Tonight I am writing this from my room in the historic St. Regis Hotel in downtown Winnipeg. For the last couple of hours I have been entertained by the awesome light show of a passing thunderstorm. I am happy that we were smart enough to make the decision to stop in downtown Winnipeg and park our motorcycles. Motorcycling in the rain is not easy and can be dangerous.
This is my first trip to Winnipeg and I am amazed at the large number of First Nations people I see here. I have heard stories about gangs in this city but so far my own limited experience tonight has been good. The downtown core has an interesting mix of historical buildings like the St. Regis Hotel and newer concrete, steel and glass multilevel structures.
I understand that the St. Regis is very popular among First Nation people. Most of the clientele I have seen here tonight are Native. Obviously, the owners of the hotel realize who their clientele is. Other hotels, especially those frequented by First Nation people, could take a lesson from the St. Regis.
The décor in the lobby very much reflects Native heritage with artwork and craftwork on the walls. Even the wall paper accent in my room is in a Native style. First nation people are celebrated in this hotel and that makes me feel good. In my limited travels across Canada this is the first time that I have seen such a First Nation presence in a major city downtown hotel.
For the past few days myself and my friend Mike have been rolling across the prairies on our motorcycles. There is a constant and strong presence of First Nation people all across the land in communities not far off the beaten track.
Sometimes while I am riding through the vast openness of the prairies I am reminded of the muskeg flats on my own land on the James Bay coast. Earlier today I spotted the storm raging over this city on the horizon. It took the whole day to reach it.
Riding a motorcycle across this country is not easy. I find that it takes great concentration and strength to move safely along straight stretches of road that seem to go on forever. Sometimes I imagine myself as a young warrior on a horse riding free through the prairie pasture land. I conjure up another time when the people roamed this land. How peaceful it must have been to be part of a moving community that flowed over the land with the movement of the buffalo. This life must have been wonderful with few worries as there were plenty of buffalo for food and mother earth smiled on us all day long.
I have had my magical moments out here on the prairies. While Mike and I were parked on the side of the Trans-Canada admiring rolling hills near swift current, Saskatchewan a friend of ours Peter Sackaney, drove up and joined us in our pause on the prairie. It was very strange to meet Pete here in the middle of nowhere. He is a First Nation person who works as a drug and alcohol counselor at the Friendship Centre in Kapuskasing, Ontario. He was heading west to attend a major Friendship Centre national conference in Vancouver.
Tomorrow, we will make our way back to Ontario and I must say I am looking forward to those winding roads and rolling terrain. A fond farewell to the prairies.