Summer has come and gone. I think a drawing Alison McCreesh did of Penny sleeping on the dock perfectly sums up my summer in Yellowknife.
Man, I sure do love where I live. Take tonight, for instance. I decide to go for a walk on the lake to pick up some fresh white fish from a local fisherman. The lake is still solid and I start to walk with the little white dog. About five minutes into the walk, I hear someone calling and three dogs running towards us. Alison and Summer were by the remants of the snow castle, skating on the last patches of sleek ice and letting their dogs run. We chatted, the dogs romped, and then I carried on.
Shawn, the fisherman, was home and sold me fresh, beautiful white fish filets. He was hosting a dinner in a little houseboat for some youth he took out on the land earlier that day so I didn’t stick around.
On the walk home, I bumped into Wade who was biking home on the lake. We had a brief, funny conversation about meeting up with old friends, the pressure to have children and stolen bicycles.
I got home and cooked it up on my little stove with olive oil, a wee bit of balsamic vinegar and a dash of maple syrup. Heavenly. Just as I finished eating, I heard the loud rumblings of a bomboardier outside my door. I looked out and it was Shawn and Mike getting ready to hook up my neighbour’s little shack and haul it down the lake to a nearby island.
Now, I’m sitting back with a glass of red wine. It’s ten o’clock and it’s not dark yet. The lake is still solid except for where the current rips through next to JY’s place (yesterday Vince hauled a canoe out there and tried fishing). Life is good.
Last weekend I launched the Old Town Soundwalk on 107.5 fm.
The hardy souls who braved the rain were woven through Old Town with the help of a transistor radio. The 2-watt transmission was courtesy of the transmitter technicians at CBC North (obsolete equipment re-tuned for the soundwalk) and the mayor, Gordon Van Tighem, and his wife, Carol, kindly allowed me to mount the antenna on their clothes line.
The walk starts in Willow Flats and ends at the Wild Cat Cafe. Total soundwalk time is about an hour and twenty minutes.
The radio station will be running sporadically throughout the summer but is only available in Old Town, Yellowknife.
To sample the soundwalk anytime, or to take a walk from the comfort of your own home, the pieces are all available for downloading or streaming HERE..
I have been having a dream of a summer. A busy dream, but a good one. My daily work is recording the sounds of Yellowknife’s Old Town and asking people to share their stories about making a life
here when the city was new.
I’ll spend most of July mixing the stories and present the Old Town Soundwalk during Ramble and Ride, a community festival.
Yesterday, I spent the morning out on the lake recording Tony ‘Snowking’ Foliot waxing poetic about life on the lake and his neighborhood – houseboat bay.
I have a new mailbox now. Please send letters, postcards and bumper stickers to P.O. Box 2503, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, X1A 1C0
If you are interested in learning more about Redfern Mianscum’s sweat lodge or supporting his legal case, please click here…
You can listen to Redfern’s story through The Current’s website..
Special thanks to Dick Miller (producer); Jaime Little & the CBC North Cree section and to Peter Skinner and Paul Andrew at CBC Yellowknife.
I adore this page from L.M. Montgomery’s scrap book. It makes me think of spring on the east coast and of my grandmother, Minnie Graham. When spring came to PEI, she would be in her little blue Ford, cruising all over the island looking for May flowers. May flowers are elusive, tiny pink flowers – usually found in ditches by those who know what they’re looking for. Grammy would pull over to the side of the road, grab her basket and clippers (which she always kept in the glove compartment for such occasions) and step down into the ditch. She’d snip them for a fresh bouquet to put on her kitchen table. She also loved bulrushes, pussy willows and L.M. Montgomery.
When I was a little girl, I would that a reoccurring nightmare that my parents would bring me to a school and then leave me. They would tell me to study hard, give me a few pennies, and then they would walk away.
This dream wasn’t based on anything other than a childhood separation anxiety. They never left me behind and I grew up surrounded by aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.
I knew where my people came from and I knew that our connection to that place ran deep. Today when I return to Prince Edward Island, where my family has been for generations, I feel rooted.
What would it feel like to be cheated of that sense of belonging?
Welcome to Canada’s legacy of Indian Residential Schools.
Most of us are aware of this dark stain on Canadian history. Yet, I wonder if we have come to terms with just how much residential schools are still impacting aboriginal families.
There are no words to describe how traumatic it must have been for children to be yanked out of their communities and sent in float planes or put on buses to attend a church run school.
Why? Because they were “Indian” and they had to be educated in the modern world if they were going to succeed. It was the law and most parents had little choice but to dress their small children in their Sunday best and send them to white man’s school.
Today in Yellowknife, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings made their first NWT stop. Former students gave testimonials of what they went through and how it’s impacted their lives.
One man shared a story about being forced to leave his home at eight years old and not returning until he was sixteen. He had been forbidden to speak Inuktitut, so he lost his language. He endured years of physical and mental abuse at the school. I heard several stories about children were sent away to school. When they came back – in some cases years later – they found out their parents had died while they were gone.
It’s heartbreaking to hear these stories but it’s so important to listen and to bare witness to what happened and what can never happen again.
I think of the little children, so innocent, being shipped off far away from their parents and from everything they knew. I also think of the childless parents, left behind, thinking they were doing what was right for their child but heart broken because they didn’t have any children to raise. These are scars that, for some, never heal. The suicides, the booze, the drugs, the abuse are emblems of those scars.
The logo on the Truth and Reconciliation banner is ‘For Every Child Taken, For Every Parent Left Behind’.
I thank everyone that got up and told their story. They had to get off their chest and we had to hear it.
This is year one of a five year process that involves hearings as well as settlements. Telling these stories is part of the healing process but it’s only part of the path. There HAS to be services out there to help people who heal. The hypocrisy of Harper’s apology to residential school survivors in 2008 when the Conservative government has just announced cuts to the Aboriginal Healing foundation is unacceptable.
FROM CBC ARCHIVES:
In 1928, a government official predicted Canada would end its “Indian problem” within two generations. Church-run, government-funded residential schools for native children were supposed to prepare them for life in white society. But the aims of assimilation meant devastation for those who were subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Decades later, aboriginal people began to share their stories and demand acknowledgement of — and compensation for — their stolen childhoods.