In a Garden East of Eden
Anne’s subterranean garden was an engineering wonder among many marvels at the castle. They could have descended a stairway inside the kitchen or taken an elevator, but Anne decided to have fun -- on the slide! To access it, Anne swung open the panel labeled “Port-Royal.” Once the slide was exposed, a fresh draft of delicious aromas emitted from the gardens below. Following Anne’s lead, the sisters rode down a transparent tube, passing multileveled terraces with all kinds of herbs and vegetables, fruit trees, free-ranging chickens, ponds with sealife -- salmon, clams, lobsters, and, of course, across and over carpets of fiddleheads, ending their slide gently at the foot of a moosehead fountain, its tongue dripping pools of maple syrup.
“I love this place!” exclaims Violette. “It’s like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! No candy around, but all kinds of beautiful lights, shapes, colors, plants and fruit trees.”
To which Anne replied: “To eat well means to enjoy life. Mother Nature outdoes all scientific discoveries when it comes to healthy living. Of course, eating right can’t prevent or cure every illness – but eating healthy provides the vitamins and minerals for long life. We all need to eat vegetables of all colors, the darker the green, the better.”
“Here’s a question for you, girls. If you live 200 years, will you prefer – a healthy life with friends and family or a very wealthy life with lots of power? Without hesitation, Vicky answers:
“A healthy one with my family.”
“I never want to be powerful if it means being alone.” Violette adds. At that moment, there’s stirring in the field of fiddleheads. “Hey, look over there. What’s that? It’s little people!”
“The ones that cleaned the castle this morning – finally. They can be so stubborn. In my garden, I need the high energy and helping hands of tiny Forest People.”
“Why such a big garden?” asks Vicky.
“It was meant to feed a big family, but right now, I’m only feeding my mother, brother and you two girls. My mother and brother have been living here 90 years, and never once has my mother said she’s old; the same thing with my brother; he’s never said he’s an old man. This garden produces very healthy food, with purified, circulating air, clean, recycled water and bright, refracted sunlight, a safe home too for my chickens to run and hide, never caged.”
“It’s been a place of joy! My brother spent a fortune on it, so I might remain to prepare the meals, but only the Great Spirit is eternal. My brother will pass one day. It’s a matter of time. He’s very, very rich, but also kindhearted and not selfish, still hoping one day before he passes to find a new leader. My mother’s another story, quite the contrary. I’ll tell you about her mood swings another time.”
“You see, girls, I’m only a nutritionist, not a visionary. That said, I agree with my brother who envisions our future as a healthier and more peaceful planet. Let’s continue the tour. Want to take the elevator up?”
“All aboard! Let’s go! There’s lots to see.” says Vicky.
“May I choose what to visit?” asks Violette.
“Sure, Violette. Look around, choose the level.”
“Can we go meet the little people?” suggests Violette.
When the Pope granted Spain and Portugal the exclusive right to evangelize the Americas, the French sought ways to circumvent their exclusion. Their search revealed a legal principle from Rome – The Doctrine of Consent – proclaiming “that which touches all must be approved by all.” This doctrine became a legal loophole.
As Catholic subjects, the French were obliged to adhere to the Pope’s proclamations, but this loophole allowed French adventurers to trade in the Americas as early as 1503, at first for brazilwood, along the coast of Brazil in the lands of the Tupinamba, Tamoio, and Potiguar peoples. Incidentally, the name of Brazil derives from brazilwood, not the other way around – the wood that produces a red dye so much in demand in the textile industry. The French were determined to acquire this dye from Brazil rather than pay more for it in India.
Faced with Portugal’s exclusive claim to the territory, the French argued that the legal doctrines of freedom of the seas and freedom of trade gave them the right to trade in Brazil. Moreover, the Doctrine of Consent emboldened the French, not only to trade openly, but also to start French colonies in Brazil as early as 1555, as long as they maintained the consent of local inhabitants. To have this consent, the French went to great lengths to negotiate according to Amerindian customs – never imposing European treaties, but rather forming alliances according to Amerindian customs -- exchanges of gifts, sending French boys and men to live with the Amerindians, while Brazilians were sent to France, each group learning the other’s language and customs to form a cadre of go-betweens and interpreters. These exchanges resulted in giving the French a special status in the eyes of the peoples of America, since the French, unlike any other European power, approved intermarriages from the start, what other Europeans were loath to do, based on European notions of superiority and their right to appropriate any and all of America’s natural resources. In contrast, the French made it their policy to intermarry and follow Amerindian customs, strengthening the kinship ties so important in forming strong alliances with the Amerindians. One can find evidence of these cross-cultural exchanges as early as 1547 with the publication of a French navigation manual by Jehan Cordier of Rouen, Normandy, in which he lists Tupinamba words and phrases with French equivalents to facilitate trade in Brazil.
Careful non-interference with Native customs was key to France’s exceptionalism vis-à-vis the Amerindians. Throughout the 16th century, the French cultivated alliances with peoples from Brazil to North America, more adept in forming win-win relationships than their colonial rivals.
By conforming to Amerindian ways, the French also gained military alliances that worked very much in their favor. The French, unlike other Europeans, did not insist on written treaties, only when the treaties involved other European rivals, like the English. With their own Amerindian allies, compacts were sealed with local customs – feasting, speeches, gift exchanges, and these agreements had to be repeated, as was customary, since alliances could change. Usually, these agreements were renewed annually.
Unlike other European sovereigns, French monarchs claimed the Amerindians as subjects of the realm, but many Amerindians preferred to stay free of European allegiances, claiming themselves instead to be sovereign allies of the French kingdom. After all, this was their turf. Unlike other European colonists, French settlers practiced caution while enforcing French laws involving the Amerindians. For example, the French set aside lands for Indian villages, but the Amerindians never had to pay seigneurial dues in New France, unlike the French colonists. French authorities also allowed Amerindians to trade with the English colonists, the enemy. Most noteworthy, Article 17 in the Charter of the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France / Company of One Hundred Associates, 1627, proclaimed any Amerindian who converted to Christianity to be in all respects a French subject, but those who did convert often preferred to retain their status as sovereign allies of France, to maintain their independence, and so that special status was granted to them. How differently North America might have evolved if France had won the colonial wars and continued these administrative policies.
“This place is more fun than Disneyland! Can we see the ballroom and Meditation Tower tomorrow, Annie?” The girls collapsed onto their bed, as Anne stood holding the door open.
“Of course, Violette. It’s a huge castle. There’s too much to see in one day. I’m so glad the Wiklatmuj let you harvest fiddleheads with them. Usually, they’re skittish and hide. Too bad you don’t know Algonquian. That’s all they speak, but you got along anyway. My tiny helpers get into mischief all the time and love to fool around more than do chores, so watch your backs next time!” Anne warned, smiling. “I’m going to prepare lunch, be back in a jiffy. Relax and have fun, girls.”
“Want to play with my Barbies, Vicky?”
“You brought Barbies? No wonder your bundle weighed a ton. How many did you bring?”
“All of them.”
“Violette! Come on, we need to talk. We’re having too much fun here. Remember we need to plan before Maman, Papa, and Max arrive. The Protectors told us to choose where to hide the family. It has to be a secret hiding place. You and I choose it together and can’t tell anyone else, not even Annie. That’s what the Protectors explained in Palm Springs.”
“Okay, Vicky. Have you done any whisperings here?”
“I don’t know. Yes, I do. The Protectors told me, first, you and I need to talk, then, we’ll choose a hiding place. After that, I’ll hear from them. Don’t worry. As long as we have a good hiding place, we’re safe, nothing to fear.”
“Why do we have to hide, Vicky? Isn’t this castle a hideaway?”
“The Protectors don’t explain everything, but they want us safe and sound.”
Vicky and Violette start their conference, interrupted briefly by Annie’s return. After lunch, still secluded in their bedroom, they reconvene:
“That’s right, Violette, to protect ourselves, the way you explained. Where did our ancestors go wrong? What did they overlook or not see coming? Human nature hasn’t changed, so we too might end up cornered or trapped when we least expect it. For their first 150 years in America, Acadians prospered and lived peacefully, staunchly neutral during the colonial wars, then a military thug like Lawrence rounds them up, steals their property and ships them out. No one outside of Acadia even protested, and wherever the Acadians were scattered, they were unwelcome outcasts or laughing stocks, as if Lawrence had been justified to get rid of them.”
“On the plus side, Vicky, the Acadians stayed true to themselves not to convert, but you’re right, at too high a price! Some powers are too strong to resist, right? What goes wrong? Why is it so risky to stay true to oneself ? It’s not fair, and how sad when the outcome is extreme, nothing anyone deserved.”
“That’s injustice. This family emergency is about injustice. That’s all I know. But, Violette, in our history books Lawrence came out the winner, even portrayed as a respected and responsible military planner, while the Acadians are sidelined as a weak, inferior people who deserved what they got. Each side wants to look good, but winners have the advantage of writing history.” Violette replies:
“So this is my take. Don’t believe everything you read. It’s easier to justify mistakes and not learn a thing from them. Sometimes mean people glorify their mistakes and even believe their actions were necessary for the greater good. I think that’s how Lawrence looked at the deportation of the Acadians. People like Lawrence never have to say they’re sorry!”
“That’s because you listen to your Inner Voice, Violette. You also have a gift figuring people out – in two seconds. So let’s think about the best hiding place somewhere in the castle. Remember, not all Acadians were deported; 3,000 eluded capture. That’s what we’re going to do. By the way, Violette, do you still trust Annie? I do, but I don’t have your gift.”
“Yes, she’s no phoney baloney, not like Mme Vidocq in Palm Springs. Annie reminds me a lot of Maman.”
“I agree. Can’t wait to see Maman and Max…and Papa!”
“Vicky, what lessons did you learn from Maman’s stories about French settlers adopting Indian ways in America? Why did the French do things so differently from what we read in our history books about Europeans acting so cruel and superior, the way Lawrence treated the Acadians?”
“Good question, Violette. I haven’t thought it all through, but I know Champlain was a true leader who believed in his heart all men are created equal, but most French settlers were probably just following the new rules, getting along with the Indians, as long as those settlers could make money and exploit natural resources. No group of men is perfect, but I like to think the French approach to intermarriage made some kind of difference, while adopting Indian ways. Isn’t that what makes you and me who we are today – Acadians – who never give up!”