Views from the Road in Manitoba - 1998

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A quick trip to B.C. - spending time with Bear Grandfather in Manitoba - by Eloise Charet

A quick trip to B.C. - spending time with Bear Grandfather in Manitoba

by Eloise Charet

July 14, 1998

I begged a lift from the truckers in Regina at the Husky Station. I stopped in Calgary to see my son Alexander and Dave Good. I was stuffed with tortillas, good conversation and coffee. I made it in 36 hours to my Valley, and collapsed on the sofa at Nicholas and Jen's (son and daughter-in-law) house. I spent time with them and Oliver (youngest son).

I went to the demonstration in Castlegar and Nelson for water. The group displayed a beautiful banner designed by Morgan, Manna, Barra, Richardo and others. Many people spoke. I got a round of applause before even uttering a word. I felt honored. Most of the Phoenix Rising people were there.

The owner of the Glacier Cafe gave a donation, as well as Evelynn Good of Hills and someone else. Holy Smoke gave me a gift from the creator, a pouch of spirit tobacco. Grigg welcomed me at Earthborne with treats and a hundred hugs.

I was given a pipe- a hand carved eagle with a drop of water on its tail. I was so touched and speechless, wondering if I could live up to such a work of art. A deep gratitude to Spring, who had heartily carved such a tool to talk to the 'spirits'.

The Dance was a success, lots of hard work and pizzas. Tana McPhee organized the event, sweating in the heat, cooling herself with beer, served by Jen, stacked by Oliver. Many thanks to Nancy, Barra, Judy Canielle, Rik and Morgan, Patty and Glen, for creating such a wonderful evening. Lulled by the music of New Moon(?), we danced all night.

A stroke of luck, a young handsome environmental professor, Darren Bardati, from Quebec, was heading home with his faithful dog Oliver. We chug-a-lugged through the mountains in his VW van, discussing religion, life, and the water. Upon reaching Brandon, I searched for Karin and Kerry for 36 hours.

I was on the verge of giving up, having called the wrong number ten times, leaving depressing messages on some stranger's answering machine. My last attempt at calling from downtown, when I spotted the Flow-mo [Flowmobile] sailing down main street. I grabbed Darren and we chased, almost losing them, to the point of him stating: "I don't believe you have any friends!" But luck was on our side and we all met up and had a coffee and chat, catching up on all our events.

They seemed quite happy, but informed us that some four men at the campsite in Brandon took possession of our tarp and threatened to beat Kerry up if he touched it. He decided to keep his teeth, so they [Kerry and Karin] moved into town.

That afternoon we moved on; the mosquitoes were intolerable at night, so we decided to come right into Winnipeg to rest and clean ourselves up at my daughter Karmala's place.

There was a Pow-wow at Long Plain Reserve in Portage, so we left Kerry in Winnipeg to rest up, and the women left to camp at the Pow-Wow. We were thrilled at the incredible outfits- from women wearing tinsel bell dresses to men feathered resembling great eagles, blowing their bone eagle whistles, revving up the men who were pounding the drums. The intertribal dancers were beautiful.

We walked during the day and danced at night. The only prejudice we received was having a soda pop thrown at me and kids trying to urinate on our tents. Next time we decided to set ourselves up away from the bathrooms.

We talked to some elders; two brothers came up to sign the car, stating there is too much diabetes and cancer on the reserve. They both looked ill. One of them, Dave Woods, could barely move, but he mustered his strength to sign the car, his last deed on earth, as he silently slipped away that night. "Tell them we are dying as a species, especially on the reserves; tell them in Ottawa", were his last words and; "What are they doing to their people?"

As we attempted to speak at the Pow-Wow, they looked at us strangely and said another man was here with a paper just like yours. We were perplexed, but when Karin was sitting besides a woman called Angella amongst 300 people, she found out that Bear Grandfather was only 30 miles away. We left to go and find him.

There he sat in her house, rather depressed from the lack of attention in Winnipeg. "I brought you a present", Angella stated, and introduced us. He couldn't believe it and was quite thrilled to come and live with us.

The next night we returned to Winnipeg, and Pat Wilson and her son Matthew arrived from Georgetown, Texas, with water from the Laredo. Pat and I worked together running two orphanages in Bangladesh. In the morning we returned to Portage La Prairie, and while Bear Grandfather and I did two interviews, Kerry, Pat and Matthew walked 10 K. We were so proud of Matthew, for [doing that at] his 11 years of age.

Maukwa Mishomis (Bear Grandfather), otherwise known as Rick Guardipee (he even answers to Ted) informs us that his real name in his native tongue covers two lines on a page. So we call him by Maukwa Mishomis, his latest title.

He is of Blackfeet ancestry, his mom from Montana and father from Lethbridge. He was born on the border between our two countries. He must have grown up on a high meat protein diet as he towers over everybody at 6 foot 7 inches. Us poor vegetarians can't hold a carrot stick up to him, so whenever we hugged him, we never got any further than his belly. He informed us he already lost 100 lbs, and I'm still struggling with my 10 lbs. loss. He was in a lot of pain from walking. He said those Ontario hills are a nightmare (thanks!).

He felt bad about attempting to break into the White Press, as he calls it. They ignore him because he's INDIAN, and Winnipeg proved him right. I do better with my own people, he stated. But somehow we felt that combining our strength (as I get nowhere on the reserves) would make a difference. We talked on the Radio (CJOB), and the announcer literally laughed at us because 'there is nothing wrong with the water'; and when Bear Grandfather mentioned a big thank you - MEG WECH to his people, the interviewer cut off the calls which encouraged what we were doing. I smell the odor of prejudice.

Later when we went to the First Nation newspapers, Bear Grandfather got a better response than me. Anyways, I tried my best to bridge the gap between our people.

On Saturday, August 8th, we marched through the city right on the road. The police told us we weren't Sheldon Kennedy, and to get on the sidewalk. Jim Mickarz[sp.?] joined us, his son started Earth First in Manitoba. He, Kerry and Bear Grandfather proudly led the procession, carrying the Sundance Staff, loaded with Medicine Bags, eagle feathers and the skin of a bear that Maukwa Mishomis had to battle in his younger days.

Behind these great warriors was a procession of women and whining babies. The kids did well, but were fried in the heat, and the adults ended up walking while the kids slowly filled Flo-mo. Everybody noticed us.

We did three ceremonies; one at Sturgeon Creek, the other at the Louis Riel Statue by the Medicine Wheel near the legislature. A ceremony honoring the Metis and the stand they made as a peole lost between cultures. I noticed on the Medicine Wheel the sign of the eagle, and it represents the only animal that can stare at the sun (the creator). The meaning was that when the creator was upset and wanted to destroy mankind for what they were doing to the earth, the Eagle defended the human race and searched to spare man from the wrath of God.

We ended our day quite late with our last ceremony at the Old Forks, the great meeting grounds of the people, the meeting of the Red and the Assiniboine [Rivers], as the sun was setting. We set flowers adrift, praying that one day people will drink of the sacred water as they once did.

The next days were filled with interviews. Radio Canada was very encouraging and receptive, while CBC was quite mean and cold [and] kept saying we don't want emotions, just the facts.

We were interviewed at the Grassroots Newspaper [by] Arnold, his wife and kids, the publishers, and then Bruce Spence, the editor. After that, Bear Grandfather went to stay with Arnold's family and Bruce came by and took us up to the Sagkeeng Reserve, north of here, in Pine Hills by the Winnipeg River. We were overwhelmed by the amount of diabetes and cancer, from young kids to elders dying. We met an entire family in wheelchairs, due to M.S. Children who swam against their parents wishes and their hands were burned with weeping sores. We talked to the Health director, who says the statistics are there, the government does nothing about it. They are downhill from a pulpmill, a dam and a nuclear plant. They documented many spills in their water; all the fish are dead. This is a genocide of a people: "We are dying here." They all tell me, what a tragedy. Bruce, who introduced us to his extended family, and the wonderful noble Anishnaabe people who welcomed us with open hearts, a warm meal and a loving way. Clem Courchene, Thunder Bear, took us out to the heart of Turtle Island, showed us the map of his people and their destiny. We made offering of tobacco. Emma swam in the water as a baby of Turtle Island.

Later we met Fabian (Red Cloud), and he put us through two incredible sweats at the Lodge. They did one for the water, and I brought water from our Valley. They all drank it and stated: "Now that's real water." We heard the tale of the 'Joy Drum' by an elder, and listened to Fabian telling us what the Grandfathers want me to do. I had to crawl back into the sweat lodge and bring a certain cloth to make a medicine bag and hang up at each water crossing. Of course, being blind as a bat, I bring the wrong cloth out, and now I have complicated the ceremony with two colored cloths. Hopefully I can live up to their sweats and spiritual guidance. "Just do your best", Clem told me.

They informed me that they are going to Parliament at the beginning of October for a six day ceremony. I want to arrive at that time. They are very excited by this, and I feel very close to them as 'the people'.

More interviews as days go by. I'm enjoying my grandchildren, who have grown so big; Jamuna, Suna and Pasang.

Yesterday, Saturday, August 15th, we all talked at the Green Party Convention. We were warmly received for lunch, and everybody was so interested in our walk. They begged us to do a water-weaving ceremony by the Red River. I oblidged, and we had an Elder woman, Lais[sp.?] from Toronto, to do the honors along with a nice looking young man. Everybody loved it and smudged themselves; they thoroughly enjoyed the car, while signing it. Joan Rousleau, the [National] leader of the Green Party, grabbed my arm and stated: "I think I'll just dump everything and come walk with you." She will surely walk into Ottawa with us. Dan and Jim Harding from Regina will take Karin back today, and later Stuart Parker [leader of the B.C. Green Party] will drop her near our Valley.

They are sure swell people, those Green people. They donated $175, and I met Wally DuTemple, who was with us in Victoria. He gave me a bear hug.

We are losing Karin Roberts today. It will surely make a dent in [the] car (she even brought her pillow) and our lives. She has been so full of humor and bubbliness, like a butterfly leaving us. We shall miss her beauty, her love and warmth. I can't say how much courage it took her to walk since Calgary. Goodby Karin. We love and miss you with all our hearts.


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