The Movie is Here in Thunder Bay. Don't Miss it.

The Movie is Here  in Thunder Bay. Don't Miss it.
Indian Horse, the movie based on the book by Richard Wagamese

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Community Changes

Ma-nee Chacaby is a Native elder and teacher. Here she reminisces about the time her community encountered white culture.

I will write about my community, where I grew up in the bush.

Once upon a time, when I was young and beautiful, I lived with my kokum. Her name was Tannie Chacaby. She raised me. Her teachings are the reason I became the woman I am today. I miss her sometimes because I have nobody like her in my life.

She was a big part of the community. People would come from faraway places to meet my kokum. She had many talents and was a very good story teller. She was a wise old woman.

She would have gatherings once a month to talk to the community about her visions of our people’s future. She would say, "something is happening. Big changes are coming to our community. You people have to be prepared. Be ready to have people come from faraway places. They will demand things from us. We have to say no if we want to survive and protect our children. People will want our children. I see things that will hurt our community and we have to be strong and work together."

But some people said, “aweeee, she is just getting too old. She does not know what she’s talking about.” They would laugh and would say, "the old woman will say things to protect the scrawny little child she’s raising."

I would sit and watch people put my kokum down. I thought when I get older I will protect my kokum.

One summer, sometimes after Kokum told everyone what was going to happen, people started to arrive from that big black beast, the train. The train was as black as black could be. Men with funny hats and some women with funny dresses and funny hats got off the the black beast. I remember one man with two big giant dogs, the first time I ever saw dogs bigger than any dogs in our community.

Things were coming off the train. Big machinery would take stuff off the train, then get it on those ugly big-arm things. Those were bulldozers. They were here to take the forest down, so I heard. People were talking about big money happening. Some people got boxes of wine, beer, liquor, you name it. Our community was getting rich.

People in our community were happy talking about big money. I never knew what money was. I asked my kokum what money was. She said, "it’s a paper that drives people crazy and make them do crazy things. Sure they buy food but there is other stuff that makes them crazy when they have paper money and buy those boxes off that train." I tried to figure how I could help the community and stop them from buying boxes of that crazy stuff.

The community was going crazy leaving their children behind with no baby sitter and just going crazy. There were so many people not far away from our community. We could hear things going on in the bushes so I decided to go check things out. I was little but big enough to get around. People were cutting the trees. Piles and piles of tree limbs just being tossed off to one side and some men were piling logs.

I went back home. I told my kokum what I saw. She had tears in her eyes rolling down. She tried talking to the community but they were already acting very crazy. Some people would listen but nobody was serious, just happy to make money and buy those crazy boxes that made them go crazy. My kokum said, “I really don’t want to live much longer as I feel my time will come soon and I have to leave the community. You have to be strong. You are a special person. Don’t ever forget that. "

And that season when the leaves were falling, my kokum called me to come to her. She needed to talk. She said she was leaving to go somewhere to try be with her spiritual advisor. She needed to be somewhere quiet where she would make her life lighter. She would be back before white flakes came down. “This is the time for me be gone while the leaves are falling. You can gather them and pile them beside the wall. The community will need then for the homes that are not ready for white flakes.”

I just did what I was told. I had a rough life after. People were mean but I managed to survive. The community was getting bigger. People from Faraway places were here to stay.

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