Friends, this is an excerpt from my new book, now ready for publishing!
Out of the ashes of family,
The ancient figure lumbers out of eternal waters, to find the one spot on the beach to lay its eggs.
So, too, we make our initial fumbling attempts to carry on what we can recall of times past.
One spark from these ashes came out of what the old Navajo man does with his corn pollen of a pre-dawn do, making offerings to the coming day.
As we all do, he, too, had his story.
A life for the land could not have been more closely tied.
He had served in the US Marines, having used the initially forbidden language, Dineh, as a Code Talker, to eventually help save democracy, in the Pacific theatre of World War II.
One thing always in his fading memory was that sometimes, his late wife would do this, tote the small leather bag of corn pollen, to make these daily early morning offerings.
I dreamed of my old hunting buddy, Gene Rabesca of Radelie Koe, Fort Good Hope. Especially at the times we were traveling hundreds of miles from town in the dead of a sub-Sixty below winter he spoke of “the Last Mile,” when you have to gather whatever strength you can still muscle, to make it to where you are going.
One of our elderly grandmothers
Pulled from her bag several items
She had somehow saved
Gene said that these few things we had, so it was more than enough to make our lives again.
After the devastating ruin of the Canadian residential schools, its attempt at cultural genocide, those of my generation who managed to make it through the foreign flotsam of high school found our true Dene selves back to our Indigenous ceremonials, with the Sweat Lodge Ceremonies.
For good reason it was the first time we really met.
Quite a number of decades later, when I was already well into my second youth, past forty, I found myself in the Japanese city of Nagoya, with a small group of northern artists, to help in our government’s attempt to get more tourists to come to Canada.
As often happens to me on these trips I felt restless, unable to sleep. I told my roommate, Dene drummer Michael Cazon of Liidli Kue, Fort Simpson, that I would go outside to offer some tobacco.
As it turned out this was the Hour of the Morning Star.
There was a large number of tents which the city had set up for the homeless, in a park across from the hotel.
I found a large tree in a far corner and did this ceremonial, in memory of all the American soldiers who never made it home from Vietnam. As it turned out, Japan was a staging area for troops sent there.
And as it turned out, my home Sahtu area figured into the history of Japan, too, when our Dene prophet Eseh Ayah gave forth with events which ended with the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Again, history and its fumbling attempts to push we human turtles on.