Many of us go through various stages of life, some happy, some sad, some serious, some funny. Of all the various stages of my life, none struck me as much as when I left home to go to school down south. Every fall, as I can recall, we would all go out to see big brothers, sisters, uncles and future aunts disappear on a plane to go to the fabled land of high schools. Upon their return the next summer (some never came back or returned as old folks) our families were introduced to strange individuals who had long hair and wore clothing that we could laugh at (only if we dared, because these guys were much bigger than us). Jimi Hendrix and Woodstock were apparently legendary topics discussed in bars and parties (whatever they were, we knew nothing of those things) and seemed to be way out of our league. Even the slurred words of Bob Dylan were only appreciated in its musical overtones. What ever it was, it signalled a change in our perspective of the world as we knew it.
The coming of age for my class, when the time came to be our turn, instilled secret fears of change and yet was exciting at the same time. We weren’t heading out to some northern, suburban backwater, we were heading for the nation’s capital, Ottawa. As we arrived, we quickly checked out the chicks, to discover that there were many, many of them, and sometimes, choices were hard to make. For some reason, as all high school movies ever made pointed glaringly and loudly, there were only a few girls that everyone wanted, so competition was fierce and rowdy.
The time for change was upon us, as we quickly discovered on a routine visit to the after school hang out proved. You see, we hung out at the friendship centre in Ottawa and it was easy to get to, right next to the bus lanes, just off Parliament Hill and next to the world’s longest skating rink, the Rideau Canal. We arrived at the centre to discover that the manager had left his keys inside. He dangerously decided to break a small window and access the handle. We were just going to enter the building when a whole swarm of cop cars and men with long coats called us down with their guns drawn. Whoa!
The manager tried to explain his situation and I wondered, where did these guys come from? It was only a matter of seconds that the police arrived after the glass was broken and I quickly deduced that those people who always seemed to be making out every evening in front of the centre were undercover RCMP and not gays. In fact, they were cops. We were quizzed on whether we were AIM members and we asked in return who was AIM? That got us in a lot of trouble and many questions later, as the president of the centre arrived a while later we were released from quite possibly an ill fate. Meanwhile, a crowd had arrived and I wondered just exactly who those police thought we were.
I knew that native people in Canada were not considered to be much of a threat to national security, except for that time when a near riot erupted when the monthly money ration arrived an hour late at another school in La Macaza and we whispered about in the school halls. We heard of a guy (who I now know) who had chained himself to the school printing press (he obviously wasn’t printing the King James version of the Bible). I knew of guys who hung out at the Blue Angel and cavorted until the wee hours of the morning and we were already exposed to Little Big Man. We heard of another guy who claimed to be a nephew of Jay Silverheels (Tonto, for those of you who don’t know much), but I didn’t know of any group of people who warranted so much scrutiny from the law. That got me to thinking and asking questions. That’s when I heard and learned about politics. That was a turning point in my life that I can still remember clearly. Other memories, if I can remember them, just don’t cut it when it came to making me think of whom I am.
Another coming of age was when the dams were built in the north, just around the time our communities were adjusting to rock & roll and loud, loud music. I went to many concerts in the south, and compliments of Indian Affairs, we got free tickets to every concert that had a venue at the Civic Centre. We saw Frank Zappa (who had a profound effect on my understanding of the universe), The Who, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, just about every artist we ever heard on the old jukebox back home performed for our decibel-demented ears.
Today, we are at a new coming of age for the Eeyou Nation. I just hope that I can remember this one clearly.