Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Canada Trip, Part 6

Mounties in their red coats.

Horse riders pass the local Dairy Queen.

Hutterite children catch candy from the parade floats.

Okan Hungry Wolf rides past the LDS Temple.

Heritage Days

Cardston celebrates the yearly Heritage Days with a parade, drawing together three distinct cultures. While Mormons established the original Cardston settlement, other people already inhabited the region. The Blood Tribe occupies a federal reserve only a few blocks from the temple, and German speaking Hutterites created communal farming communities on the surrounding plains.

All three cultures live side by side, and yet they seem partially invisible to one another. Whether in the grocery store or passing on the street, people from the respective social groups seemed to rarely cross cultural lines. They reminded me of three parallel worlds, seeming to hardly touch.

Yes, Cardston makes for a strange contrast of cultures. As the parade marched past the quiet grounds of the LDS Temple, the familiar twang of country music blared over the loudspeaker: "I found Jesus on the jailhouse floor..." It seemed ironic and strangely out of place. Rows of Canadian flags fluttered in the ceaseless wind where scores of spectators lined the streets. A radio announcer wearing a yellow cowboy hat stood on an elevated platform and spoke to the crowd. He spoke from an obvious LDS bias, despite numerous onlookers from other cultural groups. At one point he said, "We're broadcasting today in front of the seminary building..." without explaining to non-Mormons that it was the LDS Seminary building. When a Native man rode by on a horse, he said, "We thank them (the Natives) for the culture they provide us..." But when the LDS missionaries walked by, he urged the crowd to sign their dinner calendars without even explaining who they were. It was clear whose crowd the announcer claimed as his own.

Of course, I'm not suggesting any culture is bad. In fact, I would not give a negative characterization to any one individual I encountered, but my experience did provide an interesting insight into group thinking and outward perceptions. I would hope all cultures would see these examples and use them as an opportunity to examine who is the "us" and is the "them." We might surprise ourselves by the answer.

More to come...

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