Author(s): Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco is famous for his comics journalism set in either the Middle East (Palestine) or Balkans (Safe Area Gorazde), so Paying the Land is a radical new departure for him. In it Sacco travels to Canada's Northwest Territories, a huge, frozen wasteland populated only by the Dene, the indigenous people who once lived by hunting but are now divided in their response to an invasion of their land by mining companies. Some deplore it, arguing that the government misled their forebears with treaties they did not understand; others think the development was bound to happen anyway.
Sacco's story is set against the background of a culture that has suffered the shattering impact of the residential school system which took children from their parents and returned them unable to speak their language and unable to relate to their traditional way of life. As recently as the 1970s the children were brutalised and abused in the government's stated policy to remove the Indian from the child.
Beautifully drawn, Sacco's latest masterpiece is a story of culture as much as it is a story of oil, money, dependency and conflict.