As a young woman Maria did not want to identify with a community in such a state of despair but could also recall a time in when things were different. The role of women in the Metis community was quickly loosing the prestige it had held up to this time. Maria’s mentor and Grandmother, Cheechum continued to teach her the ‘old ways’ and encouraged her embrace them, however the community was teaching her that the old ways were obsolete and that the new held little dignity. A war was taking place not only between the Metis and the white’s but also within the Metis culture.Maria and many other young Metis women were torn between loyalty to their community and a strong desire to be more than the new stereotype of a Metis woman allowed. This new stereotype taught that Metis women had little to no worth or value to a primarily white community. They certainly could and would not be acknowledged as peers nor would they be given opportunity for improvement.
Maria had to run the gambit of emotion before she could come to terms with the ignorance of society. She first fought then conformed to, then completely disregarded this stereotype and in finally doing so, found freedom and purpose.Campbell explains that her book Halfbreed accomplished what it needed to for the time. She wanted to write Halfbreed to communicate a message to herself and document a reality that she had lived. In Halfbreed, Campbell states, “I am not bitter. I have passed that stage.
I only want to say: this is what it was like; this is what it is still like” ( 9). She was speaking out to herself and at the same time to the happiness of others. The character of Judith in Wild Geese is similar to Maria in that both women demanded more from themselves and their lives than society would have otherwise allowed them.Despite the constant abuse of her father and the neglect of her mother, she maintains a strong spirit.
She knows too well she is destined for better things and will not allow herself to except less. The book refers often to the seasonal migration of the wild geese. The serve as both a reminder and an example of what Judith does not posess – freedom of spirit and of body. Like the Metis people, her self-confidence and self worth are constantly under attack. The totalitarian regime of her father allows no room for uniqueness or individuality.
Her well-being comes after that of the farm and of her mother’s conscience. Her role in life is to profit her father in any way he sees fit. Any goal or pursuit must benefit him or it will not be permitted.
Although Judith appreciates the land and the livestock, she loathes helping her father to profit from their abuse. Settler women were often taught to put their dreams last and to concentrate on the goals of their husbands or fathers. To this effect, Judith’s real battle is with herself. She must overcome the beliefs that have been instilled in her since she was a child and allow herself the right to be happy.This doesn’t come easily to her until the happiness and well being of her unborn child come into question. Judith draws strength from the decision that her child will not be brought up as she was.
That Judith manages to turn out as independent as she does is a testament to her strength and will because she had no positive female role model to learn from until the arrival of the teacher. The teacher provided Judith with a depiction of a woman that she had never known. She brought humor and empathy to a home that had never seen them and bestowed them upon Judith with real generosity.In sharp contrast, her own mother was almost incapable of seeing past her own failures and took no part in preventing the emotional abuse of her children. This kind of abuse continues to occur today, with frightening frequency.
Emotional abuse involves an attack on a child’s sense of self. It may take place in the form of humiliating, rejecting and/or insulting the child, isolating the child and forcing unfair demands upon the child. It may also take the form of witnessing the abuse of a parent or parental figure.
An estimated 61,201 reported incidences of child mistreatment were investigated and substantiated in 1998 by the Canadian Incidence Reporting Agency. Of these, nineteen percent were claims of emotional abuse. Judith’s story illustrates that while statistics like this are not uncommon, the fight for self-worth and the freedom to determine one’s own future is truly individual and at the same time, universal. Her story continues to occur nation wide. Judith and Maria face many of the same difficulties under very different circumstances and yet their emotional journeys share many similarities.
They grew up in a time when the role of women was defined by the will of the men around them. Independence and individuality were not nurtured nor encouraged. Both women rebelled against conforming to the type of woman their community or family produced. The women chased after their own definition of freedom and had to work hard to create it for themselves. Halfbreed and Wild Geese, though written decades apart, show the reader the vein of strength running through these prairie women and how they learned to honor it within themselves.Both Judith and Maria had to face the possibility of sacrificing not only their freedom but their sanity to their community or family. One major difference in their journey is that happiness for Maria meant embracing her heritage and its culture and working to eliminate its downfalls, while happiness for Judith meant rejecting her family’s definition of heritage and duty.
With its wide-open spaces and endless sky, the concept of the prairies brings the word freedom to mind readily. Unfortunately, this is not always the consensus among prairie people.Many feel bound to their lifestyle, whether it be agriculture based as in Judith’s case, or bound to the community, as in Maria’s case. Appreciation does not come easily under such circumstances and neither does value.
Judith and Maria finally found appreciation for life after allowing themselves the freedom to choose how to live this life. Freedom of mind, body and soul is often taken for granted but for many people it is a hard earned reward at the end of a challenging journey. Many have done with out this fundamental right for far too long.The battle continues to wage both within the community and the individual to create assurance that one day everyone will be able to take freedom for granted.Works Cited: 1.
Campbell, Maria. Halfbreed. Toronto: McClelland and Stuart 1982 2. Osteno, Martha.
Wild Geese. Toronto: McClelland and Stuart, 1961 3. “Canada’s First People” TurtleLake Production Nov 2000 http://www. turtle-island. com/metis.
html 4. “Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect” Health Canada May 1999, http://www. hc-sc. gc.