"Building a Home for the Spirit" by Douglas Fox. Second generation Woodland artist.
1987. At first glance, the town in northern Ontario appeared heterogeneous, independent and naturally beautified by its surrounding treescapes. A newcomer might be forgiven for thinking the civic fabric allowed for a sense of place in an otherwise unremarkable community. I wondered then, why the majority of local Ojibwa families found themselves across the railway lines on the other side of town.
Organized along two, unpaved roads many houses looked shabby and dilapidated. Some were comprised of nothing more than boards nailed together, with ageing shingle tile providing protection from the weather. For several families sanitation was an outhouse set some discrete distance from the back door. Quite a task when considering the ferocity of northern Canadian winters.
The people were nice and their teasing gave me my first visceral experience of cultural otherness. One day I met a local Ojibwa girl who told me she and many of her relatives were non-status Indians. I was confused. I could not quickly grasp her meaning. How could it be that a person had no status? Surely our substance is incontestable? If we create ourselves in relationship to others then how can I possibly exist without you?
Brief as it was, that encounter shook the foundation of my worldview. It continues to move me, even today.