Marie event tonight. We had a great crowd, including friends who drove down all the way from Saskatoon to be there. Trevor emphasized that growing to love something is learning the words that describe its complexity and colour. It’s just natural to give words to what we respect and care for.

I have body, movement and narrative on this trek – now I need words to describe the terrain (my pilgrimage class students know this quartet very well). It has always seemed to me that prejudice between people most often arises from ignorance, and is most often solved when we really get to know someone from that “other” group. Maybe it’s the same with land. Our ignorance can lead to a kind of unconscious prejudice against the very earth that sustains us. Walking, and watching, and learning, mean we become friends. Like the young woman I interviewed tonight who is living three months in a teepee, as did her Métis grandfather. “In a teepee,” she told me, “I’m not shutting out nature or inspecting it like some kind of outsider. A prairie dog burrowed up under my bed frame the other night. Nature is coming to inspect me, sometimes literally, and is welcoming me.”

4 thoughts on “Prejudice and the Land

  1. It is 5:30 a.m. The morning fog blankets the valley grass lit by the rising Sun. My open window captures numerous greetings from the community of songbirds that reside around my home in Val Marie. Such are the daily gifts from the Creator of all things.
    Last eve was a gift too!
    It was wonderful to sit among friends, neighbours and newly arrived visitors to Grasslands National Park to absorb the wisdom and passion of Dr. Matthew Anderson, Hugh Henry and Trevor Herriot.
    May the spirit of the prairie add to your “pilgrimage” on July 25, 2015 as you walk along the NWMP trail through the unique landscape of the PFRA.
    Blessed are those that enjoy the journey.

  2. Thanks for this. I’m learning this, too, from my youngest who is in geology. Rocks are never rocks for her. Each has a name and a story of its genesis is etched in its configuration.

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