Trevor Herriot, Towards a Prairie Atonement

Australia is burning this week. Tonight, there are apparently 4000 people on the beaches waiting for their towns to finish burning.

With that on top of everything else, my eco-nerves are feeling like they're on the outside of my body, and so it was with discomfort that I belatedly started Trevor Herriot's slim manifesto Towards a Prairie Atonement. Anything for reconciliation, like the Walking Eagle News says, but when I started reading this book in the summer, for some reason I couldn't commit.

This month, no such difficulty, and I have no idea what my problem was last time. Towards a Prairie Atonement is a gem, and it repays every bit of time spent reading it.

It kept hitting me hard, this little book: "The work of decolonizing, of atonement, begins with the act of recognizing and honouring what was and is native but has been evicted from the land--native plants and animals but the original peoples, cultures and languages, too" (pp.13-14). The principles are deeply familiar, but the book's local details were almost totally new, and I found it a consuming reading experience.

If you're looking for an actual review, I'd refer you to Maureen Scott Harris in the Malahat Review, but also you could just trust the evidence. Towards a Prairie Atonement was written by an award-winning writer who's also a grassland activist and bird-lover, on the topic of reconciliation with the thorough, express involvement of Michif teacher and storyteller Norman Fleury: it's a wonderful read, sensitive and evocative and humble.

And I should say, too, that I'll be in Saskatoon in June 2020, just bursting to be with my ALECC friends and colleagues once again. Bright and early Thursday morning, we'll hear from Trevor Herriot, and I couldn't be more pleased!


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