IN A COOL CALM September evening, gazing into the sunset, I sat alone in my chair which was fashioned by time, pondering of the days gone by. The memories of my youth clearly remained with me.
I remember the days of my childhood upbringing. I was always encouraged to chase after the desires of my heart. I remember fondly the long walks and talks I had taken with my parents and grandparents. It was in these walks and talks where we discussed the things that were of interest to me. I also remember the Elders and the leaders of our community, when they sat in council discussing the issues that were to affect our people. A good memory of all these people was that they rarely pushed me aside, and when they did, I understood their reasons. These memories of my childhood I believe led me into a good direction in life. The wisdom and advice that I received from these people, I treasure. These things have helped me in my life, even to this day.
When I was young, at the elementary level of my education, I loved to dream. Happy dreams of what I would like to do when I grew up. I was encouraged by many to pursue my dreams. Though there were those who thought my expectations were beyond my ability, I kept my eyes on what I felt was positive. Although I wasn’t one of the top students in my class, I gave all that I had within me. I have always remembered the words of my teacher, “I see a small seed within you that will one day sprout and grow. You will become a positive influence on your people. You only have to chase and live out your dreams. “At the time I didn’t clearly understand what she meant, now I do.
In the later years of my public education I encountered many obstacles that at times seemed impossible to overcome. I faced pressure from my peers to get involved into things I felt wouldn’t profit me anything. Failures in relationships and goals I thought I would accomplish brought on feelings of low self-esteem many times. I wasn’t always welcomed by social groups and by people I thought were friends. What hurt the most was to witness firsthand role models and people I looked up to as heroes, fall and openly disgrace themselves. As I thought on these things, I began to realize that everyone had strengths and weakness, everyone at times fell short of their goals. The important thing I learned in seeing this and experiencing it myself, was that it was healthy in Spirit to keep my visions, and to view my failures as experiences to learn from.
Toward high school graduation I began to realize what a great responsibility was placed on my shoulders. Choices had to be made, choices I could only make, that would effect my life as an adult. Educational choices that would support myself and family, for to raise a family was one of the dreams I held dear to my heart. One day while sitting in an educational institution, I stopped what I was doing, and took a look around me. It was then that I realized that I no longer sat with the fellow classmates of my home community. Some were off pursuing their goals elsewhere, others were back home with their families. Not everyone turned out the same. It was in my heart to see all those I grew up with achieve happiness
in life, but it wasn’t always like that. Returning home from college one summer, I heard the unhappy news that a close friend I grew up with had taken his life. I saw a couple of the girls I went to school with pushing strollers which held their children. It was then that I realized I was no longer living in the innocent days of youth. What brought joy to my soul besides what had happened, was to see others I grew up with enjoying their days, pursuing their goals. I made sure to take the time to encourage those of my friends who were down in Spirit, to keep their youthful eyes on the bright side of life. We believed that all things were bound to get better.
One sunny Sunday afternoon, looking out the window of my apartment, I found myself longing for a friendship. I desired to have a companion. Someone to talk with, take long walks with, someone to share my deepest fears, sorrows and joys with. Someone who would be willing to understand, and who would have the same interests I had. Someone to spend time with, grow with and love with. At this time in my life I was in university and in my early twenties. I had friendships with girls I knew before, but never once had I had a serious relationship that involved both people giving themselves to each other. It came certain to me, I wanted someone to love.
Upon completion of my year at university, I returned home to my community to find work, as I usually did. We held our Annual Invitational Pow-Wow which welcomed other tribes and communities. I was head of the organizing committee, and it was in this Pow-Wow that I met the person I was looking for.
There were many dancers, but I could have sworn she danced alone, for it was only her my eyes were braced upon. I managed to meet her that summer, and in time, we got to know each other. We grew to love one another and got to know each others’ families. She also was in university and due to graduate in the same year I was to graduate. We decided to get married the summer we graduated. In our shared lives we found fulfilment and happiness. We instilled the values we both grew up with into both our children, and watched as they matured into young adults pursuing their dreams.
I became Chief of my community at the young age of 27, through the election of my people. I fought for what was right and held on to what was true. I was cautious on how I presented myself at all times, always careful to maintain my status. I held the title of Chief for 28 years and retired at the age of 55.
I sit alone this cool calm September evening, gazing into the sunset, in my chair which I fashioned by time. I ponder of the days gone by and get a fulfilling feeling of satisfaction. I have successfully lived out my dreams and heart’s desires. Though the love of my life has passed on before me, I trust that one day we will be reunited. My children are the ones I will pass my mantle down to.
I trust that they too will see the small seed within themselves, and allow it to sprout and grow into a positive influence for our people.
Rodney’s essay won the Grand Prize in The Nation’s Cree Youth Essay Contest.