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Building bridges

Laura Power
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 20, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - What was meant to be an appendix in his PhD thesis grew to be a much larger project for Patrick Scott, who recently published a book based on his research.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Patrick Scott reads from his book Stories Told at the book's launch last week in Yellowknife. - Laura Power/NNSL photo

Scott came North in the 1970s to work for CBC, and followed the Berger Inquiry on the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline. Recently he has been studying storytelling and oral tradition for his PhD studies through the University of Dundee in Scotland, and decided to collect some of the statements made during the inquiry about the people and the land into a book.

He found the stories in the transcripts of the inquiry. Having lived in various parts of Northwest Territories, he had a good knowledge of the themes and arguments.

"For me, it was taking essentially 30 years of being up here... and finding a way to put some focus on it," he said. "In doing so, I've tried to build a bit of a bridge."

The bridge he speaks of is between the Berger Inquiry and today's Mackenzie Gas Project. Each chapter in the book focuses on a different theme or area. The final chapter, for example, is about what he calls "Canada's obligation to honour aboriginal rights."

"I argue that aboriginal people should be addressed first," he said.

But that's not the only bridge Scott looks to build with the book. Another objective for him in the research and writing was "to experience the role of oral tradition history in aboriginal society in the North and its place in modern society."

He said there is a gap between elders and the younger generations in aboriginal society, mainly due to the fact that a lot of younger aboriginal people don't speak the same language as the elders.

"They don't have the same role in society today," Scott said of the elders. "They're the keepers of the stories - how do you bridge that gap?"

Scott said he would like it if his book could help younger generations get a greater understanding of the values their elders held. Many of what he considers key comments are printed in bold font in the book so they will jump out at people.

The book was launched on Aug. 9 at the Yellowknife Book Cellar.