For my inhale, I read the book In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Mosionier. As I read, I annotated the book by recording the page number and writing down thoughts in my R2B book. Some things I put down include quotes, connections, thoughts, and predictions to the text. Using my annotated notes, I wrote a book review focusing not only on the book summary but also on the negative intercultural contact between the Metis and the Europeans. I was able to talk about the many issues of Metis people today and why it is important to read the book now, even though it was written over 30 years ago.
The Book In Search of April Raintree
Reveals the Hidden Truths Behind Metis Lives
By Tao. T
The Metis, a unique mix of Aboriginal and European cultures, is a group of people who hold a long history of rich culture and knowledge. What most people see – the drunk, homeless alcoholics standing around downtown – is only the tip of the iceberg. But, there’s more to it.
The book, In Search of April Raintree, was originally meant as a reflection for the author, Beatrice Mosionier. As a child, Mosionier was put into foster homes, separated from her siblings. Due to this separation, she lost many connections between her loved ones. As time went on, without even realizing what was going on, two of her siblings committed suicide. These tragic losses inspired her to write a fictional novel to reflect and find answers to why people would do such things in their lives. In the first place, the book was only meant to be read by a small audience containing some of her Metis friends. But through word of mouth, this book quickly transformed into a classic novel that has become an influential and emotionally revealing bestseller. This novel was so moving because the author, Beatrice Moisinier, took the time to reflect on her life through the lenses of the Metis worldview. It was also very distinct that the author had to dive into the dreadful past of Metis history, in return for creating a book that reveals the reality behind Metis lives.
In Search of April Raintree heavily focuses on the negative intercultural contact between the Metis and the Europeans. For example, April was put into a foster home where she was treated with rage. She then later realized that she somehow had a lower social standing than most of the whites in her school. The whites had more trust, more freedom, and were more loved than the Metis. This caused April to feel ashamed of her identity and develop a new sense of worldview. She felt that her future was in control and that she was powerless to change her destiny. But on the other hand, Cheryl, who is April’s younger sister, is put into a foster home who values Metis rights. This encourages Cheryl to feel proud of being Metis. Despite her sister’s appreciation of identity, April decides to hide away all the gut-wrenching details of what she had faced and seemed sympathetic to her sister’s content. But as Cheryl grew up, she increasingly learned more about the truth behind her alcoholic parents and why she had to be separated from her family. This makes her lose faith in her Metis identity. From how April has seen and described Cheryl as:
“Cheryl was that stalk in the field of grain that never bent to the mighty winds of authority. At the same time, the stalk could bend to the gentle breezes of compassion. That was Cheryl.”
This was creatively used by the author as it not only describes Cheryl but also on behalf of the Metis who have had their dreams diminished by European cultures. Through times of violent, racist, and hostile conditions, one embraces her identity, while the other tries to fight it away. In the end, April realizes the tragedy that it has taken a person’s life to have her come across accepting her identity. Even though her sister, Cheryl, had committed suicide, a part of herself was still in April, and that is that faith and legacy in the righteousness in striving for a better future for her people, and Canada.
But the main question is, why read it now? After understanding a bit about the summary of this book, it may seem obvious that the Metis have suffered many losses and have gone through horrible tragedies. But there’s more to it. During the Federal Election in Canada, First Nation and Metis rights were one of the main concerns for parties across Canada. But what about the plans to take on the action in trying to heal these nations, instead of just making apologies and disperse compensations to hope for the best outcomes? This strongly proves that even though there is a focus on these communities, the lack of action has been very evident throughout Canada. This also proves that the Metis are still fighting the same problems that they had over fifty years ago. It is very shameful that when most of us have our full understanding of Indigenous struggles, only a minority uses that understanding to evoke action; to help Metis and First Nations as a collective to be treated as all Canadians are. So back to the question of “Why should I read it now?” I think it’s important to understand the struggles of these people through the worldview of a Metis, as taking action all starts from understanding the situation first. As soon as you dive into the book, it’s like diving into the water, revealing more than just the tip of the iceberg. But another question pops up again, and that is – “Why shouldn’t the Metis try helping themselves”? What most people don’t understand are the circumstances that stop these people from helping themselves. According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention, suicidal thoughts are most evident for young adults aged eighteen to twenty-five living among off-reserve sites in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It is estimated that around one in every twenty to one in every ten adults living in these regions have thoughts of committing suicide. Many of the factors that create suicidal responses include personality type, mental disorders, but most importantly, childhood and family experiences. The Canadian government has apologized countless times to the Indigenous people of Canada, but is it enough? From my perspective, I believe that an apology is only the start of picking up the shattered pieces from the struggles that were thrust upon the First Native and Metis, but it’s not enough to heal the long-lasting scars created from residential schools and foster homes. Therefore, the main factor of suicidal thoughts begins with childhood and family experiences.
It has always been hard not only for the Indigenous community but also for Canada as a collective to recognize and reconcile. Today, we have to face the hard truths of Canadian history that are both haunting and are rather forgotten. We cannot erase the actions we have delivered from our past, but it is always important to reflect on them before moving Canada forward, together.