Monday, November 7, 2011

Day Forty-Seven: Ne ghe ne ta

"So her treaty rights are called treaty 8. We got our treaty in 1986 under the Bill C31," says Dennis, midway through our in-box chat.

"Wow. How old were you?" My fingers click on my Inspiron Dell.

"Cause my late Dad wasn't treaty at that time, even though he was married to my mom. My mom was treaty, but us kids weren't until 1986. I was six."

"Waf way." I slip into Dene slang for, "No way."


"Es jay."

"Ha ha ha."

"I still got it."

"Good. You can talk Dene already?"

"Ne ba horel ya?"

"Yup. You?"


"Seba' horelja betaze' edza' a."

"Oh, oh." Out of my league, I think. "I'm happy that it's cold outside?"

"I'm happy and it's cold outside."

Last night Dennis, my former grade eight student from Black Lake, and I are on facebook, talking Dene; well, the few words I know, and not really a conversation, more of a random list of words and phrases. Dennis lists yoh, ke', and leba': house, footware, socks. I type and enter, type and enter: coo, whine ga, ne da, edu, haste, sasaze, li cho, li, ta siaze, ji a though la hotien ta siaze, bebe aze, loue, gat spa.

"Tell me what you're saying, I can't read it, Sheena. LOL," says Dennis.

"I'm a bad speller in two languages," I say. "Let's go, get lost, sit down, cold, smell, little bear, horse, dog, baby-of-the-family, Orange Baby, baby, white fish, tarmagan."

"I'll give you an A-. You pass. No, an A+," says Dennis.

"Ne zoh," I say. "Good job? You are a very generous teacher. You must have had a great teacher to be such a great teacher yourself." I have a big grin on my face.

Yesterday at Outreach, Jim is telling stories, this time he went to get ravens for a local medicine man and he tells the guys up north that he doesn't speak Cree, only Saulteaux, so he only understands a little, and in broken English they wonder why he's getting crows, so he tells them they're better than chicken, if you do them up just right, and he gives the recipe and his audience has wide eyes and so does my cousin Angela, so Jim has to explain that nobody eats raven because they're garbage eaters. Or the time he was in the States and an old guy asked him what nation he is and he says, "Saulteaux," and the old guy says, "Me, too. I'm Sioux-too."

"Sioux means snake in our language," Jim says. "That's our word for them. They don't like it. Makes sense they don't like it."

Reminds me of the Cree word, "Chipewan," which means "pointed hat", the Cree name for Dene. Dene means "the people" and it is what the Dene call themselves.

Arwen decides not to come with me this morning, and I'm glad when I'm out in the dark on the slippery road. I've bought a reflector vest, but my neighbour stops me and tells me that my backpack is covering up the reflector, and I tell her that I bought some tape, but didn't put it on the backpack yet, but I'll phone my daughter to bring it. She lets me go with the promise to get that backpack marked.

I'm walking by the laundrymat when I realize it's the seventh, election day. I never wrote those letters to the provincial politicians. I never researched policy regarding provincial parties and treaty. I never watched the leadership debate. I've heard clips from various politicians on the radio, and I've heard the same party I have always voted for being a voice for social justice, cooperative philosophy, anti-poverty action, and affordable housing. I have not been surprised that the voice for getting tough on crime still seems to be code for punishment over restitution; shame over healing; status quo over creativity. I'm wearing a vintage Tommy Douglas pin with a quote from his famous Mouseland speech. "You can lock up a person, you can't lock up an idea." Guess I know what I'm voting, but I'm not super proud of my process. My politics have to be more than this, I decide.

In period five Jade is talking about systemic oppression, self-fulfilling prophecy, internalized oppression, indirect oppression, and making one-sentence summaries: Systematic Oppression is when the people in power oppress a group of people through laws and customs. Society takes on the oppression as normal. Internalized Oppression is when the oppressed group begins to believe the negative and oppress themselves. Example, self-fulfilling prophecy. Indirect Oppression is when people use subtle or indirect ways to bully people.

"In first world countries, Indirect Oppression is the most common. Can you think of a group in Canada who is oppressed," says Ms. Jade.

"First Nations," says a student.

"No. That's in the past. It's not today," says another.

"It's still alive. Think about it," says Ms. Jade.

"No it's not," says the other.

I text Keitha to see if I can come over to watch the election results with her. I don't have television. She says, sure and we'll have tea, green tea, it's the best. I text to see if she wants me to pick up anything. She says, sure, anything you like. I grab whole grain nacho chips and spinich dip for good health. Ha ha. Come on in, the door is open, texts Keitha. The television isn't on election coverage. It's Dancing with the Stars. Oh, man! This is why I don't have television.

"You've made me watch Opra and now Dancing with the Stars. I'm almost in touch with society," I say.

"You're almost worldly," says Keitha.

Tonight I'm writing my blog, remembering my day. I look back through my chat with Dennis and see that I wrote, "Na ne sni ha. I will remember you." The Dene don't have a word for goodbye, but they say, I will remember you.

"Yup. You too," Dennis says, then adds, "Ne ghe ne ta means I love you, or ne ghe t'a is the short way."

And I remember that Dene grammar is complicated and the phrases change depending on if you're speaking to one, two or two or more people, but my Dene friends will forgive me, as they always do. So here I go. Ne ghe ne ta Dennis and all the good people from Black Lake. Ne ghe ne ta Jim, Keitha and the beautiful people at Outreach. Ne ghe ne ta my neighbours out on the road, especially those offering me rides, waving, and supervising my safety. Ne ghe ne ta my intern-mentor-prophet-daughter, Ms. Jade. Ne ghe ne ta my students and colleagues. Ne ghe ne ta my friends, old and new. And for Michael, my girls, my parents, siblings and their families, my cousins, I'll save ne ghe t'a, the shortest way to I love you.

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