The Guns of Labrador

Vol. 1 Issue 2 Spring 2014

They brought guns
For us to fight each other.
And fight we did.
At Battle Harbour1 the guns blazed,
And we died.

They brought guns
For us to hunt for them.
And hunt we did:
Slaughtering fur on the ice floes,
Bear in the forests,
Birds on the wing.
And we died too:
On the ice floes,
In the forests,
Under grey restless skies.

They brought guns
For us to fight their wars
Far off across the seas.
And fight we did; and died as well.
And died so well.
In France – Cambrai!2; in Belgium – Ledeghem!3
And all across the wine-dark sea:
Where it was our blood turned to wine;
Our body and blood for their sins.

They brought guns
For us to defend their land:
The far northern reaches of a kingdom they spurned and coveted all at once.
Defend it from faceless foes from across the poles
Who might one day come over the ice
Or under the waters.
And so we watched.

They brought guns
And damn little else.
They brought guns for us to do their bidding
Which we did.
They brought guns for us to kill each other
Which we did.
They brought guns for us to kill their foes
Which we did.
They brought guns for us to guard this land
Which we did.
While they watched from afar:
In comfort and in splendour.

They brought guns.
And now, when they come to take the land –
These new foes in the guise of old friends;
These old foes in the guise of new friends –
When they come at last to take what’s left
To clear the trees and build the dams
To power the cities and factories of the south
Where the guns are made
Will they fault us if we use these guns to defend our land?
Will they condemn us if we turn these guns against them?
Will they turn their guns on us, who have for so long and so quietly carried guns for them?

If they do, let them remember:
It was they who brought the guns.

1 – Legend has it that Montagnais Indians, supported by the French, fought a great battle against the Inuit in Battle Harbour in 1760
2- Cambrai was a World War I battlefield in northern France. John Shiwak, an Inuit from Rigolet, died here on November 20, 1917. He was considered the best sniper in the British army.
3 – Ledeghem was a World War I battlefield in Belgium. John Blake, an Inuit from North West River, died here in September 1918.

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