I drive into Regina to meet up with Victoria. We switch out of my Envoy and into her 1980 Cressida Toyota because it will be better on gas. Victoria has ordered sushi from Wasabi in the north end which we pick up on our way out of the city, heading for Saskatoon and the Truth and Reconcilliation Nation Event. Each event has chosen one of the seven teachings as a theme, and this one is truth.
We make it to Prairieland Park which is hosting the gathering in time for the "Call to Gather". We are not sure where to sit, but then I see elder Alma Poitras sitting near the front, right. I sit beside her and she welcomes me with a smile. I introduce my daughter and they shake hands.
A variety of people are making speeches and putting their thoughts into the memory box. Sue Bland and her sister paddlers stand at the front and read a prepared speech. They will canoe in Lac Laronge as an act of cross culture understanding and renewal. They will build relationships as an act of reconciliation.
We are in the bleachers at eight o'clock, entertained in an outdoor concert, and there is so much talent, but I'm here for one reason: Buffy Sainte Marie! She has been a favorite singer and songwriter of mine since I was a little girl, listening to her records thanks to my mom. When she finally comes on stage after ten, I find tears washing down my face.
"Really, Mother?" Victoria says.
I ignore her and just soak up the moment, snapping psychedelic pictures, trying to get Buffy to come into focus with my zoom lens. I sing to almost half of the songs.
Victoria is not feeling good, but I can't leave early. I have to be here until the end.
We sleep at cousins, Ian and Ruth. I ask Victoria if she wants to sleep in, but no, she wants to come to the Saturday morning hearings. We are a little late and miss the first presenter, but the second presenter is just beginning. His story is strong and this is the first time he's come to a gathering like this. He hopes to leave his pain from residential school here on the table, he says. Once he is done speaking, everyone stands, clapping, as he makes his way off the stage. There is a handshake line, and many of the official wittnesses who sit in the front row are first in line to shake his hand.
We hear another elder share his story. I have tears running down my face and Victoria has her head on my shoulder; one of the women wearing a blue vest comes and touches my shoulder. "Are you alright?" she asks. I notice the blue vest has the word truth written within the circle.
"I'm good," I say. "This is my baby girl," I add.
We stand and applaud the next elder as he leaves the stage.
Two young men are invited to the stage next. They are marching from Vancouver to Ottawa to draw attention to the outdatedness of the Indian Act, calling on the government to facilitate an Aboriginal person being in charge of Aboriginal affairs. Victoria finds their facebook page and likes it immediately. We go shake their hands after they are done their presentations. I tell them briefly about my walk and promise to promote their cause within my circle of influence.
We next year a young health care professional whose mother, mother-in-law, and aunties all went to residential school. She shares about the healing process. We stand and clap, and then her mother-in-law sits in the speaker's chair and shares her story. My tears drip down my face again. One of the helpers in a red vest brings me a box of kleenex which are placed in the rows all over the auditorium.
After we stand and applaud this last elder, we realize it is almost noon and we walk to the back of the hall, but I stop to thank the woman who checked up on me. I look for one of the white bags with a blue stripe which are collecting the teary tissue to be placed on a sacred fire. I find a woman at the back holding a bag and I put my tissue in there. The next speaker who has taken the stage is compelling. His pain is weighing his body over.I pray for him as we walk out of the gathering.
I want to get Michael and I a teeshirt and something for Char, Keitha and our girls. We run into Jan Missins and we have a good laugh and some catching up. She tells us that anyone wearing the vests are health workers. That's what her role is, too.
We walk back toward the main exit and I see the first elder we heard speak. He is sitting with his son and a friend. As we walk toward him he says to Victoria. "Hello, you there. I want to ask you one thing."
"Yes?" says Victoria.
"Where have you been all my life?"
We laugh and they laugh as we walk closer.
"Here comes some autographs," his friend says.
"I just want to shake your hand," I say. "Your words were very powerful and from the heart. I'm a school teacher, and I have such respect for your courage to share your story so that we can educate ourselves."
"Anything I've said that can help you, please us it. I just want to help," he says.
"Thank you so much," I say.
His friend says, "You're famous now."
"Yup, pretty soon Hollywood will be calling too."
We banter a little more, then I tell him about my blog and ask if I can put his picture on it. He says sure. I want a picture with Victoria and he pats his knee. She doesn't hesitate and hops in for the shot.
We laugh some more and off we go, stopping for a quick lunch at Yip Hongs off 8th Street. Victoria is still not feeling well. She falls asleep as we drive out of the city. I have so much on my mind, I don't even play the radio.
Seems strange to leave such suffering and healing, heading off to celebrate Crystal and Kevin's wedding shower. But this is our reality. This is our truth.
Reason Number Seven Why I Love Treaty Walks: Opportunity to think on significant teachings, like the seven sacred teachings -- love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility, truth. Or the Tipi Teachings -- obedience, respect, humility, happiness, love, faith, kinship, cleanliness, thankfulness, sharing, strength, good child rearing, hope, ultimate protection, balance or control.