“Both history and culture are important facets for a people to protect. One of the ways of doing this is through storytelling.” –David D Plain*
He tempts us with a book launch invitation and a free bowl of Indian corn soup. I smile. I’ve never tasted corn soup before but we’re here (at the Maawn Doosh Gumig Community and Youth Centre in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada) to support David D Plain, a local indigenous writer, and to learn more about his sixth book A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula (Trafford Publishing, 2018).
At first, the banquet room appears empty. I didn’t think I was that early. Where was that free soup? (Teasing here!)
Julie from the local indie bookstore waves from behind a display of David’s books. Rosemary from the local cable station adjusts her lights and camera as she prepares to video record the official launch. David (the guest of honour) stands in front of a huge floor length window with a view of the grounds where the Aamjiwnaag First Nation 57th Annual Pow Wow will be held over the weekend. He appears calm and smiles when another familiar person walks into the room.
Lynn, Jane, and Bob are already seated at the front end of the middle tables. James, Norma, Sharon, and I join them. Within minutes, three long rows of tables and chairs fill with other local writers, friends, family, and guests. Some wander to the display area to purchase a book or two. Others ask for David’s signature. It takes a few attempts to settle everyone down.
Wilson Plain, nephew to the guest speaker, introduces his uncle David as the aboriginal historian/author who frequently shares his knowledge about the Ojibwa history and culture.
Not only does David do this in the oral tradition via presentations to Ontario schools and other groups interested in learning more about the indigenous perspective of past events, but he has also preserved his words in the English language by writing four books (three non-fiction and one historical fiction) covering a 250-year period of the Ojibwa. He also has a memoir of his earlier years awaiting publication and a collection of poetry Poems from an Eclectic Mind was published by Trafford Publishing in 2016. Another blog post about David can be found here.
His latest book, A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula, features 23 short chapters focusing on the early history of “the Anishnaabek (Ojibwa) of the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula as well as their relationship with the Crown during the colonial period of Upper Canada.”
Each chapter is intended to be brief. Written in a simple and straightforward manner, the 122-page book is meant to be an introduction for those who have minimal knowledge about the topic.
The first half briefly highlights key events in history such as the Iroquois battles, the War of 1812, the Treaty of 1836, Paternalism 1860 – 1900, and Modern Times. The second half outlines some of the Saugeen culture between 1700 and 1900 C.E.: language, religion, death customs, trade, sugar camps, gatherings, games, stories, and more.
During the launch, David shares several stories and excerpts from his book.
For example, “Lake Huron produced very large lake trout,” reads David, “Major Strickland was travelling on a schooner bound for Mackinaw in the early 1800’s when met by nine canoes of Ojibwa fishermen who came on board to barter. One of the passengers traded for a lake trout weighing “no less than seventy-two pounds.””
In another excerpt, he shares, “After wintering in small family hunting camps they would congregate at various sugar bushes in groups of six or so families. This gathering would take on an almost festival atmosphere as old acquaintances were renewed after a long and isolated winter.”
A lover of history and a member of the Aamjiwnaag First Nation, David explains the book was written in honour of his grandparents Eleanor and Joseph Root who were members of the Saugeen Ojibwa Nation.
In the book’s preface, he states, “I have spent many hours studying first-hand accounts and source documents as well as listening to oral history as told by the elders. This, as well as research methodologies learned along the way to a graduate level education, has qualified me to act as an aboriginal historian.”
A lively question period and book signing follow his informative reading. As promised, bowls of FREE Indian corn soup (courtesy of Audrey Jacobs) and a platter of home-made oven bread (courtesy of Chris Williams) await the guests.
Feeling adventurous, I stay for lunch. Mmmmm. With one spoonful of soup and a bite of bread, I drift back into another era and try to make sense of it all. A copy of David D Plain’s book settles in my purse. I look forward to reading it over the summer.
*From the book A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula (Trafford Publishing, 2018) Page 85 Used with permission from the author © Copyright 2018 David D Plain
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Coming soon, a review of Our Plan to Save the World featuring five authors including Lambton County writer Phyllis Humby. Also a ‘Q & A’ feature with British Columbia writer Bernice Lever.