My Moccasins | June 03, 2020 🗣💬
At the age of 12, I did not know what is good for me, nor how do I make life decisions that will change my life path.
We trust our parents, and grandparents to do right by us. We knew how to work, how to chop wood, build a fire, gut fish, then cut and hang it to dry. We learned by the age of 12, to use a power saw, how to skin a moose, and most knew how to shoot a gun or snare a rabbit. We also knew what it was like in the winter to cut a hole in the ice to fetch lake water and how to carefully transport the water on a toboggan without it tipping.
We also learned how to sew, how to darn if there were holes in socks, we learned how to bead and the everlasting smell of moosehide curing.
I remember activity as the end of August was near, I knew school was starting and I was looking forward to going to grade 8. Little did I know out of everyone around me, I wasn’t going to be starting school in our small town.
I recall, making a trip to Prince George, where my life would change.
“Prince George College” - what was this place and why were houses lined up? four houses on side and four on the other. This was now going to be my home for the school year. I remember crying and wondering why I was here, what did I do? Was this a punishment? I know I wanted to go home. I felt my heart ache as I needed my siblings. I was alone in the room with a bunk bed made out of metal and a dark grey wool itchy blanket.
School day started with prayers, before each meal we had to pray, morning bell started with prayer... my heart still ached. No matter how many times we prayed, my loneliness was too much to bear. I would cry myself to sleep and hold my thoughts to myself.
I remember one Saturday my Mamma came to visit, I can’t remember just who came with her, as she held me I remember crying and telling her the kids were being mean and making of me because I tried to “Indian dance” but I didn’t have “kesgwut” she held me tight and told me I was going to be okay. Her next visit was with my Mom, and Mom Mamma was wrapped in a beautiful blue shawl, I remember running up to her, as I did opened her handbag and pulled out a pair of moccasins - that were made special for me. I put them on and I felt bigger than life. Every moment after that, wearing my moccasins I felt pride, as I would look at my feet I knew Mamma’s hands touched every bead, I knew her stitch and I also knew the hard work that came from curing the moosehide.
Whenever (which was all the time) I felt lonesome, I would put my moccasins under my pillow as I slept in the dorm far away from home, I would smell the fresh tanned moosehide and I would fall into a sleep that would take me home.
Now, over 40 years later I hold the moccasins close to my heart knowing I can visit the memories, and all that brings me close to Mom and Mamma, knowing the decisions to send me away was not a punishment, but as an opportunity. I didn’t understand it then, but I did years later when they explained to me the reasons why. I missed out on memory making moments, I also felt like an outsider.
Then looking at my moccasins, I know deep in my heart, I truly did belong