Canada Blog #2

Driving past Calgary I was struck by the way it had grown in the two and a half years since I was last here. Wooden suburban family houses roll out over the bare hills. It’s the oil money that makes Alberta rich and Calgary is the commercial centre for the lucrative tar sand extraction that goes on in the north. I wonder what the native Canadians think when they see all this wealth and development?

I often get a spiritual feeling here. I remember in April 2010 standing on the low cliffs at a native site called Head Smashed In Buffalo Falls near Fort Macleod looking east at the great plains, knowing there was nothing but prairie for 2000 km, while at my back 1000 km of Rockie Mountains between me and the Pacific. Maybe it is the sense of how small we are in the presence of such big landscape, maybe it’s in this earth and sky, but there is something here, and I’m not the only one to feel it.
There is noticeable presence of native Canadians in Western Alberta. Yesterday I was talking to a history professor in Camrose and I asked him how it was for the natives here. He made a face, they are still very marginalised he said. He also told me that there are more natives here in the west since whole tribes in the east were completely exterminated. Do they teach that in schools I asked? Well, in university they do, was the answer.
This year it was 100 years since Ishi, the last member of the Yahi people, walked out of forrest in Northern California. He had escaped into the mountains where he lived for decades after bounty hunters, working for a dollar a scalp, attacked his village. Ishi was a cause célèbre for anthropologists and ended up in a museum in San Francisco where he survived another 4 years before succumbing to tuberculosis, the last of his people, the last speaker of his language.
There are many ghosts, and under this vast sky, they seem closer.