A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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Wrestling with the Spirit: A Doukhobor Story
Directed by Dorothy Dickie


SYNOPSIS

Filmmaker Dorothy Dickie shares the personal history of her Doukhobor family's arrival to Canada in the late 19th century and their journey into Canadian life. In 1899, a devout Russian Doukhobor family, the Perverseffs, came with over 2,000 other Doukhobors to Canada's prairies in search of religious freedom. Promised land by the government, they lived in communal villages and tilled the land successfully. More Doukhobors joined them in the ensuing years, but eventually, the government became concerned about their way of life, and reneged on earlier promises for free land and complete freedom in their way of life. The Doukhobors split into various groups in response to the government's demands. Some like the Perverseff family who valued education moved "forward" with the times and chose to allow their children to attend public schools. Others remained true to the "old ways" and have, over the years, been at odds with the Canadian government.

KEY IDEAS

  • The search for religious freedom
  • Peaceful and non-peaceful protests
  • Choosing to assimilate


KEY TERMS

  • Doukhobors
  • Pacifists
  • Czar
  • Communes
  • Spirit Wrestlers

QUESTIONS

  1. Who was writer Leo Tolstoy, and what role did he play in helping the Dukhobors. Why did he do this?
  2. How was Canada a land of opportunity for the Perseroff family?
  3. Why was the Canadian government so keen to bring Doukhobors to the west?
  4. Why did Doukhobors choose to live in communal settings?
  5. What does this expression mean: "The welfare of the world is not worth the life of one child?"
  6. Mr. Perseroff said: "The best way to scatter seeds is through education" What does this mean? Do you think it was typical of Doukhobor thinking?
  7. What kind of problems did the Doukhobors eventually have with the government?


ACTIVITIES

1) Many Doukhobors have been pretty colourful in their protests over the years. Research some of the most recent issues they've been involved in and see if you can find some newspaper articles from the 1950s when they were arrested for taking their clothes off en masse as a political and religious statement. Write an essay explaining what their issues are, and pretend you are a government official who is assigned the job of trying to make peace with the Doukhobors. How would you address their concerns?

2) Bread, Salt and Water are symbols to the Doukhobors, representing peace and hospitality to them. They are placed on Doukhobor eating tables to show how they are willing to live in peace and friendship. Many other religions have physical objects which are used as symbols to represent their basic beliefs and values. Research several religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam are suggestions) and describe some of the symbols they use, and what they represent. Perhaps bring in a collection of these symbols to share with your class during your presentation.


3) Not everyone who belongs to a particular religion practices that religion in the same way. Like with the Doukhobors, many members of a religion become more "progressive" or "modern", while others prefer to adhere strictly to the old ways. Choose a religion that interests you (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, for example, or of course, the Doukhobors) and list some of the various subgroups found in that religion; discuss why people made the splits into these sub-
groups, and describe the differences in the observances and practices of the different groups. Make sure to discuss how these various groups within the one religion get along with one another.

4) Make a hearty, healthy traditional Doukhobor meal. Serve a vegetable soup called borshch and little dumplings called pyrohis to your classmates and teachers. Read the recipes below, and with the help of your teacher and kitchen staff at your school, divide up the chores for preparing the dishes below. Have each student donate a part of the ingredients. Don't forget to set bread, salt and water on your eating table as a symbol of your hospitality.

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