Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day Ten: Living Words

Last night I held the Mini-Mouse-beaded baby moccasins in the palm of my left hand, clutching my bible to my chest with my right. I told the family gathering that sixteen years ago, I had watched Victoria take her first baby steps in these moccasins at a staff potluck in the Home Ec room of Father Porte Memorial Dene School. Helen Black Lake, our friend and some times babysitter, had made them for the little Orange Baby, as the Black Lake folks pet-named Victoria. Last night our oldest daughter took her first steps of faith, following in the footsteps of Jesus, down into the water, to rise as He did, whole and beautiful.

This morning I photograph those baby shoes. I remember opening them at Christmas and grinning, then crying. My friend used her ancient skill to create Mini-Mouse on moose hide, framed in beaver fur for my baby, making Victoria her baby, too. I sink my nose in the woody, smoky fragrance. I remember Helen saying, "I knew you'd cry."

At the end of my lane, a Western Christian coffee mug in hand, I'm about to turn left when I glance right. The mist is perfectly mist-ical. I've already left fifteen minutes later than usual, but I can't help walking toward the sunlight, just around the bend in the no-through-access road. I can't see the images clearly in my digital viewer, but if the frame can capture one, one hundredth of the ahhhhhhh, then they'll be spectacular.

I'm late, I grin. I'm late, so why not take more pictures. I snap-happy-along until I see teepees, poking up in the distance between the grand, new houses along Mission lake. I remember that I've been trying to focus on the idea that Treaties are living documents. I'm trying to be philosophical, but the sunshine and teepees in the mist are blowing theory from my mind.

As I field-trip the Treaty Four grounds with my students, I remember that treaties are not static, trapped like fossils. Like Mini-Mouse moccasins, they are old words, intended to be worn *anew by each generation. Trucks parked beside teepees. Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology luxury, tour bus parked by a pow wow ring. Grass dancers wearing neon colours. Hoop dancers with plastic hoops. Jingle dresses using recycled pop cans. Chicken dancers wearing satin ribbons. First Nations Veterans wearing military uniforms. Elders drinking Tim Horton's Coffee. A white, farm girl trying to **listen with her heart to treaty teachings, the living words, intended to serve the initial purposes for which they were spoken.

And now that I sit in my basement, typing on the family computer because mine has CRASHED, I want to run upstairs and grab my bible which I've barely read all summer. I turn to John 1:1-2. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." This concept of word as living word has played in my imagination since I was a child. In fact, I am trying to dedicate my life to living words. I'm humbled to remember reading that the third partner in treaty is the Creator, or as I often call him, God.

If I'd had my head on straight last night (and if my eyes hadn't been burning with salt, splattering onto my glasses), I would have opened my bible and read these words to Victoria, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10-11) May the treaties do the same. May my family, my community, my province, and my country open our hearts to living treaty.

* Yes, Victoria, I will one day give you the moccasins, but not yet.
* * My intern, Jade Ivan, spent her summer in the Dominican Republic, helping build a school and teaching English. She told her students how the local teachers yell, "Escuchame" which means, "Listen," however, not just listen, but "Listen with your heart." Today at Treaty 4, I heard an "at risk" student yell, "Escuchame". Wow. Jade, I'm listening.

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