The backpack is tight, pulling my shoulders too close together. The layers of undershirt, sweat shirt and jacket are bunched uncomfortably beneath the straps. I pull at the coat, and my hair is caught. I tug my clothes and wiggle the backpack until it sits like I'm giving a piggy back ride to a kindergartner who holds on by choking. When did the pack get so heavy?
Klee, our dog of ten years, lies on the living room floor where she spent her last night with Michael petting her, getting up with her, talking to her. After school today, he'll take her to the vet. This is her second date with death; the last was in June, and she bounced back from the brink, and we'd cancelled the appointment, but the three months have added years, and the cancer is too advanced. I remember one of my Dene friends laughing, "Oh Sheena," when she heard we'd named our dog, Klee, an anglosized version of the Dene word for dog. Day thirteen, coffee mug in hand, I shut the door behind me.
It's a drab morning, and my jaw is aching, but the air is fresh and I'm hoping to beat the headache by the time I get to school. I'm remembering reading that the treaties promised cultural integrity for the First Nations people, or, how did they word that? I'll need to look that up. I think most will agree that this treaty promise was broken early with systemic changes or interruptions to all things cultural like family, language, ceremonies, and land.
As I turn a bend, I see that there are still some teepees, tents, campers, vehicles on the Treaty 4 Grounds after the big pow wow weekend. I'm surprised they're still here. Seems a little ironic, saying "they're still here" while thinking on the anti-treaty attacks on culture and identity. Yes, the first people of Treaty 4 are still here!
Michael calls me while I'm coaching table tennis at school. "Can you skip yoga?" he says. "I think it might be a tough night at home." He offers to pick me up on his way home, which feels like a temptation.
I speed walk home, past the near-empty and tidied, Treaty 4 Grounds. Gulls are strutting through the grass. There are a few vehichles and a group of people gathered around a big motor home. Maybe the organizing committee, I think.
I phone Arwen to see if Daddy's home yet. He's not, but Arwen comes to meet me down the lane with Klee's daughter, Survivor. Eight years ago, Moira carried the runt of Klee's first litter around. I didn't think it was cruel because our retired farmer neighbour had told us it wouldn't make it, but Moira called her Survivor from hour one, and when Survivor survived, we couldn't give her away with the other puppies.
Michael drives into the yard. He tells us how Klee lay in his arms, not flinching with the needle, then snoring and siging one relieved sigh before leaving. He's comforted by the snoring. Moira and Arwen smile with him, although their eyes are growing redder. Michael has dug a grave and he carries his dog in a wrapped blanket up the hill. She is still here, too.