Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This Town Talks to Me

Near midnight, I am invisible behind my headlights after six hours driving west accross the prairie. There is one light on in Major, Saskatchewan. Rona and John take me in, make Earl Grey tea and send me to bed.

I wake too late to treaty walk the town, so I treaty drive, get out to take pictures, hop back in. It's fall. It's cloudy. Winter is on its way.

"This town has stories," I say in my opening remarks to Major School as they celebrate Saskatchewan Library Week. "Just look at your street signs. They're talking. If I could rent a house here I could write for a month, even longer, and I'd be so happy. This town reminds me of Macoun where I went to school. I feel like an artist at home in your town."

These young people, kindergarten to grade twelve, fit into one classroom. I tell stories of my own, about living in Northern Saskatchewan Black Lake, writing about Southern Saskatchewan home. They listen and smile in just the right places. I read from my novel, Voice of the Valley. I share my Treaty Walks blog.

"What an honour it is to be with you today," I say. "This is a tough year as you prepare to say goodbye to your school." I dedicate and sing two songs to this community in transition: one remembering my grandfathers who took different paths during the war, and a second which begins, "There's a tree on the prairie, alone under the sun. Branches waving, leaves a shaking, cause her roots won't let her run."

As I drive away, knowing Major for under twelve hours, I am in mourning. I've heard this story before. The grey sky and damp earth sympathizes with the collective wisdom: a community dies when it looses it's school.

As I drive away, there are two treaty narratives trailing behind me. The first narrative I know well. It's the settler narrative. My people came to this land (peacefully because of the treaties signed with the first people.) We set up house on the land. We farmed and raised families. We built communities.

The second narrative, the Indigenous narrative, I am still learning to hear. The people lived complex and sophistocated lives on this land. They welcomed newcomers. They made treaties to share the land. Then, most of the land was taken away. Their way of making a living, interrupted, and changed forever. And then the children were taken away. The Indigenous narrative knows a thing or two about loss.

As I drive away, I wonder if settler descendant loss might cultivate empathy and solidarity with those who have lost before us.



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Treaty Walking with Sue and Lanelle

Sue drove into my yard around seven this morning. We've made a Treaty Walk date. She parks her car, meets me on my front steps. We hug, smile, laugh, and start walking down the lane.

What's new with you? Bla, bla, bla, says Sheena.

And how about you, Sue?

Sue Bland, artist and community dreamer, has been researching Treaty Four park. I have goose bumps as Sue tells me about what she's been learning from the Saskatchewan Archives.

A Volkswagen crunches to a stop on the gravel. It's my sister-in-law, Janet. All three little smurfs are tucked into the back seat. We chat about Janet's community cooking classes, making chicken lasagna this past week and how much fun folks are having.

Kellen has climbed into the front seat. Neve is strapped beyond her control. Janet tells Lanelle she can walk with us, and Mommy will pick her up once she's dropped off Kellen at Auntie's house. Lanelle jumps out and we start walking.

Pretty much a perfect morning in the yellow-leaf morning, sun rising behind the clouds. I'm holding my neice's hand, treaty walking.

What will the next generation learn about walking together on this land? What will the next generation teach us about getting along together?


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Morning Ride

side-by-side through swathed stubble
the four legged carry
(ages 17 and 46)
talking about Lord of the Rings,
writing spaces, hashtag poetry,
and what it is like
with blonde hair
riding Getty in the treaty four parade
this year cantering by invitation
into the arbour at the pow wow grounds

horse hooves and healing
circles within circles


Marina saddling her horse, Getty, for me.
Marina on her sister's horse, Missy.
Me and Getty
Missy and Getty walk side-by-side
shadows past, present, future