Gathering Community Around the Vision

The latest Radicalizing the Roots roster is full and it’s another really interesting and diverse group of participants! It’s going on two years since I started the Hidden Glen Folk School to provide the opportunity for participants to connect to the well-springs of Scottish Highland heritage, and in particular to an understanding of indigeneity from a Scottish Gaelic perspective. Participants come for a variety of reasons, and some have little or no Scottish ancestry, but they all wish to gain a better appreciation of the historical experiences and native culture of Scottish Gaels based on authentic sources and reliable scholarly methods – assets that are out of reach for the majority of people, given the neglect of this field in the academy.

Singing while working the quern to produce grain –
Most work was group work accompanied by song

One of the common themes that has emerged in the life stories of participants who come to Hidden Glen, moreover, is they are engaged in community efforts around the aims of social justice and decolonization, and they feel they need a better grounding in the stories of how the imperial projects affected their own ancestors – often having been told to seek out this information from the elders of the native communities in which they work. Participants are coming from all corners of the globe – the Pacific North-West, New Zealand, the Canadian Maritimes, Australia, and so on – to participate in dialogue to explore these issues in a deep and sustained manner.

This, I believe, is one of the unique features of the Hidden Glen Folk School: to facilitate not just personal enrichment but informed and empathetic community engagement and social transformation. Rather than try to explain it any further myself, I’ll let a few of the participants in the current session of the Radicalizing the Roots course express their thoughts in their own words:

“Something that I’ve heard reiterated in so many ways by Indigenous peoples all over has been that white people need to go back to our own roots and reconnect, heal the wounds there in order to stop inflicting more wounds on others. Basically, break free of White hegemony (responsibly). For a while now I’ve held that as true, but I hadn’t been able to work out where to even start until I randomly(?) picked up Gàidhlig one day. Once I started learning Gàidhlig, the more I delved into the language, the more urgently I felt like I needed to contextualise the language within its own history, and find out how that history related to my own understandings of the world. I wanted more context for the everyday life of my ancestors who spoke it, and to find out more about the impacts of colonialism on, and participation in colonialism by, Scottish Gaels. I came across Michael’s work & courses late last year and have now done the introduction course and Reclaiming the Roots, so I’m very ready for the more thorough dive into answers to the more complex questions I’ve had during this whole learning process. As Michael can attest (lol), these topics have been on my mind since the first course. Over time in this learning so far, I feel like I’ve finally been able to take meaningful steps towards unpacking the Whiteness within me, reconnect with some of what’s been lost over the generations, and find the threads of that deeper solidarity with Indigenous peoples, and I really wanna keep going!”

– Participant in Gadigal-Wangal lands, Eora nation (aka “Sydney, Australia”)

“Most of my family’s ties to our ‘Scottishness’ are through the symbols of the Gàidhealtachd specifically – bagpipes, tartans, kilts etc – without any of the deeper meanings attached to them (we had no connection to the clan whose tartan was on my dad’s first kilt, for example). We think of ourselves as Pākehā (on my New Zealand dad’s side), or white (on my American mum’s side), and so these symbols are associated with a white, national Scottishness rather than the deeper meaning of our ethnic Gaelic roots, pre-whiteness. What I really liked about the first readings for the course, then, is how they point out that this ‘tartanism’ papers over the truth of Gaelic Scotland. There is, in fact, a deeper significance to these Gaelic symbols which can open the doors to a much fuller understanding of our relationships both to our roots and to whiteness.”

– Participant in Aotearoa/New Zealand

“I attended Dr. Newton’s “Bury My Heart at Culloden” talk on Sunday and his comment “whiteness is amnesia” really resonated with me. It was around the same time that I was really grappling with my own understanding of whiteness that my grandmother passed away. Part of what she left me was a huge box of old family papers. That sent me down the genealogy rabbit hole, which led to me learning about my first ancestor in North America. John MacQuarrie was born on the Isle of Rhum, fought at Culloden, was captured and sentenced to transport and seven years indenture in Virginia. After serving his indenture, he went to North Carolina, and his children eventually moved to the county in Kentucky where we still live today. Since learning about “Grandpa John” and his story, I have tried to learn more about the history, culture, and language that was taken from him when he was forced to leave his homeland. This seems connected to understanding my own whiteness and what my ancestors willingly or unwillingly gave up when they took on a white identity. I’m also hoping to focus my capstone research for my master’s program in this area and hope this course will help me drill down to some more specifics for that research.”

– Participant in the United States

I plan to extend the operation and scope of Hidden Glen in the Autumn – won’t you plan on joining our community? Togamaid fonn!

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