Friday, January 27, 2012

Day Ninety-Nine: Cousins

My students always laugh, well, my First Nations students laugh if I say, "Cousin," with just the right intonation in my voice. Cuz-en, almost drawling and holding onto the second syllable. It's sort of like when the kids are talking, and I'm listening in, and I hear something I agree with and I say, "Word." Oh, the kids laugh, like I cracked a good joke code. I can't overuse this insider information though, or I outlive my welcome pretty quick, but it's fun, every now and then, just to prove I'm paying attention. (Well, it might prove a few other things. My own girls would say it proves that I'm not as cool as I think I am.)

Over the years I've heard elders and leaders talk about the interconnectedness of all people, all creation, for that matter. That we are all relatives. I guess the scientists are saying this too, with the DNA research going on, telling us we come from a common ancestor.

I've heard leaders say that when the treaties were being signed, that the brother-to-brother understanding was an acknowledgement of our kinship. Treaty was a formal declaration: you are now family.

Today at noon I had a phone call from my cousin Angela's husband, Brian. "Hey Sheena, I have a proposition. I don't know if it'll work for you, but here it is. Did you bring your guitar to school today?"

"Uh, no," I say. "But I have guitars in my classroom. What's up?"

"Well, I have my gig today at the elementary school, and Mr. Jewitt was supposed to do some guitar strumming, but he's out sick. I was just wondering if you could pop in at 1:40, just for half an hour."

"Sure," I say. "I have some kids writing a catch up exam, but I bet I can find coverage."

At 1:35, guitar in hand, I head across the playground, carrying my moccasins because they make us take off our boots at the elementary school.

Brian's Chapman Stick is already wired up at the front of the classroom. I borrow his tuner and start working on the guitar. In a few moments Mrs. Waldbauer's kids are sitting in the tiered Arts Ed classroom and Brian begins his funky lesson about an instrument most of the kids -- teachers, too -- have never heard about.

When Brian and Angela were considering moving to Saskatchewan after living in Brian's home state of Texas for ten years, I was terrified-happy. When they decided that Fort Qu'Appelle was where they wanted to raise their children, I couldn't stop myself from telling almost every resident, "My cousins from Texas are moving here."

"These are my cousins," I say.

"This is my cousin Brian."

"Angela's Grandmother and my Grandmother were sisters."

Come to think of it, Brian and I aren't really cousins. We're not blood relatives, but Brian is a kindred-spirit-cousin. He's an artist-cousin. He's a faith-walk-cousin. He's also a sacred-covenant-cousin. I know. I was there the day he and Angela exchanged vows. In fact, Michael and I were the official photographers, pitching in, as did the rest of the family.

As I'm getting ready for my blog launch on Sunday, maybe there'll be a few more cousins there than I may have first thought.


  1. This cousin thinks your pretty cool - word!

  2. You are so very right. Treaties were also a formal declaration of: We are now family.
    By that standard, we have an informal treaty between us. My family & yours. We are cousins by choice, by friendship, by spirit. We are family by treaties signed long ago between our ancestors.