3 out of 4 stars
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At the Mouth of a Cannon: Conquest and Cupidity of Canada’s West Coast is a poignant and shocking account of the horrible genocide in Canada written by Kevin Annett.
The book has seven chapters in addition to the introduction, denouement, and interlude. The author, a former minister of the St. Andrew’s United Church at Port Alberni, begins by relating how he came to visit the land of the Ahousahts, an ancient tribe in Clayoquot Sound in British Columbia. There, he heard a very disturbing revelation.
This visit indirectly but eventually led to his introduction to Earl Maquinna George, the Keeper of the Land and the only one left of the traditional elders of the Ahousahts. This introduction resulted to the author’s discovery of the terrible crimes committed by the three-headed beast: church, state, and business, against the natives in order to seize their land including the old growth red cedar-filled Lot 363.
According to the author, by passing the two genocidal laws, Indian Act of 1876 and the Industrial Schools Act of 1920, the ‘Ghost People’ successfully reduced the population of the Ahousahts to a couple of thousands from their original number of possibly thirty times that number. The author’s explicit refusal to be associated with land theft and moral irresponsibility cost him his marriage, his livelihood, and his children.
This is a moving book that reveals disturbing iniquities committed in the name of greed. In an initially and a seemingly nonchalant tone, the author gives a brief description of the Ahousaht tribe. The tone, then, shifts to impassioned regret, as he gives a concise account of the British invasion and the subsequent genocide, to undisguised aversion towards specifically mentioned names in the book like Reverend John Sheepshanks, Presbyterian missionary Melvin Swartout, and Roman Catholic Priest Auguste-Joseph Brabant, among others, and institutions such as Hudson Bay’s Company, Puget Sound Agricultural Company, and the United Church of Canada.
This is a great book. The author successfully exposes not only the evil deeds committed by the combined forces of the church, the state, and business against the Ahousahts in order to satisfy their avarice, but also the pain and anguish suffered by the victims which include the author, himself. In his emotionally charged narration, the author vividly describes the horrific acts perpetrated on the Ahousaht such as deliberately spreading smallpox among the natives through injection and eliminating bloodlines of hereditary native leaders, through sterilization and murder. In the same fashion, he recounts his expulsion from church ministry without due process, as well as the loss of everything he knew and loved.
Needless to say, I love this book. The part I like most is the depiction of the extraordinary audacity the author displayed by defying his employer, albeit, unwittingly at first. Very few people possess that much courage.
However, other readers, especially religious ones, may take offense at the allegations against their church. Moreover, there are several errors within the entire book including misspelled words (like conquerers and inadvertantly) and typo errors (like waiting in thre wings and atroicities) which is the part I like least about the book.
I, therefore, rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is moving, inspiring, and well-referenced. I recommend it to readers who enjoy non-fiction especially true stories of conspiracy and cover-up.
At the Mouth of a Cannon
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