Does it Matter Who Shapes Us? (Can His)

John Ralston Saul asserts in A Fair Country that “we are a metis civilization.” Firstly, do you agree with his historical interpretation? Secondly, why does he bother to write such a book? What is the point of writing about the past? What is history? What happens to our society if we become A-historical? Why are we bothering to teach this stuff to you guys?

Advertisements

26 thoughts on “Does it Matter Who Shapes Us? (Can His)

  1. When Saul says that "we are a metis civilization", he's basically stating that our country derived from the metis and the aboriginals. I don't necessarily see why you wouldn't agree with this because I thought it was settled that the matis were the first people of "Canada". On the other hand I do think of our country as European still. Maybe not as much as the states but I still think it is European even thought technically it isn't. I don't know this for a fact I'm just going based off of what I think I know. Saul wrote this book because he wants Canada to know his opinion on the fact that we're a metis civilization. He wants his idea to get out there, and I think that's why anyone bothers to write a book. I don't personally see a point in writing about the past because I'm not the biggest fan of history. But I guess it goes back to the idea of Saul wanting to be heard and him wanting Canada to know what he thinks about our history.History is really anything that happened in the past. It seems to be more referred to significant events that happened in the past, but anything that happened can technically be referred to as history. If our society becomes A-historical I think our country would lose its sense of pride as a nation. Canadians wouldn't be as patriotic as they are now, because they wouldn't have a reason to be. It has to be taught because people need to know the history of their country, for reasons like I said before.

  2. Hi Mr. Henderson,I think when Saul says "we are a metis civilization", he is talking about the fact that a lot of our morals and behaviour as a society greatly resembles that of the Metis even though our country's majority is European. It is very important to write about the past in order to learn about the people we are today and how to improve our future.

  3. When John interprets "we are a metis" civilization he is stating that all the people that live in Canada follow and drive our knowledge from the ways of the metis and aboriginal people. I disagree with this interpretation. First of all when he says we are a metis nation he is saying that we must have aboriginal blood in us to be a metis nation. The reason i disagree is because both of my parents were immigrants. I do not have aboriginal blood in me. This is just some of my feedback towards John's interpretation of Canadian History. John wrote this book because he wanted to know what Canadians thought about his interpretation. He would also like the feedback of his fellow Canadians. I think there is a point about writing about the past because it teaches you what to do and what not to do in the future. For example at the battle of Waterloo Napoleon made the mistake of battling the Russian army in the winter time. The russian army was prepared to fight in the winter and were also well dressed. The French didn't have the clothing and were overwhelmed with the freezing cold. In WW2 Adolf Hitler made the same mistake attacking the russians in the cold. Russia looked back in history and used the same method to defeat the German army. Adolf Hitler overlooked this fact and was defeated within weeks. History is the study of past events. If our country became A Historial our country would lose a lot of respect from other nations. History has to be taught because you Mr. Henderson must teach the course in order to keep your job.-Barry

  4. I think that when Saul says "we are a metis culture" he is talking about how both European and Aboriginal culture, beliefs,ideas, etc. Just as a metis person is part European and part Aboriginal, Canada as a nation is largely influenced by both the European and Aboriginal groups and is therefore "metis". Saul is trying to show that even though Canada is largely considered a European type country, a lot of Canada's values and culture come from the Aboriginals.I think Saul has written this book to express his opinion that modern day Canada has been shaped as equally by the Europeans as the Aboriginals.It is important that we learn about the past in order to understand why we are the way we are at the present.

  5. When John Saul asserts the motion "we are a metis civilization" in A Fair Country i believe he doesn't mean it in an entirely literal sense. I don't believe that he's trying to say every Canadian is actually part Metis. What i think he's trying to say is that in a cultural and social sense, the way we live isn't or wasn't all that different from the Metis. I can say that i agree with this interpretation because John Saul makes valid points. The most valid idea he presented was when he described our use of legal distribution of land. How that the Europeans took the land and created unfair negotiations that was really only a win for the Europeans and provided false promises towards the Aboriginals. And the second we find value in the land we took we exclude our cultural relatives; the Metis. And to this day even as society attempts to stop racism in all aspects people cannot help but associate the poor, and homeless with Aboriginals. Aboriginals, whose home was meant to be the ones we live on. I believe Saul is trying to show the world that the way we are treating the Metis is completely unfair, and he uses points of the past as evidence. Although i believe that history is mostly written by the winners, it is entirely true that all views must be shown. We, as the current winners need to understand why there are losers in our society today. And the way we do that is by learning from the past. We need to learn not only for our benefit but for the benefit of the true owners of this land.That was a lot longer than i intended it to be…

  6. Overall, I agree with John Ralston Saul's historical interpretation. When he says "We are a metis civilization" I think he is referring to the influence of the First Nations people on the cultural growth of Canada. The First Nations people were the first to inhabit Canada and have been a significant influence on the development of civilizations in Canada. Although European and other settlers came to Canada over the centuries and encouraged civilization, the cultural and moral footprints of the First Nations are long standing. Canada may not literally be a Metis civilization however, the idea of Canada being influenced by the First Nations and Old world settlers together validates Ralston Saul's statement. Ralston Saul's purpose for writing this book could be so he can share his theories and ideas on the matter of Canada's development and identity. He has an opportunity to provoke thought in others, allowing them to consider his ideas.History is anything that has happened in the past. I find that the Canadian history which we are studying can be more specifically described as events in the past which have made an impact to our nation. It is important to record history as we can learn from past mistakes, and the repetition of those mistakes can then be avoided. This helps save society. If society is to become A-historical, then mistakes will likely be repeated and time wasted. These topics are being taught to us in order to inform us and give us the opportunity to form opinions on different matters.

  7. Hello Mr. Henderson,This was a very interesting interview raising important facts about the history of Canada. I agree with Saul to some degree when he presents an enlightening thesis that Canada is a "metis civilization." Saul speaks about some true facts involving the guilt of Canada, making it embarrassing to white people about separating aboriginals. I think instead of placing aboriginals on researves, we should have integrated them in society. However, Saul praises aboriginals, saying that Canada has accepted and adapted to similar behaviours. I believe, in a lot of ways Canada is the same as the aboriginal society. For example we have a Prime Minister leading our country as they have a Chief leading a Tribes. However, aboriginals seemed to share their goods with their people. In todays society, we do not share the food in our fridge with others off the street. But, as Saul said we do share our health care and many other government services such as garbage pick-up.Saul touches upon the United States and Europe being a "melting pot," while Canada is multicultural, much like the aboriginal were before the Europeans came. To most people, multiculturalism seems like a new phenomenon; however, in actual fact there were many cultures of aboriginal people in Canada before the Europeans arrived. For example, the Mohawks, the Ojibway, Cree…ect. These groups were able to live in their own communities together on the same land and able to live in harmony. As others people commented above, I agree with them in saying history is important to learn in order to make smart decisions in the future. To know where your going, it is important to know where your past.-Alia Cappellani

  8. I think that when Saul states that "we are a metis civilization", he is trying to persuade the reader into believing that no matter how many new ideas the Europeans brought to "Canada", ( good and bad ) the birth, culture, and beliefs still all originate from the metis and First Nations.I don't believe this is one hundred percent true. Sure the metis and First Nations were first ones here but I think that when the Europeans came over and "took over" they became the dominant force. They improved things, they brought new life, new ideas and progressed Canada to where it is now. Yes the metis and the First Nations still have there beliefs, culture and ideas, which are not wrong and are respected but the amount of the population of Canada is very little metis that they have gotten lost behind the new European way. I do believe that the Europeans have still tried to show there care and respect for the metis and First Nations by showing pride and interest in there culture, and it shows with our national anthem. Although this is my opinion, that what i believe history is. A story or opinion of one person of events that have happened. Who knows if I am right. Who knows if history is right? Paul S.

  9. I agree with Victor, that when Saul meant "we are a metis civilization", he did not meant it in a literal way. I don't think he meant to say that we all have metis blood in us. However, I believe that the message he is trying to say is that many of our traditions and lifestyles derived from the metis people rather than the European lifestyle. I do not necessarily agree with him, because Canada is a multicultural country with people, traditions, and lifestyles coming from all across the world, not just metis and european people. I believe that Saul writes such a book because he believes that people nowadays do not give metis people enough credit to what they have done and do not the history of metis people enough, therefore he wants to take the opportunity to spread knowledge about metis people. I think that the point in writing about the past is so that future generations can learn from mistakes and admire important people(s) and events of the past. I believe that history is knowledge and study of the past, such as people, events, etc… If our country becomes A-historical, then i believe that the people of our country would lose a lot pride and dignity and that other nations would lose a lot of respect for Canada. We learn history to prevent things like the Holocaust from happening. We learn about history in order to prevent mistakes from the past of reoccurring.

  10. I agree with Sauls intrepretation, and I think that when Saul says "we are a metis civilization" he is means that as a country our international views and actions are taken from the culture of Native American tribes.In my opinion, Saul bothered to write the book because he beleives that the people of Canada owe a debt to Native Americans, and is trying to show that Europeans and Native Americans are all the same, are all Canadians.The point of writing about the past is to teach a lesson, and to make sure that the mistakes of the past are not forgotten.History is the retelling of past events by a historian, who slants the facts in order to suit his/her bias, based on his/her experiencesIf we as a society become A-historical, then we may forget the mistakes and lessons of the past, leading to more mistakes in the future.

  11. When John Saul states that Canada is a "Metis Civilization" in his book "A Fair Country", I believe he means that we have adapted from both European culture as well as Aboriginal culture. Because Metis means of both European and Aboriginal descent, I believe that Saul chose to brand Canada as a Metis civilization because while we as a country have adapted from European customs and beliefs, we have also borrowed from Aboriginal as well. Saul could also be implying that even though generally we look at ourselves as a European based culture, we must remember that we do have Aboriginal culture within our society, maybe even more than we think.I think Saul wrote this book to remind us of all these things, and to 'teach' people about how our culture really is whether we like it or not.It is important to write about the past so that future generations are able to get a sense about how things used to be before themselves, and to remind ourselves in the present of our history and roots. A society that becomes a-historical would be in trouble, because they would never learn from the mistakes of those before them and would never develop onwards from such mistakes or successes. It is important for you to take time to teach us about history for the same reason- we need to learn about our past to move into the future.

  12. John Ralston Saul’s statement, “we are a metis civilization”, explores the idea that the modern Canadian society possesses beliefs, values, and behaviours similar to the Metis’. I would agree with Saul, simply because of his comparison between Canada and the U.S. The reason why Canada is a much more ethnically diverse society, compared to the U.S., is that our nation thinks and negotiates like Aboriginals. The Aboriginals are known for being open-minded, sharing, and negotiating with foreigners (i.e. Europeans). Meanwhile, Canada is known for being the peaceful country, full of immigrants. Clearly, there is a connection between the two. Yet, years ago, the Europeans took over the Aboriginals’ land, without providing compensation or fair negotiations. To this day, the non-Aboriginal Canadians are still deeply indebted to them. John Ralston Saul wrote this book to express his opinion on the Canadian culture and civilization. I think he also wanted people to start seeing Canada in a different light. His references to the past illustrate how our nation has been influenced and shaped over time. I think he is trying to point out that by studying our past experiences (a.k.a history), we can discover how we have become the people we are today. If our society were to become a-historical, we would not exist. There has to be some historical record of our existence! Lastly, teachers have to teach us this stuff so that we can learn and accumulate knowledge about our nation’s past, interpret it the way we want to, and apply it in the future.

  13. Hi Everyone,Brilliant responses thus far, and thank you for being so thoughtful and respectful towards each other. It is really interesting to see the diverse reaction to Saul's profound statement. Looks like we are in for a great year.One thing that struck me from the first chapter of A Fair Country is the idea that somehow in the 19th century (1800's), our relationship with First Nations and Metis was written out of the history books. People purposely tried to cover up three hundred years of history.With this in mind, what is our job this year? What should be propelling us?

  14. John Ralston Saul, author of novel A Fair Country, asserts that Canada is a "metis civilization". Though many would agree with this concept, there has been a lot of controversy. Personally, I believe that these two approaches or backgrounds are not mutually exclusive. By this I mean that just because a civilization has First Nation roots, doesn't mean that it can't include some European moral or beliefs. Though I would agree that Canada predominately is a metis civilization, there are features of our society that are based off of the European model of living. Our immigration and citizenship diversity, however, can be credited to the Aboriginal culture, as Saul proves. Furthermore, I believe that by publishing a book that does not agree with social norms offers diversity and an alternate point of view, which helps educates society. I believe it is important to write and study history because as George Santayana (a Spanish American philosopher, essayist and poet) once said, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it". By educating the younger generations, we will be better equipped for the future. This also provides a reliable source of information for people who may not have lived through that time period.History can be defined as a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written as a chronological account. Again, it is important for high school students to study history because with inadequate knowledge about the past, we can not make sensical and correct decisions that will help progress society.-Alexia Cholakis

  15. John Ralston Saul, author of novel A Fair Country, asserts that Canada is a "metis civilization". Though many would agree with this concept, there has been a lot of controversy. Personally, I believe that these two approaches or backgrounds are not mutually exclusive. By this I mean that just because a civilization has First Nation roots, doesn't mean that it can't include some European moral or beliefs. Though I would agree that Canada predominately is a metis civilization, there are features of our society that are based off of the European model of living. Our immigration and citizenship diversity, however, can be credited to the Aboriginal culture, as Saul proves. Furthermore, I believe that by publishing a book that does not agree with social norms offers diversity and an alternate point of view, which helps educates society. I believe it is important to write and study history because as George Santayana (a Spanish American philosopher, essayist and poet) once said, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it". By educating the younger generations, we will be better equipped for the future. This also provides a reliable source of information for people who may not have lived through that time period.History can be defined as a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc., usually written as a chronological account. Again, it is important for high school students to study history because with inadequate knowledge about the past, we can not make sensical and correct decisions that will help progress society.–Alexia Cholakis

  16. John Ralston Saul's statement "we are a metis civilization", is a controversial statement based on the idea that Canada (and the US) has been shaped and formed by Aboriginals and not entirely by Europeans, as most people would believe. I would agree with this statement, more so based on Canada. As Saul says, Aboriginals were not that worried about the "perfect little Englishman", that they were more accepting of new ethnic groups. However, there are large parts of our society that are based on European society, such as a permanent home, and abandoning a nomadic lifestyle. I think Saul wrote this book not to try and change our lifestyle and realize how closely we are tied to the Aboriginals, but to show an alternative view of our past history, and to try to reveal a part of our society that is not what we once thought it was. I would say history are the past events that have happened everywhere, that can be sorted chronologically and by place/person/people. It is important to learn our history because we can have insight and avoid mistakes that occurred in the past. If society would become a-historical, we couldn't' look on past events that had problems, and there would be a larger chance of us repeating history, whether that is postive or negative.

  17. Agree? He is a thought-provoking writer and I liked his references to Canada as a country that deals with complexity and lives with ambiguity more comfortably than our American neighbours or European political/culture ancestors. My reading of history found Europeans quite willing to intermarry with the aboriginal population, but otherwise not particularly sympathetic to their culture: typically, the model was assimilation thru language, religion and political/territorial settlements. (NB: this model of European discovery/colonization occurred world-wide. If there is some more subtle, intuitive 'metis civilization' that defines our basic approach to the world, I'm interested but not entirely convinced. I thought his reminder that 'multiculturalism' existed long before the 1970s official policy was telling. Intermarriage has been a core to our survival for centuries. However, cross-cultural (European-Non European) was definitely frowned upon by the white power establishment.The interesting part for those born after the mid-80s is that this is now more common than ever and perhaps in the coming 21st century, intermarriage will be so widespread that this will change how we define our ourselves? Why write this? He's provocative by nature and I think he wants to stimulate a more profound discussion of who were are and how we govern ourselves in an attempt to prevent us from looking only to cf ourselves to the USA or mother Britain. This is partly understood by the media/cultural domination from the States and some longing to preserve the monarchy. He makes us think about complex questions. Write about the past? Well, the past is who we are and have become. It's best told in stories about individuals rather that wars, economics or political developments. The danger is that if we can't engage you (this generation) in some meaningful dialogue about the past, you won't think you need it to understand ever-changing world we live in. If you only need one example, our profound ignorance of the middle east -especially in the post-9/11 world has made things actually much worse for all of us….and their history/past is very knowable. What is history? So say it's the history of the winners in past societies; stories about generals, wars, dominant religious and political ideas. There is some truth to this: see Shakespeare's source for Richard III….or ask Ms. Lockman. On a personal level, history is your individual, personal and familial story – who are you, how did you get to Wpg, what do you value most and why? How do you see the world and your future place in it? If we become a-historical? I suspect much of media-driven North America (excepting Mexico) is already. Much of "the new world" has always been about the future. Having said that, more of the world is very history-driven. Ancient cultures in China, India, Russia/Europe and the Middle East are deeply rooted in the past and much of what their current and future ideas are rooted in/if not defined by their past.

  18. When he says "we are a metis civilisation" he means that we have taken traits from the Native Americans, like the Metis. He does not mean that our parents were Natives like the Metis, but that we have used ideas from them to shape who we are today.

  19. Dear Mr.Henderson.Saul said that "we are a metis civilization", and I think that is right. Because I came from other civilization, i don't know about the Canadian history as much as other students, but I do know that the First Nations or aboriginals wer the first group of people who lived in this land befor the european did. The europeans arrived at Canada and they took the lands. Cultures of aboriginal people and european culture of the immigrants had been mixed up since than and shaped Canada. Even though Canada appears to have mostly european style of living but the idea that based on people's lives was hugely influenced by aboriginal people.So we can't understand or study Canadian history without understand the first nation.

  20. When Saul said that Canada is a "metis civilization", he meant that Canada is based on European and Aborginial ideas. Since metis is a mix of White and First Nation, he believes that Canada was founded by these two groups of people.Although Canada is governed by a westernized style of democracy and functions rooted in Europe, we have a rich Aboriginal heritage as well. Without their culture, Canada would not be as it is today.

  21. I agree with Saul when he stated "we are a metis civilization". As Victor and William said, he doesnt mean it literally, rather he means that our daily lifestyle largely reflects the metis' way of life. It is important to write books about history to keep track of major events from our past. As well, history allows us to learn from our past mistakes. I think History is made up of major events that affected or changed the world in either a negative or positive way. If Canada became A-historical, I think that the people who live in Canada will use their Canadian pride.

  22. Yo Mr. Henderson its Jared,John Ralston Saul wrote the book so people could hear his opinion. He states that Canada is a metis civilization. He means that Canadas people are mostly derived from aboriginal and metis people. I don't think this is necessarily true because most of the people are from Europe. If Canada became A-Historical then the people would not care about their country as much.

  23. Mr. Henderson, I'll try and add another comment to see if it works (This is Evan).When Saul says that that "we are a metis civilization", I think that he is trying to say that the customs of our current country is modeled after our Native American roots. This means that all of our current laws and politics are derived from the basics from the Native American's. I agree with this because the Aboriginals believed in a sort of democracy. I think Saul wrote this book because he just wanted to draw peoples attention to how similar our basic culture is very similar to the native Americans. If we do not bother to remember where our culture derives from, why even learn about history at all?- Evan

  24. When Saul says we are a Metis society I don't think he literally mean we are Metis. What he means is that our culture comes from many different cultures, just like the Metis' culture comes from First Nations and Europeans. Our country is a "melting pot" meaning it is multicultural. Just like a real melting a time goes on the cultures begin melting together and influencing each other. More and more cultures are constantly being added to out "melting pot" because of immigration. Our country will always be very culturally diverse, immigration is the only thing keeping our country growing. -Sacha Guberman

  25. I don’t think that by saying that “Canada is a metis civilization”, Saul meant that we are all metis. I believe that by saying that he meant that our culture and our current beliefs somehow derived from the first nations, and how their past existence influenced on who we are today. I don’t disagree with him, as I personally believe that culture is somehow built through time, and that by the existence of different religious and personal beliefs, other cultures grow and develop. Having that said, I agree that our culture was influenced by the metis, but I think that by the European too. Some of their customs and morals also impacted on Canada and made it what it is today. I believe that in general, people write books to spread their thoughts and ideas, and that it was no different with Saul. He wanted people to understand what his thoughts were, and to provoke their thoughts by giving them a different version of the story. History is what has happened in the past, and it should be taught in order for people to understand where things were originated and how they grew to what they are like today. Without it we would only be left with the understanding of what the current society believes in.-Nina

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s