The story of the native rights movement in Arctic Canada when southern consumers were pressing for more oil and gas.
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The story starts with a young journalist working with a Toronto weekly. He is learning his craft but he thinks that there must be more to journalism than covering parent teacher associations and council meetings. Warren leaves the weekly and starts working for the august Globe and Mail. Warren is already having trouble taking care of himself and develops a drink problem. He finds his work at the Globe unrewarding. He joins CBC Northern Service and is sent to Yellowknife to become the north's first locally based trained reporter. Warren arrives just at the native rights movement is getting organised, spurred on by the application to build a gas pipeline over treaty and native land along the Mackenzie River Valley. Warren becomes deeply involved in the clash cultures between the northern natives with their rich traditions of a hunting and trapping society and the energy starved south with its "shopping mall mentality" and belief in its own importance.
White Bird Black Bird supplies the reader with an introduction to a unique northern society and the universal problem that is repeated around the world when an imported culture tries to impose its own needs and priorities on a native culture that has its own sense of order and purpose.
It was November. A cold, grey, overcast and menacing November, when the ice floes had already started to form at the Fort Providence ferry where the Mackenzie River unplugged itself from Great Slave Lake on its way down north to the Beaufort Sea. In Ottawa, more than 2,000 miles away to the east, the leaves were still turning on the maple trees. It was not yet Armistice Day but north of 60, 60 degress of latitude, that marked the geographical boundary between north and south, the land was quickly acquiring its winter blanket of hard, ungiving, frost. A shroud of isolation and contempt when the north turned its back on the outside and concentrated its energies on preparing itself for the dark purgatory ahead. Winter in the north was more than a season, it was a way of life when northerners saw themselves as a people apart, a people who had been tested and proved themselves; a people who knew how things worked in sub-zero temperatures when nature was in its foulest mood and gave no quarter. A northern winter was a time for a clear mind and a calculating order of priorities.