A Road Trip to Blackfoot Crossing

Hollee drove down last evening so that we could head out early for a road trip to Blackfoot Crossing.  Recently, she was able to view Elder in the Making, a movie that I have not yet seen.  This movie really impacted her and Hollee asked if I would be up to a road trip to this beautiful place, a place where we are all reminded of our obligation to be treaty people.  I love Blackfoot Crossing and if my readers have not yet journeyed there, please do.  Episode 1.

Early this morning, I went out in bedroom slippers and fed the birds. (The sparrows are all raising their young and they congregate each morning, just like the wee pigs that they are. Oh my.  They are messy!) There in the back gardens, I found my first Oriental Poppy blooming and my first open Peony.  I love the lush green surrounding these highly saturated blossoms and thought about the next bush painting that is already living inside my head.

There was no shortage of conversation as we took 22X and steered ourselves east.  There was a powerful sky and a big whoosh of wind as various systems of weather were moving through the province.  We stopped at the landmark for Blackfoot Crossing shortly after Hollee noticed the graveyard from the road.  I felt determined to find Jordan’s resting place.  The wind was so strong and carried a bit of a bite.  The two of us took in the remarkable vistas.  It was an awesome first glance of the panoramic view of the valley and treaty lands.

Next, we visited Chief Crowfoot’s last camping place.

We enjoyed the brilliant colour of wild flowers throughout our times wandering.  So beautiful.

Next…Chief Crowfoot’s resting place.  If my readers haven’t read his biography as yet, I recommend Crowfoot: Chief of the Blackfoot by Hugh Dempsey.  A powerful book!

Bernard couldn’t meet up with us, but said he would include me in his smudge today.  He is such a beautiful person.  I was determined to find the place where Jordan, his son, rests and today, I found him…was able to take pause and pray.  I am grateful that Jordan’s life and mine intersected.  I treasured Jordan in his youth.  Today, I was able to remember.  The next time I travel to the crossing, I will bring a special gift that reflects that relationship and I will place it on his grave.

Wild Anemone

We had a magic-filled walk and went to the site where the museum has documented an earthen village. However, the archaeologists that were working on site today walked us through some of the more current discoveries and that was super exciting.

Wild Anemone

Wild Rhubarb?

Blue Flax

Lightning Strike

Mushroom burgers and homemade fries were enjoyed at Pete’s Bakery in Cluny.  We ended up giving Morris a ride into Strathmore after that.  He showed us a buffalo jump.  He showed us Hammer Hill.  He told us about making head dresses and about his early sketching as a young boy.  He showed us his high school.  It was lovely.

Peter’s daughter told us the story of her father.  She was such a beautiful person.  I so wish that I had asked her her name.  Eat at Peter’s Bakery in Cluny!  So good!!

I’m grateful for this day.  I’m grateful for what nature teaches us.

Safe and sound and rested, at home, Hollee headed north on the highway and Max and I went to the river.  My day began with flowers and ended with birds…and all else, made for a beautiful middle.

My Decade at Old Sun, My Lifetime of Hell by Arthur Bear Chief

This book is very accessible to readers on line.  Download the PDF file through Athabasca University Press and pour over the book, in just a few hours over two days.

Judy Bedford lays down tracks for us in the Preface, exploring the process of actually archiving this personal record and moving through revisions.

“Arthur’s living story will evolve, and so will his written story, which will have its own future. It will reach a far wider audience, and it will affect others in ways that cannot be predetermined. Like listeners, readers have a responsibility not only to approach Arthur’s story with respect and open themselves up to his words but to ponder the relationship between his story and their own lives—to find in his experiences truths about themselves. Readers are also responsible for “retelling” the story by sharing what they learn with others.

In this way, what is written will become oral. It will not be archived. As any story should, it will live and grow—and in that there is hope of reconciliation.” –Frits Pannekoek

Arthur’s remembrances of being a young boy, growing up with his mother near by, being taken from his family and educated in residence at Old Sun, is chilling.  What his section of the book lacks in elegance, is so authentic that the reader can only feel  helpless and sad.  Arthur recalls the sights and sounds of family and home on Blackfoot Reserve # 146.  His initial memories are very tactile in nature and it’s interesting how often he mentions the touch of his mother, throughout.

It is a very hopeless thing to read about a child who is overpowered by adults who are sick, perverse and controlling.  It is made me so angry to read that dearest friends should silence one another in the dark of night, in order to avoid reprisal and further hurt.

The Afterward, written by Fritz Pannekoek is excellent because it puts into a very clear context, Arthur’s experience.  It gives the reader a very strong foundation for understanding the journey of one man in the system of Residential Schools, but also, the frustrating process of revelation…of truth…of trauma…of financial settlement…and ongoing systematic abuse, whether that be physical or emotional.

I learned so much through this book and it causes me to hunger more for understanding of current issues around the Truth and Reconcilation process.  This is a very fragile thing…and readers must understand that without the active engagement of all Canadians, the political process meant/means nothing.  I invite readers to seek out information and to familiarize themselves to the various agendas that are out there.

Thank you to Jess, for the invitations to further my study. Thank you to Sable Sweetgrass for the awesome efforts via social media.  I’m really enjoying the book suggestions and on line discussion. Thank you to Michelle Robinson and the Community Safety Initiative: Aboriginal Pride with 12CSI.

One child’s heart…forever, changed.