The stories begin.
A young Irish civil servant immigrates to the Canadian West in the 1960s looking for “something better someplace else.”
A six-year-old Siksika girl attends residential school on a reserve east of Calgary. She can see her family's house a mile away but she can't go home.
A woman on a ranch in southwest Saskatchewan puzzles over the meaning of a dream about a coyote.
The Irishman is now a nonfiction writer who chronicles the lives of the historical characters in his adopted West. He quotes Alberta author, Robert Kroetsch. “We haven’t got an identity until somebody tells our story. The fiction makes us real.”
The Siksika girl is now an esteemed elder in her community. Under the huge Alberta sky, she and the friend who is helping her write her memoir set out to find the spokes of an ancient medicine wheel in the tinder-dry prairie.
The woman on that prairie ranch is now a writer. In her novel, she creates a fictional pioneer town in southwest Saskatchewan. In the pile of buffalo bones at the edge of the village, the novelist finds ghosts, grieving and responsibility.
Words – specific, inspiring, challenging, complex – West.
In the next post: my introductory remarks for this fireside chat.