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Creative Nonfiction

Sunrise over the mountains, I slept on top at Kicking Horse Pass. My first morning in the mountains where my people came to pray and find their way through life. A connection and test of skills to survive with a supermarket and convenience stores and take out. Grateful that I woke every morning before sunrise just as I did with my late grandpa when I was a little girl. I was his Sawed Off Half Breed, always lighter skinned and streaks of colour in my brown hair, a little girl with freckles. The only one with freckles in her family, is this what made her a sawed off half breed. Every morning Grandpa would remind her that she was from the land and to always greet Creation with a song, her morning song.

As the morning wetness of the ground seeped into her moccasins she watched her grandpa walk steadily in front of her. They were going to his spot where he sat. His sitting spot. I would take my place next to him and we would watch for the thin red line. Grandpa always said, “wait, wait for it, there’s the red line !” Then Mother Earth would wake up singing. I was six years old the last time I sat with grandpa in his spot. He died that Halloween. Every morning I woke up, lonely, missing my grandpa.

Years went by, now as I approached 30 I thought of grandpa and how we sat at his sitting spot. I take time and I go there to sit for four days and four nights, like I did when I was with my grandpa. I arrived with my mother leaving me below this valley and into the coulee I disappear. Walking steadily upward to the top where grandpa and I made camp many times I ponder on why did my grandpa come here, to this spot.

During my four days of fasting I see below me across the valley, an old Indian Residential School, boarding school my uncles called it. It was known to be a violent place for my mom and her two brothers. My grandpa’s sitting spot overlooking the boarding school of where his children lost their innocence.

My grandpa taught me what boarding school meant to him. It meant sitting there looking over his children, guilt ridden and helpless, knowing those screams in the distance was an innocent child. I sit there now, in a spot I shared with my grandpa, his sitting spot.

His first born grandchild lays below in an unmarked grave. We only ever heard my mothers tears as she cried out,”Leona”. We only ever heard the aftermath of stories of the suffrage his children endured so I can be free to learn. I sit there now, I inherit the sitting spot of my grandpa’s. I sit there today and say thank you and speak to the lost souls that remain buried in unmarked graves, one of which is my eldest sibling, my sister. Today I sit there and give thanks for ensuring a future of freedom and love for my child and grandchildren, for everyone’s child, for creation’s children.

Boarding School was horrid to my mother. The suffrage she endured taught me to appreciate the culture she grew her children with. My mother was a head chief’s granddaughter, her father and mother were leaders of their sacred holy life, they were the children of the leaders who signed Treaty 4, Adhesion September 1876, Fort Pelly, Rupertsland, Dominion of Canada. Having this legacy of Canada’s first statute of law being held entrust of her family my mother held on proudly to her family’s legacy.

Her shame of boarding school drove her out into society the first chance she could flee from the confines of the government issued Indian reservation. Attending school and working she fled the reserve and her family. She held onto her land ways of living and kept her traditional spiritual ways and language close to her being.

As a mother to three daughters, my mom sewed and taught her girls to dance their Indigenous dance and prayer life. She instilled a silent pride and confidence of their Indigenous identity. That I came full circle and sat in my Grandpa’s sitting spot.

This Sawed Off Half Breed, this little Indian girl, sat in her grandpa’s spot. Canada would come to learn about the unmarked, mass graves, proof to the stories told during the Truth and Reconciliation enquiries. My grandma spoke about the babies whose lives were lost in the furnaces, my mother spoke of babies who were bludgeoned to death and left in unmarked graves. Canada is just learning the truth of what we live with. Our truth cannot be changed but it is embraced by me, a sawed off half breed who sat in her grandpa’s sitting spot over the boarding school that ripped out his heart. That stole his children’s innocence. That caused his grandchild the harm of being sexually molested and losing their innocence, education, this is education. My legacy of learning comes from learning an ugly truth of what government policy has done to destroy my family. But our legacy continues as Canadians are shown our truth.

I walked 215 kms to Kamloops, praying for the tormented souls too ashamed to go home. I prayed for my mother for her soul to go home that this is not her shame to carry. There is no need to be silent no more that every child matters and our walk to Kamloops lifted our songs of praise to the heavens above. This is the legacy left to me, one to never forget my late sibling, named Leona, and all other children who did not make it home from boarding school.

Now tonight as I watch the setting sun from my grandpa’s sitting spot. My legacy shows me that we unite and join together to lift one another. To wipe the silent tears for those who are now found, the innocent children, Canada’s legacy of boarding school. The legacy of remembering the days my mom attended boarding school will be handed down as I give this sitting spot to greet creation’s morning song to my grandchildren.

September 10, 2021 23:41

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1 comment

Korinne H.
14:16 Sep 18, 2021

Wow! This was incredible.


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