Sascho had seen the northern mines when he’d gone with his Uncles two winters ago on a journey to Sahtı̀, The Great Bear Lake, which lay at the border of Tłı̨chǫ land. His elders had shown him disturbed and ruined earth from which the spirits had fled. They’d explained how the water too, and the fish in these places, had been poisoned by kwet’ı̨ı̨̀ diggings. The creatures that had once made Sahtı̀ a rich hunting ground had grown few and wary. Even the caribou had changed their ancient paths in order to avoid these places.
Would his people succumb to kwet’ı̨ı̨̀ ways? Some already had. These men disrespected and ignored their elders, abused their wives and neglected their children, drank and stole, and brought shame—and the Ekw'ahtı (RCMP) —into their camps. Others, like his family, had tried to stay as far away from the kwet’ı̨ı̨̀ as possible. They, like the caribou, sought new paths. They learned to avoid the fouled ponds where the poor beaver lost his hair and the fish were filled with horrible ulcers...
~But where could we go, if we are forced to leave?
His Uncles sometimes spoke of this. Now, Sascho tried to push this unhappy future away. To leave the Tłı̨chǫ Dèè was unimaginable.
~We are part of this place, woven into the land like quills ornamenting a pair of moccasins. We are like the moose, the lynx, the beaver, the muskrat, the wolf and the raven, and all our brothers and sisters who live here.
Linked to the earth through the soles of his feet, Sascho’s spirit rose up and poured out in prayer to the blue immensity of heaven...
When John Wisdomkeeper and I wrote Fly Away Snow Goose, it was to honor John's personal journey. He was spared the horrors of the orphanage or the residential school, but only because he was part of the "sixties scoop" a decade when First Nation's children were removed from their homes and given to European adoptive parents. He has searched in vain for his birth mother, who may have been forced to relinquish him. He has spent a lifetime finding his way home to the traditions of his People.
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