There are memories that haunt me, I see them in my distant past and wish they had never occurred.
I Wish I Could Forget
I recall that as an innocent 6-year-old boy, hearing white people shout, “Go back to where you came from, you damn Indians” at my family after we left Kitigan Zibi in the 1950’s to live in a small Christian town in the Ottawa Valley (Algonquin Territory). Why we were not welcomed there (in our homeland of many thousands of years) by some white people has never been explained to me to this very day.
I remember how the travelling nurse, who went from school to school in the outlying areas of the Valley, would enter our classroom (at the school I attended) and shortly after doing so, comb through the hair of my siblings or me, to check for the presence of headlice. I guess in her mind, if the “Indian” children didn’t have lice, then no one else in the classroom did either.
I remember the vulgar and cruel comments made about my ancestors by many of my classmates and even by some of the teachers. It was the racism of the teachers that damaged me emotionally, and spiritually more so, than did any action of my fellow students. The most ignorant of the villagers where we lived, saw us as a dirty and savage people who had no right to be living among them, even though my parents were sober, hardworking, honest and dedicated parents, holding Christianity as their spiritual light.
I remember the violence in the taverns and bars I went to when I was a young man back in the late 60‘s and early 70’s. I often got into 2 or 3 fistfights on any given weekend. Back then, as I do today, I refuse to back away from a challenge. I no longer settle things with my fist at this stage in my life, I prefer peace brought about through communication and dialogue to ward off conflict.
I Wish I Could Remember
There are memories I wish I could recall but I cannot. The things I would like to remember are teachings of the land, the legends of the Algonquins, our folklore, our ceremonies and longhouse teachings (yes, we had longhouses too), as told to me by my dad who was a fluent Algonquin speaker. Unfortunately, my dad had no knowledge of our ancient stories and spiritual beliefs. He was a devout Christian and to him, the ways of the Algonquins of long ago served no purpose to his children in this world where dog eats dog and where the acquiring of wealth defines purpose of life. He did not pass the language on to his children, so psychologically broken was he by the power of the Indian Act.
I recall the bad part of my life as one of alcoholism, of waste, of despair, of confusion and of searching for answers in regards to spirituality. I recall putting the bottle down in the spring of 1991 and vowing to take a stand forevermore, not as a warrior but as a fighter for human rights, mine and yours and for all people of this world.
With sobriety, I finally saw the birds, animals, fish and trees in a way I had not even imagined before. I felt the warmth of a fire that I myself had kindled in such a profound way that tears flowed like rivers down my face.
I recall back then that I, at long last, took fatherhood as something great and wonderful, an opportunity to influence, shape and mold a young mind of my bloodline and prepare a human being for the wonders of this wonderful world. Finally sober and strong, I endorse role modelling and mentorship. I pray to Creator each and every dawn, requesting health and wellness for family, friends and all the people around me who may have lost their way.