In Halifax, the last leg of my book-launch tour, I met a beautiful person: a Mi’kmaw elder, Billy Lewis, who welcomed me to his ancestral land. I offered him a pouch of tobacco as my gesture of thanks. I also told him that I now understood why it was so important to me to acknowledge, as I just did, that I was standing on unceded Mi’kmaq land. By doing this, I am acknowledging and honouring his continuing sense of connection with the land; I am honouring the fact that it has never been broken in his heart and spirit. And as I do this, I am honouring my own efforts to reclaim the lost sense of connection that is associated with my heritage in the Highlands of Scotland.
To read more, about the historical concept of duthchas, my ancestors’ sense of responsibility toward one’s people and the land that they inhabited, click here.
Meanwhile, after listening to me speak in Halifax and starting to read my book, Billy Lewis sent me an email, saying: “We truly share a common history, and it’s our common connection to the land that unites us in giving life to the true meaning of a Commons.”
I felt so affirmed in what my book is about in what he said!
Walalin (Mi’kmaw for Thank you)
Excerpt from Reclaiming the Commons:
Duthchas is not a land claim as we’ve come to understand the word today. Or rather, what’s claimed isn’t land as property, but a lineage of connection and a responsibility toward a particular piece of land, as place, that’s passed on from generation to generation. I recall not only that common means “together as one” or together in obligation, but that its opposite (that is, the opposite of communis being immunis) is being “not under obligation” or “exempt.” In other words, the ethos of the commons knit people together with their neighbors and with
the land, plus the local fens, forest and bodies of water, with no one or nothing treated as exempt, nor as an externality. Inhabitants and habitat were one inseparable whole. All were neighbors, all belonged together, though this didn’t rule out resentment and dissent. The point was that all were also bound together by mutual obligation and mutual self-interest, and reminded of this every day.
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