The year was in the 1970’s and the village expanded from what was a small intimate group to a larger diameter, giving room for growth to young people.
The young children who survived the transition from a purely Native to a modern non-Native culture now lived and raised their young in the village. Older children still left for distant places to attend school but many of the young now lived with their families or a guardian in the community.
New events took place in the community. Liquor was no longer restricted and the “Indian list was “passé.” As with a new toy, it became an obsession that could not be left alone and the observer became the partaker. The village was a tumult of uncontrollable gaiety lasting but a short time and in it’s wake leaving behind desolated people who knew no boundaries or limitations. Not knowing the lasting effects it would have on their families.
What had been a poor but serene village became one of anxiety and disillusion. The situation grew worse and at its peak took lives physically and emotionally drained others of hope. It was as if a great sickness or bad spirits had invaded the village. Children were left to care for themselves and the Elders of the village could not reach through the stupor of this powerful enemy. Even some of the Elders became victims.
The all-night brawls from adults infected the minds of the very young and their effect would come to light in years to come.
There was a young mother so sweet and kind, who went sliding with the children in the cold winter night. Who sat by the fire softly weaving stories of old while teaching the daughter the fine art of embroidery. Who made moccasins of smoke smelling hide and sacks with colors that dazzled their eyes. Who kindled wood for the fire, which sent such aromatic smells that it stayed in the mind of the daughter, as she grew old.
Down in the ditch she laid not able to rise as the daughter passed diverting her eyes. “She is not my mother, she is just an old drunk.” “Shame, shame, double shame!” The morning has arrived and the people from the party are still on the streets staggering to and fro. The daylight has revealed its bile. In the house, the father sits at the table full of empties. The floor is so filthy it has no pattern. Across the floor lies a body face down and the place reeks of beer and stale cigarettes. The mother is somewhere, still drinking or passed out. Oh God, where are you, we need you so badly.
The young woman witnesses the destruction of a village by a deadly enemy and asks where and who will help us? How can we survive under such conditions? Mama, Mama, I need my quiet loving mother. I don’t know who this stranger is, laughing too loud, fighting and shouting with flashing eyes and no prettiness in her face, crying in the corner or sleeping during the day, while I am hungry. Who can help my Mama? 1 am so sad and empty within.
Afraid and alone I wander the streets begging at doors for food for my younger siblings. The images of the night linger in the day making ourselves so small and quiet. No one will notice but sleep is a danger and minds must be alert. A small whimper gives signal to those around and we must scurry like mice to a new hiding place. Who are these strangers who come in the night? To frighten children and steal their youth? No warmth in the heart and no warmth for the body. No food in the house and no one who cares. There is no time to sleep and no time to play.
Some times we have to distance ourselves and look back and be thankful that someone heard our cries, as a grandparent, a parent or a child.
Many of us are still affected by those times and if we allow it they will steal what joy we have today.
The writings I wrote come from observations and stories related to me by others. I wrote it in different periods of time and complied it to the present.
Wellness Week brings these thoughts to my mind; I chew on them and reflect.
By a Cree Woman