I usually think of dad in these final years as not just a son speaking to his father but as a man speaking to another man.
10 years ago dad started getting sick and I worried about him. I asked that dad stay for another 10 years so mom could have him and my own children nephews and nieces could know their grandfather like I knew my own Isaugh.
Its a selfish act I know, but as I looked up to the Sundance tree, as I was being pierced all I could think of is dad and how lucky I was to have him still here…. 10 years passed so fast.
Dad was so many things to so many people.
So many remember him for his famous “chocolate” and his “porridge” song.
I look out into the audience and see many of my community members who know dad as “Their” bus driver.
I see all of these cowboys to my right. Some he mentored with and others were his companions as he travelled down the road. Many were part of his wild horse race team at one time or another.
We learned to cowboy up in the frenzied action of the race and I can still hear him yelling out to get in there.
I don’t know if I was more scared of the horse creasing my head or the glare of dad if I missed saddling up or catching the ear.
He had his political battles as well internally within our community and externally all across the country as you have heard.
My cousin told me the other day of a story where back in the early 70’s the province was trying to get the 37th street deal done and they put a lot of pressure on him to push it forward. He refused so they resorted to bribing him with the promise of sending his whole family to Hawaii for a holiday.
He still refused… and now… we know how unrelenting the Alberta Government can be. Here we are 40 years later. They got what they wanted.
Dad might be looking at me now and watching us as we sit here in thoughts and grief and say… Well now,…. they need a good song about chocolate.
Dad was a traveller. He always needed to see what was over that next hill or the next country. He went to Belfast during the height of the civil war looking for solutions to peace. He went on a pilgrimage to Sarajevo with a number of other Natives during the Balkan war.
He stood alongside other Treaty 7 chiefs when the American Indian Movement was making bold stands. He told them he supported what they did and how they awakened the spirit of the people but that violence was not the way to do it. They (Meaning the Treaty 7 chiefs) stopped the occupation of the Morley administration office and escorted everyone to safety.
When Gustavson Lake Sundance was being occupied he drove out there himself and went right into the camp to support them but asked that they don’t use violence.
Yeah he was kinda fearless that way, but he knew it was what he was meant to do as a leader.
Stand for what you believe he would tell me. We don’t need make-believe warriors. Most of them are just bullshit anyways he would say.
Family was important to him. evidenced in the large extended family he has. His relatives in Sioux Valley and Rockyboy to his large family in New Zealand. “Pa” and “Ma” as they affectionately refer to them. I know they are watching this webcast so To them I say hello and send you the love from our family. To my daughter Ngatai and My grandson mana. grampa understands and he is proud of you even though you are so many moles away. he would say to you just keep going…
He has friends in England watching as wetland from many points east across Canada and to the west in BC. Especially those cowboys in the Kamloops area. He would say those BC cowboys are sure tough. They make good champions.
It was his sister, my auntie Victoria, who said it right last week when she saw him for her final time. Gordon,…Go play with our brothers now… they are all waiting for you… so is mom and dad…. Its ok. I’m going to stay here for a while longer…. I love you very much my brother…
To mom I think when I see how you and dad lived life I could only marvel at the dedication you both showed each other. I like to think that in gaining our freedom as father and son we were able to finally say how much we love people.
I recite this poem from my favourite writer John Trudell..
i have loved you
the stars met the sky
and the moon first
lit the night
and the sun brought
bright to the day
learned how to dream
you have been part
of my reality
my saving grace
when saving needs saved
there when doves
first found their songs
with coyotes first howl
at the moon
in each heartbeat
from the beginning
the first i love you
in the attracted
it is decided
in the dna of time
i have loved you
since my first breath
I wont say too much more here but wind up with some readings I ran across recently…
“You know, as we come to the end of this phase of our life, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future.
We start to worry, thinking, ‘What am I gonna do? Where am I gonna be in 10 years?’
But I say to you, ‘Hey, look at me!’ Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day … make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular.
“I bring everyone who has ever been kind to me with me. Native, White, Asian, gay, straight, everybody. I say, ‘Come with me. I’m going on this road. Come with me. I need you now.’ be a blessing … to somebody. That’s what I think. So, I don’t ever feel I have no help.
To wrap it up, my friend sent me this message to read:
“Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief there was great love.”
So travel well dad. Say hello to all the relatives of all the people sitting here and help ease the pain of the longing for their own loved ones…
You children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to do good now…
I will miss you dad… but I will carry on…
(Jan 21, 2015)