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Penumbra Press


excerpted from his

Open Letter to Justice J.E. Richard

by Hans-Ludwig Blohm

Voice of the Natives

Please Note: This is an excerpt. For the full story, see the book for Hans Blohm's complete letter and for the reply by Justice J.E. Richards.

... on Thursday 12 December 1991, I went out for a walk in the -42 C pre-dawn morning, a camera at the ready in my parka. The air was full of tingling ice crystals. The southeastern sky showed the first light, long before sunrise at around 10:15. An eerie atmosphere ...

My fingers were getting numb from the cold as I walked down the street, passed by the odd snowmobile or lonely pedestrian, bundled up like myself against the intense cold, now already in its unrelenting sixth day.

As chance would have it, I encountered another figure, hooded and slightly hunched against the cold. I was greeted with a warm "Good morning Hans," and realized that it was Armand Tagoona. He was walking toward the hotel to hear, later on, the Judge's verdict. There on the street, too, I took several photographs of him. I would be in the courtroom, I told him, and we went in opposite directions. He was going west, away from the light, and I, east, into it. Both of us were alone with our thoughts.

When I came back from my walk ... I found the court already in session. The verdict had not yet been read.... In the stunned silence, you, the Justice, announced a two month prison term for Armand Tagoona, not without obvious anguish, yet with firmness, and according to the law as you interpreted it....

I left for the games room of the hotel adjoining the now defunct Court Room. That games room was full of people, many women crying. As Armand came into the room, he spoke to his people in their native Inuktitut. Even many a man took Armand by the shoulders and held him tight. It was an outpouring of warmth and affection for him....

Some days later Armand Tagoona was dead. The stated cause: internal bleeding. I wonder! Ted, the natives' inherent right to self-government, to their own justice system, to their own beliefs and values, has always been theirs. It evolved over many, many generations of living in one of the harshest climates on earth. They existed and thrived in their own way, without us white people. They do not have to plead or negotiate for this!

We white people have never had the right to take these fundamental rights away from them. Consequently you have no moral or even legal right to sit in judgment on any aspects of their lives; nor has any other white judge. Human dignity demands that!

Natives everywhere would have evolved at their own pace, and will again. They are now "re-greening." Their roots take nourishment again from their own soil. Their pride will come back, and with it their dignity and self-esteem, now almost totally destroyed.

We, the intruders, have upset their equilibrium, caused them physical, and, even worse, mental harm. We had better face that reality. We have made them dependent on us and our welfare handouts. That system has to be disbanded--not with shock treatment, but at the natives' bidding.

We have become interdependent, but we have to let go of the strings we forceably attached to them.

Listen to the natives, and listen closely! We will all benefit!

Ted, I am glad our paths have crossed!

With personal regards
Hans-Ludwig Blohm

January 15, 1992

See the book for Blohm's complete letter and for the judge's reply.

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