Peg Gratitude: Day 16 – The River

December 31st, 2019 by Emma Durand-Wood

Welp, thanks for tolerating my inadvertent hiatus from my “things I’m grateful for in Winnipeg” series. Turns out that planning to write a post every day in the busiest month of the year was a bit ambitious, but it’s my blog so I’m going to bend the rules for myself – I’ll complete my 31 gratitude posts as I’m able.

It’s New Year’s Eve and I have a cold and am happily spending a quiet evening with my computer and then hopefully finishing s3 of The Crown and then heading to bed. I’ve never been a NYE party kind of person and having small kids makes me even less enthused. Still, it’s the end of a decade and folks are being all thoughtful and nostalgic on Twitter and it’s put me in the mood for reflecting.

Shortly after I moved to Winnipeg I got a copy of In Search of April Raintree. I read it that first summer, on the bus, biting back tears. Apart from a few especially graphic scenes, I can’t remember that many of the story’s specifics, but I do recall that bridges and the Red River feature prominently. Every time I cross the Redwood on foot or bike, I look down and think about the book’s heart-wrenching tale and how it’s close to so many Indigenous people’s lives, and about Tina Fontaine and about the Drag the Red crews and the red ribbons.

I forget the river is there until I am crossing it. And when I’m there above it, suspended at a distance, it feels overwhelming, all-consuming. Standing looking out at the vast, endless brown waters I feel small and vulnerable; at the mercy of its might. In other parts of the city people may think of the river and think of an awesome skating trail. In my part of the city I think of the river as a stark and important reminder.

I struggle to know how to say this in a way that is respectful and sensitive. It sounds awful to say that I’m grateful for the river because it reminds me of a horrific aspect of Canadian society: missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. But in a way I am grateful because it reminds me that we must do better, we must work towards reconciliation. We must keep trying, try harder, do more to make amends for our actions. I’m grateful for the river as a constant, solemn reminder.

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