Broken Thunder: the story of the Passenger Pigeon
review from Knowing the Land is Resistance
“I've heard people talk about the future seven generations for years now. But how can we really know our impact unless we've seen how the last seven generations have affected our lives today? This is not a pretty road to travel, but I think we owe it to the old ones, to the ones yet to come, the ones here now, and the ones gone forever like the passenger pigeon to make sure they don't go forgotten, to remember them.”
Broken Thunder is a short zine that eloquently revives the lost stories of the now extinct Passenger Pigeon. Click on the picture of the cover to download it.
This zine reminds us that, at their peak, it's estimated that passenger pigeons composed 40% of all birds of Turtle Island. The forests they roosted in were nourished each year by several inches of pigeon poop. These included the vast forests of American Chestnut trees, also once of these lands. But now, both the Pigeons and the Chestnuts that characterized these forests are gone. It's impossible to even imagine what these forests would have been like.
We often hear people talk about the value of pristine wilderness, or about restoring wild spaces, but the forests we now see to be pristine or natural are very different and much impoverished from the Passenger Pigeon's forests of just 200 years ago. We recall the experiences of other colonized lands, like England, where the ancient forests came to be completely forgotten. The moors, pastures, and hedgerows of the countryside became the image of what nature was, and unfamiliar lands of dark forests were feared. This meant that when English settlers arrived in north america, they didn't even have stories that could prepare them for the wonders and intricacy of the forests they found. This zine reminds us of the baggage we carry with us from our settler heritage, resulting in the broken culture and unhealthy world we live in now.
Colonial power attempts to destroy the stories of what once was while normalizing the limited and unimaginitve possibilities of the dominant culture. The process of learning where we have been in order to come to understand where we are today is one of decolonizing and unlearning -- as the authour validates, this can be a sad and difficult place to go.
This zine encourages this journey with a combination of origninal poetry, historical quotes, and story telling, giving lots of space for the reader to engage their own imagination, feelings and curiosity. It helps us to remember is the importance of telling stories— even hard stories— and the even deeper tragedy that is forgetting.
Broken Thunder was written by a member of the Guelph Nature Connection and Folklore club as part of their work in retelling old stories and re-forging our damaged connection to nature. Their website is www.guelphnaturefolklore.wordpress.com.