October’s Dying—though a novel—graphically reflects the horrific history of Canada’s relationship with the Indigenous Peoples of the country. It reveals Canada’s best kept “dirty little secret” widely recognized as genocide.
Long before Canada became a nation (1867) the European influence was at work north of the 49th. Parallel. The Jesuit Order of the Roman Catholic priesthood was present in New France—later to become the Province of Quebec. This was as early as the mid-sixteenth century, and from the beginning the European passion was to assimilate the Native Peoples of the land into the various forms of European culture—and most especially religious culture.
With the emergence of nationhood, this perceived need to assimilate the First Peoples became the defining agenda of the nation’s government for years to come. While limited attempts to “educate” the Aboriginals predated Confederation the efforts became far more concrete and strongly intentional from 1880 onward. The method of choice was Residential Schools. The last school to close was the Gordon Residential School in Punnichy, Saskatchewan—closed in 1996.
Canada’s first Prime Minister (Sir John A. Macdonald) referred to the “Indianness of the nation” and insisted that it must be marginalized, which meant pushing the Indian to the ultimate fringe of Canada’s social/cultural order until the native became invisible. Macdonald, who was also Minister of Indian Affairs, commissioned Nicholas Flood Davin, a journalist, lawyer, and politician, to go to Washington, DC, in 1879 to study how the United States tackled the same issue. The US had developed a policy of “aggressive civilization” of Native Americans. The phrase “aggressive civilization” became the defining reality and sick justification for Canada’s governmental policy and fostered every diabolical abuse heaped upon the North American Native.
The openly stated goal of the Department of Indian Affairs was “to rid the nation of the Indian problem.” “We kill the Indian in the child and within a single generation there will not exist a single Indian (as we have known the term) within our Great Dominion.”
Thus began the systematic and fiercely intentional rape and destruction of the cultural identity of a great and noble people. They designed every exercise to dehumanize, shame, and humiliate the Indian for being Indian.
Residential schools were little more than “hell’s torture chambers” and before this “grand experiment” of assimilation ended, 50,000 native children died. Sexual abuse was without boundaries. Forms of discipline were ruthless: nails driven through the tongue for speaking your native language, forced castration of young men, boiling water poured over your hands for stealing food because of gnawing hunger, endless beatings, and even an electrified chair. They forced children into subjects of medical experiments.
The meaning of the word genocide is: ‘The intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, or ethical, or religious group by imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and forcibly transferring children of the oppressed to another group or race.’ A rose by any other name is just as sweet—and genocide by any other name (assimilation/integration) is just as wicked and hellish.
Various structures of European religion had arrived in Canada, and the national government found the “perfect instrument” to carry out its destructive goal. Several religious denominations ran residential schools with the full support of Canada’s government. The uncivilised heathen would now be Christianised and civilised.
October’s Dying exposes the actual history of this ignored chapter of Canada’s past. It does so by following a fictional Mohawk character—RAWENNI:IO—later given the name Brandon by his European “educators”. Brandon experiences all the horrors that we now know took place under the guise of education, assimilation, and integration.
But the story is not just about history. It is equally about the fruit of history—the ever-present collateral damage. Is it possible for a descendent of the colonizers to fall in love with a descendent of the Indigenous peoples? What happens when an interracial and intercultural mix becomes evident? We must abort it at all costs without a hint of mercy or a whisper of pity.
Ignorance is always the primary enemy, and the ignorance of this long chapter of Canada’s history is fantastic and appalling. It is beyond belief how many in this country know nothing of this. Even as late as the decade of the 1960s—a decade known as ‘The Sixties Scoop’ that saw 20,000 Aboriginal children scooped up (some form their mother’s breast) to be fostered and adopted by WHITE families across Canada, the USA, and Western Europe: And yet the silence of ignorance (willful or otherwise) is deafening.
October’s Dying is the story of a nation: its history, its present, and its future. Each person who reads it will personally determine what has been, what presently is, and what is yet to come.
Dale Lloyd is the son of a Mohawk mother and a British father. His novel—October’s Dying—is rooted in that mix. He has lived his life in the tension of “half native & half colonizer”. Consciousness of this half and half mix resulted in a deep, silent shame. That shame and the debilitating fear it produced kept Dale “muzzled” for much of his life.
The book you hold in your hand (along with five other works, three published and two waiting to be published) shows that he became unmuzzled. He cannot name a specific place, experience, or time, but in the evolution of his life, he learned to embrace who he was in that mix.
The art of storytelling is organic to Dale’s soul. He finds its most effective release while hiking through the woods he knew as a child. The streams and rivers that ran through his youth provide the perfect context for silent and deep meditation and reflection.
Dale constantly references the “two beautiful girls” in his life: Wenda, his wife of forty-seven years, and their incredible daughter Darline, whom they adopted out of a Haitian orphanage. Home is Napanee, Ontario, Canada.
Article Written by Sarah Williams, February 21, 2020
Before I bought the book, someone told me they found it so great they could not put it down. I knew a bit of what your book was about, so I hesitated to get my hands on it.
Well, in the new year, I did start reading. Talk about pain, heart-wrenching pain, in the first few chapters. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon, just weeping on the floor, saying, “I can’t read this book” it was hurting me to the core of what my people and the children went through. I thought, ‘how can someone not be able to put it down?’ when I could not continue. I did, after a while, continue and persevered like the characters in the story.
Your book is beautifully written and historically too accurate. That truth I appreciate, and the love story frustrating yet so beautiful.
Thank you for writing this book. I have recommended it to several friends cautiously with not too much of my input and how it affected me.
Amazing book. Gut wrenching, passionate, brilliant, triumphant. Thank you for listening to your heart and pouring it into us, Dale. And the timing? With Indigenous rights on full display in Canada presently… wow. Much love and respect
I have known Dale Lloyd for over fifty years. He has researched his history and his nation’s history and has attempted to understand the why as to that history. In the research and writing he has expressed his deep frustration and disappointment in the systems that have been and are so destructive to people.
But, in his research and writing he has found a way to battle and come to a sense of who he is. You will get to know this man Dale Lloyd, as you read his books. You will get to know the world where he lives, and you will get to know the world in which you live, we all live.
Read “October’s Dying,” and read his other books, to know the facts as told through novels, and to enjoy the writings of Dale Lloyd, a master story teller, a poet, and a man who is sensitive to the world he, and we are trying to understand.
The journey will be well worth your while.
I have lived a large portion of my life near First Nations Reserves and have known and currently know many people with Indigenous roots as both friends and acquaintances. Regretfully, I also have to say that I have heard the term Residential School countless times, usually about how it was merely an unfortunate part of our history that has been rectified. With that, I never took a minute to ask a single question as to how, what, or why.
This book was an incredible personal experience for me in that while I was engaged in the storyline from page one, I was also enlightened. I found myself continually asking how we, as a self-proclaimed peaceful people and nation could have done this but more so how we could sweep it under the rug.
October’s Dying was thoughtful, captivating and incredibly enlightening from beginning to end. It challenges us to remember history, a part of our history that we have been all too willing to forget.
I just finished reading October’s Dying last night. I had a strong sense I would never be the same after reading it and my soul has been penetrated to the core. The first page drew me into the story immediately and I could not put it down. The Residential School details were super difficult to go through, but I knew I had to keep on. I am in awe of how the Holy Spirit inspired you to entwine the lives of Brandon, Samantha, Brandi, and Sam into the telling of their story. Are they real people or add-ons to make the story touch the very fiber of my being?
The Lord has given you an amazing gift in the use of words, that captivate one’s heart and has given you the ability to tell stories to draw the reader into the story as if one is part of the story. Thank you for writing this. It took much courage to do so… I have always admired you for sharing your heart openly to all who will listen… the hours you have spent alone in the presence of the Lord, walking on the dikes in NS, on your trails at home, sitting in your attic listening to your favourite music worshiping the King of Kings; all have contributed to the writing of this incredible story. I will never be the same. Blessings to overflowing.
Psalm 139 kept ringing in my ears and my heart while reading October’s Dying in reference to the Lord’s Amazing Grace and Favour upon your life. You are a wonderful gift to the world and all of us who know you.
Wow! I just finished reading October’s Dying, a book by H. Dale Lloyd. This historical novel is riveting to say the least. Dale has based this story on factual events that occurred in Canada from 1866 to 1996. As European settlements were being established, the indigenous peoples of the land had to be dealt with. Unfortunately, their methods were reprehensible—cruel and murderous. “The Native Advantage” was implemented to help the Indians assimilate into the “white man’s” world, supposedly.
The book tells the story of a Mohawk boy named Rawenni:io, who was taken from his family by the government and sent to live in a Residential School, where he was renamed, Brandon. As I read the horrible account of life in Brandon’s school, I was emotionally distraught that such treatment of children could have happened. Thankfully, Dale then begins a wonderful story of love. However, it would prove to be a difficult love story—Brandon fell in love with a wealthy European girl named Samantha. I don’t want to spoil the read for you, but be prepared to smile, laugh, and cry. The story carries a theme of the power of love and forgiveness. If you enjoy books that take all your emotions on a roller coaster ride, this is a must-read.
“Given today’s climate, the need is more urgent than ever that we confront the difficult, uncomfortable parts of our history, and that we confront them without revision or defense. The hard stories must be told, and Dale, as a master story- teller, has told one here with courage and sensitivity. The epic span of the book (well over a century) would be daunting for many writers, but the story lines and historical context are woven together here in such a way that the reader is swept along effortlessly. His characters are real and compelling, and his lush descriptive language places the reader squarely into the story. This is a book that should be read for its literary achievement, yes. But it is also a book that must be read for its courageous and moving examination of a past that we can no longer afford to dismiss.”
(B.S. Special Education & Rehabilitation; M.S. Educational Psychology; Post-Graduate work in History & Political Science; National Board Certification in History/Social Studies)
Wow! A powerful message of hope rising out of the darkness. Some of the chapters were very hard to read (because of the actual history they referenced) but they also contrast the power of love as forgiveness brings a sense of renewal and a deep lasting beginning for a new generation. The events touch the core of what it means to be truly human and how everything that is good is constantly assaulted by the forces of false religion. Thanks, Dale, for your deep insight into the core of humanity’s need for
grace and love.
Just finished reading October’s Dying last night. I had a strong sense I would never be the same after reading it and my soul has been penetrated to the core. The first page drew me into the story immediately and I could not put it down. The Residential School details were super difficult to go through, but I knew I had to keep on. I am in awe of how you entwine the lives of Brandon, Samantha, Brandi and Sam into the telling of their story. Those characters touched every fibre of my being. You have been given an amazing gift in the use of words, that captivate one’s heart and your ability to tell stories draws the reader into the story as if one is part of the story. Thank you for writing this. It took much courage to do so. I will never be the same.
WOW! Powerful book. Epic.
I just finished reading it through .. got it Tuesday and finished it today! It’s one of those ‘can’t put it down’ books!
Congratulations on such a fine work, filled with horror and beauty, darkness and light, damnification and redemption, the sinister weakness of law and the glorious power of grace!
I am glad you held our face to the horrors of what we have done (and continue to do) to the First Nation’s People (as shameful and painful as that is for us to hear), and supremely thankful that you led us gently to the power of redemption – not to gloss over the horror, or dismiss it’s effects, but to give us hope that it won’t have the last word.
I think my favourite line in the whole book is found on page 127 “The wise had learned to reserve judgement, and the very wise never entertained judgement at all for they had lived through enough paintings to know that the final picture would be glorious and filled with wonder.”
Thank you for all the personal energy, emotion, and soul you put into this work.
PS. I suspect that when I walk the boardwalks of Halifax now, I will not be surprised to see the ghost of Brent Attwood still waiting for Sam!
“In October’s Dying, the author bravely and brilliantly rips open the corrupt curtain on Canada’s best kept and most shameful secret: the collaborative conspiracy of church and state to exterminate Canada’s Native population and eradicate their national identity. Each poignant paragraph pulsates with passion and pathos as the cast of characters come to life, their tragic and traumatic reality evoking deep emotional connection and responses in the reader. While neither wasting nor mincing words in his searching and scorching rebuke of the perpetrators of this crime against a people, the author paints this graphic portrait against a canvas that rhythmically resonates with the palpable sights and sounds of a created world, made more vivid by the defining and descriptive richness of his language. The reader can sense the writer’s incarnate investment in the narrative as the story unfolds. The author masterfully crafts an epic of beauty where love and truth harmonize to ultimately triumph over hatred and deception. He courageously confronts the deliberate, devious and devilish scheme of the political and religious worlds, and demonstrates its ultimate defeat in the lives of those whose nobility, fortitude, resilience and integrity empowered them to rise above and thwart the efforts of those who sought their destruction. This book deserves the widest of circulation, and will inspire any and all who have ever been or felt victimized by those who pretend some superiority. I was moved to tears throughout and couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it.”
I just finished reading October’s Dying. Parts of it were very hard to see – hard to see because I could not stop the tears. It is a beautiful yet heart-wrenching story.
I have read other accounts and watched programs on this subject, but no one has gone into the horrible details as you have done. Most time the events are whitewashed – intentionally.
I wish everyone could read and comprehend the dark reality of it all: A horrible story. A horrible history. A horrible national response or nonresponse.
Thank you for writing so courageously about this national nightmare.
Never have I been so impacted by a book
As a Mom and Nana, this is the toughest book I have ever read. As a matter of fact, after the recounting of such horrific crimes perpetrated by clergy and government in the name of flag and faith, I am changed. You will read about the children who were forcibly taken from their parents; of torture; of voices stolen; of hope destroyed. But you will also read of determination and forgiveness; and of beauty and peace – be it in the flowers or in hearts.
At one point, I put the book down for a couple days. Time was needed to wrap my head around the hate-based European settlement of Canada. Because while residential schools are now mercifully closed, the foul stench of purposely destroyed records, torture, and secrecy linger. The author affirmed his facts are real. However, to protect people and communities, he has skillfully gathered historical facts and used them in creating a story. Brilliant.
Amid the pages of ‘October’s Dying’ by H Dale Lloyd, you will be moved. You will feel sadness and anger and you will also delight in an innocent love story, perhaps to some a little strange, but a story that beautifully and skillfully separates one’s understanding of the long lasting beauty of innocence from the long lasting consequences of evil. A book I will not soon forget. Nor should I.