Introduction by Peter Penashue
George Rich – Book Launch – Struggling with my Soul
August 24, 2017 – St. John’s, NL
I am Peter Penashue, former Grand Chief of the Innu Nation, former cabinet minister with the Canadian government, now lands claim negotiator for the Innu Nation. And I am personally honoured that George has asked me to be here today for the launch of this important book.
George and I go a long ways back. We have had different lives, mostly based on our experiences, closeness to cultures like Goose Bay but also similarities in our respect for our Elders and our shared Innu culture. You will know what I’m talking about when you read his book. He is Mushuau Innu, or northern Innu and I am Sheshatshiu Innu, or southern Innu.
I was struck in reading George’s book of how much of what he speaks about crosses generational and cultural lines. And illustrates the difference between the Sheshatshiu Innu and the Mushuau Innu experience. Similar – yet different.
This book, “Struggle with my Soul” is a very candid version of George’s own truth. Yet in this he speaks for us all as Innu and the struggle to rise from a past of defeat – whether within ourselves or by those outside who would keep us down, even unknowingly keep us down by providing half of what we need, like breadcrumbs as he said.
George tells us of the transition from Old Davis Inlet to new Davis Inlet and from there to Natuashish and of the hope for each move and the good and the bad that went with it.
It was a time of collision between the worlds of country and community and as time passes the lines blur and soften. So it is important to hear these stories now.
It is rare that an Innu voice tells of personal experience. And there will be recognition by the reader who seeks to understand a story of personal struggle and healing that the voice is sincere and courageous. With this book we are fortunate to get a small look inside George’s life and the lives of many other Mushuau Innu. It is a gift to have that window through the words on pages in front of us.
George’s account of growing up with his parents and the closeness of Innu culture and relatives, the promises by government, the struggles in the community – is honest and raw.
And I want to not only commend George but thank him for sharing his personal story in such a way that others might learn and not forget. And perhaps even understand that there is thought and wisdom and creativity and energy by Innu that inspires hope for the future.
I believe this hope to do better and be better is what has kept George fighting for his people for so many years. As I mentioned earlier - George and I both serve on the Land claims negotiations team.
He brings to the federal and provincial government on behalf of Innu, the honesty that you witness in this book. And I can say he is a formidable opponent and a strong ally. I am honoured to work beside him and I hope to continue to do so for many more years to come. Thank you.