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Honours and Awards

James Bartleman Aboriginal Youth Creative Writing Awards

2011 recipients' submissions

Original creative writing, submitted by this year’s James Bartleman Award recipients.

 

"The Standing Wall" by Jenna Camire, age 12 from Kenora [Download in PDF]

Jenna Camire, age 12 from Kenora, is the junior off-reserve recipient for her poem, “The Standing Wall”.

Jenna Camire, age 12 from Kenora, is the junior off-reserve recipient for her poem, “The Standing Wall”.

There stands a wall
taller than the clouds
if you want past
it’s not allowed.

There stands a wall
thicker than stone
and still on one side
someone stands alone.

There stands a wall
wider than the sea
to get to the other side
it sure isn’t free.

There stands a wall
bigger than us
it towers over people
but you can’t make a fuss.

For you can’t climb over
or under this wall
you must tear it down
and let it fall.

 


"Portrait of a Warrior" by Sophie Bender-Johnston, age 18 from Toronto [Download in PDF]

Sophie Bender-Johnston, age 18 from Toronto, is the senior off-reserve recipient for her Story, “Portrait of a Warrior”.

Sophie Bender-Johnston, age 18 from Toronto, is the senior off-reserve recipient for her Story, “Portrait of a Warrior”.

Benaeshih’s father comes to pick her up an hour later than he has promised. She doesn’t mind. Waiting an extra hour for her father means spending an extra hour with Grandfather, listening to his hunting stories. He is just finishing a one about the time he threw apples at a bear - not smart- when they both approaching car wheels. The wheels, poorly equipped for winter on the reserve, sq ueal and skid to a stop. A car door slams and Benaeshih’s Grandfather gets to his feet. He is tall and imposing when he stands. She puts on her fur-lined red felt parka, sewn by her dead Grandmother, which keeps her warm as she waits outside while Grandfather hands her suitcase off to her father.

Her father, Richard Steinman, is a few inches shorter than Grandfather and his arms shake when he takes the suitcase from his ex-father-in-law. The two men talk briefly, standing as tall and stiffly as they can. Grandfather nods sharply and turns around. He hugs her tightly.

“Gwaabmin, N’benaeshihkwe-enze,” he says in Anishinaabeg. See you later, my Little Bird-Woman.

“Gwaabmin, N’mishomis,” she replies, squeezing his broad body tightly with her little arms. He pats her and goes back inside hi s house without looking behind.

Benaeshih turns to her father, smi les at him, and climbs into the back seat of his SUV. She is fourteen now, soon to be fifteen, but she never made the transition to sitting in the passenger seat. That was her mother’s spot, and to sit there would feel like she was trespassing, like she was taking something that she wasn’t yet fit to have.

Father and daughter talk briefly. He talks a little bit about his family, the Steinman’s, and, after Benaeshih shares a little bit about her time with her cousins and Grandfather, the conversation dies. Benaeshih leans her head against the window, using  the hood of her parka as a pillow. Her coat is much too big for her- it was originally made for her teenaged mother - so her head is quite comfortable as she watches the scenery pass by. They leave the reserve and pass through numerous small towns and villages on the way back to Toronto. The drive lasts for several hours, but Benaeshih doesn’t care. She likes to watch the rolling hills and dark forests pass by, all blanketed in a thick quilt of snow, trying to feel the spirits of each area that they drive past.

Grandfather taught her about the spirits, how he can feel them watching him when he is out hunting in the bush, how scared he was when he was fighting in Korea and it felt like the spirits had left him. Grandfather is an ogitchidaw, a warrior.  He loves to tell Benaeshih the story of how he had beaten up a priest in residential school, ran away and joined the army. His portrait from when he was younger, dressed in his army uniform, hangs proudly in his living room, next to the portrait of his father and uncles, who fought in World War I. Benaeshih loves to look at these portraits. Her Great-Grandfather was so handsome. In his portrait, he has deep, somber eyes that stare sadly at the camera. His ear lobes are ridiculously long, ‘Anishinaabeg lobes’, as Benaeshih’s mother used to say. She also said that he has the same mouth as Benaeshih, who used to always think that her lips were oddly shaped and too thin. Now her mouth is her favorite part of her face and she is reminded of her warrior-ancestor whenever she looks in a mirror. Benaeshih always used to want to be a warrior - just like Grandfather! -when she was little, before she knew that it wasn’t proper for an Anishinaabeg woman to be a warrior, that her destiny lay in creating life instead of taking it.

Her father always used to get very angry when Benaeshih would talk about being a warrior. She liked to play with her cousins’ hand-me-down toy weapons, and her father would get angry and snatch them away.

“It says in the Bible that thou shalt not kill!” he would thunder at Benaeshih. “It is never okay to fight or kill anyone.” The Steinman’s were Mennonites and although they had abandoned most practices, Richard was a fierce pacifist.

Benaeshih’s mother, Misko, would reply: “If you don’t fight for what you believe in, how can you ever make change?”

The two adults would forget Benaeshih and start arguing. Richard would talk about how his ancestors fled the persecution of many European kingdoms, in search of a haven, until they finally came to North America.

“And what about my ancestors? They were the warriors, they fought to protect the people,” Misko would say back. However much she loved her husband, she couldn’t accept his pacifism, his complete disregard for anything manly or Anishinaabeg. She lives in Alberta now, working at some cl inic for at-risk youth or pregnant teenagers.

The car approaches the field in which Misko’s favorite tree stands. The field was cleared many years ago, but for some reason the farmer left that one tree alone. It is perfectly sy mmetrical and Misko used to love to stop the car and stare at it for a few minutes. Benaeshih doesn’t ask her father to stop and he drives right past.
She tries not to think about Misko, but her mother’s face is always lurking somewhere behind her eyes, whispering in her ears, just like how the spirits do with Grandfather. Her mother’s absence, just like the absence of Grandmother, is strange. At first she was angry and rude to everyone. She stopped eating and going to school, but
 eventually the anger burnt itself out. The pain died down and is now just a small flicker of numb sadness that flares occasionally. Benaeshih isn’t really very sad or angry anymore, just a little lost. Being with Grandfather makes that feeling go away, especially when he tells his stories about being a hunter and a warrior, but Benaeshih wishes that Grandmother was still alive. She’d like to hear Grandmother’s stories about being a mother, about what an Anishinaabeg woman was supposed to do with her life. She’d also like to talk to Misko again, ask her why she married a white man who hated everything about her culture, ask her why she left and never came back.

A car horn blares and Richard hits the steering wheel with the heel of his hand. “... off” he hisses to some driver. “... can’t ... drive.”

They are in a town now and someone in a pickup truck rolls past a stop sign and nearly collides with their car. Benaeshih exhales loudl y, hoping that her father understands that his anger makes her feel uncomfortable, like her clothes are too tight and she can’t breathe.

Richard has been very angry since Misko left. He is violent with his words, they always seem to be able to attack and cut Benaeshih and steal her breath. She understands that he must miss Misko, she’s still not used to this hateful anger. He yells at everything and always tries to find something mean to say. One afternoon, as Benaeshih was watching, TV some woman with short blonde hair had come on and started making jokes to an audience that obviously loved her. Benaeshih recognized the woman as Ellen DeGeneres, whom her mother had mentioned was the first openl y gay talk show host or something impressive.

This Ellen woman was fascinating and Benaeshih decided immediately that she was something of a warrior too. Richard passed by, saw what was on the TV, and chuckled.
“Daddy, it’s Ellen DeGeneres,” Benaeshih said excitedly.

“You mean Ellen the Degenerate,” he said, and laughed to himself. She turned the TV off and checked her dictionary.

Degenerate: noun. An immoral or corrupt person.

She understood then that, like Misko, Richard couldn’t accept certain things. Benaeshih wondered if Grandfather would ever use such a hateful word and then remembered the time that he taught her about the different powers.

They had been in the bush together, hunting, when Benaeshih had asked if she could hold his gun. Grandfather had stopped walking, leaned his rifle against a tree, and turned to face her. He crossed his strong arms across his broad chest, and patted his shoulders with his large, leathery hands. “This is my power,” he had said in Anishinaabeg. He then took her wrists and brought her hands down below her waist, crossed them over the private parts between her legs. “This is your power,” he had said.
“As a woman, you will someday create life; that is the greatest power. You have to protect that power.”

Benaesnih had always wanted to be like Grandfather, not at all like her angry father, but after watching Ellen she wasn’t so sure. Two women, two lesbians, can’t create life. They weren’t protecting their powers. This realization made Benaeshih’s head spin. She was confused. She always imagined herself as a puzzle, with pieces being added as she grew up. Grandmother’s death and then Misko’s absence blasted a giant  hole right through the puzzle. But when she hit puberty and her breasts finally started to grow, that was one piece regained. When what Grandfather calls the Moon Cycle began, she thought that that was the last piece and the picture would finally be complete. But something was still missing.

Richard swears again, disrupting Benaeshih’s thoughts. “... ... cyclist, they made bike lanes for a reason,” he mutters again. She looks out the window as a man on a bike swerves out of the way, holding up his middle finger, and realizes that they are back in Toronto already. She starts to drum her fingers against the car seat, her legs jiggling with excitement. As much as she loves being with Grandfather on the reserve and learning about spirits and powers and being a warrior, Benaeshih is always excited to see Adelaide again.

Adelaide Hensel is Benaeshih’s friend from school. When they were much younger, she used to call her Ariel or The Little Mermaid because of her pretty, long, red hair and big blue eyes. Adelaide is fascinating. They have been friends for seven years and Benaeshih still doesn’t quite understand her. She is cold and angry and callous but can also be loving and generous. She likes boys and vodka and hates to hear about what
she calls ‘your fucked up Mommy issues and Electra complexes.’ She is Benaeshih’s best and only friend, whom she hates so much but loves so fiercely. She goes to her to escape her family, and then back to her family to escape her. Every year Benaeshih feels like she should drop Adelaide and make new friends but, as much as they drive each other crazy, they always end up together and alone.

Richard drives through the slushy and grey streets before arriving at their apartment. He carries her suitcase in and leaves it on Benaeshih’s bed and then sits in front of their small TV with a beer. They had lived in a nice house before but after Misko left they could not longer afford it and had to move into this tiny apartment.

“I’m going over to Addie’s,” Benaeshih declares, exchanging her mother’s parka for the coat that her friend talked her into buying a few months ago.
“Are you sleeping over?’’ Richard asks.

Benaeshih glances at the clock. It’s already 9:00pm and she knows how the hours bleed into each other when she’s with Adelaide. “Yeah,” she says automatically and turns to go. “Bye,” she calls from the doorway.

Adelaide is sitting on her bed, painting her nails crimson, when Benaeshih arrives. “Benny. You’re finally back,” she remarks without looking up. “Let’s get drunk tonight. I’m going to go meet Smithson later, you can come and hang out with his friends.”

Benaeshih remembers the stories that Grandfather has told her about alcohol. “Every drop you drink takes away from your spirit,” he would say in Anishinaabeg. But she thinks about Misko and Richard swearing and calling Ellen a degenerate and she instinctively grabs the shot glasses and bottle of vodka from their hiding place in Adelaide’s closet.

“Cheers,” Adelaide says when the two glasses are filled to the brim with the clear, sharp-smelling liquid. The girls clink their glasses, tip them into their mouths, and drink quickly. Four more rounds later and Benaeshih is feeling dizzy and giddy. Holding Adelaide’s hand, she struggles to her feet, her legs feeling wobbly and unsure beneath her.

“Let’s go see Smithy!” Adelaide cries out stupidly. Benaeshih shushes her, even though the house is empty. Not that Adelaide’s parents would care anyways.

The girls stumble down the stairs, giggling loudly, and out onto the sidewalk. Fresh snow is falling and the street lamps are glowing bright and yellow. The sidewalks are empty and it feels like the rest of the world is asleep. “Oooooh we’re gonna get raped!” Benaeshih says.

“By sexy Smithy and his super sexy friends!” Adelaide laughs. “He wants us to meet them at the park.”

“A park? That’s sketchy.”
“You should be happy, Benny. There’s trees there and stuff. You can hone into your Indian powers!”

Benaeshjh laughs louder and wiggles her fingers. “I’ll call up the spirits to protect us!”

The girls make their way over the nearby park, clutching at each other and laughing loudly. Smithson is a boy older than they are, not Adelaide’s boyfriend, but is still somehow her property. He i s waiting there with three of his friends. They’re all strangers to Benaeshih.

Adelaide begins flirting with Smithson while Benaeshih talks to other boys, not knowing their names, but finding it much easier to socialize than usual. Her friend drifts off to a corner of the park to talk in private and Benaeshih finds herself also drifting off with one of the boys: the tallest one there. They talk about the most inane things and make stupid jokes about someone’s mother or being gay, with Benaeshih sitting on one of the playground’s bars and him standing tall before her. Benaeshih asks him a question, and he tells her that he can’t give her the answer for free.
“What’s the cost?” Benaeshih asks.
“Close your eyes.”
“My eyes are closed.”
“No peeking!”

Benaeshih covers her eyes with her hands, which are already squeezed tightly shut. There is darkness now. She can feel the cold air sting her face, her lower half going numb from sitting on the bar, pressure spreading her legs and the squeak of his coat as his waist moves and settles between her knees. She feels his mouth moving against hers, his lips surprisingly dry. She tries to kiss back, clumsily, and feels the scrape of his teeth. He eventually pulls away and she hears Adelaide approaching from the other side of the park.

“I’m ready to go home now,” Adelaide declares and the boys seem to melt away and disappear as Benaeshih hops off the bar and stumbles towards her. The falling snow settles on top of Adelaide’s hair and it looks like she’s wearing a delicate, white crown. They make the short trip back to Adelaide’s house in silence, shivering in the cold air.
“What did you and Smithy talk about?” she asks.
“I’m gonna buy a new coat next weekend,” Adelaide says quickly. “Wanna come with me?”

“Sure. I can use my status card, see if I can get the cashier to take off the HST for you.”

Adelaide’s house is warm and smells cozy. To Benaeshih, it feels more like home than her own apartment. They stumble through the darkness to Adelaide’s bedroom, strip off their coats and climb into the double bed.

“Move over,” Adelaide grumbles. Benaeshih is still dizzy, so she presses her forehead against the cool wall to ground herself. They are lying together under the comforters, Adelaide’s bent legs slid against Benaeshih’s, touching at the waist and knees. Adelaide’s breath is warm in her ear. “You finally kissed a boy. How did it feel?”

“It was nice,” Benaeshih says. They chat briefly and Adelaide eventually drifts off to sleep. Benaeshih stays awake and remembers the feel of the foreign mouth coming out of the darkness and taking hers. Her mouth, the same mouth that she shares with her Great-Grandfather, which has been passed down to her through the warriors of her family. Her warrior’s mouth. Her stomach begins to cramp and she feels violated and ashamed. Ashamed that what is supposed to be such a monumental experience, a milestone, her First Kiss, feels like more desecration, like that unnamed boy took something.

Benaeshih wakes up early the next morning. She untangles herself from the blankets and Adelaide’s body, reluctant to leave the warmth. She dresses quietly, but Adelaide wakes up anyways and rolls over with a grumble.
“I’m going to go home now.” Benaeshih whispers.

Adelaide buries her face into her pillow. Her Ariel hair spills across the bed, long and red and pretty. “See ya,” she mumbles sleepily.

The walk home from Adelaide’s house is long, almost twenty minutes, and Benaeshih shivers the whole way. Her new coat offers no protection; she misses her mother’s parka. She tries to listen to the spirits in the sharp wind, but she can’t. Benaeshih turns her attention the night before and struggles to claim her memories, to snatch them back from the fog of the drinks. It was nice, she had said, and thinks that perhaps the nicest part was just lying in bed with Adelaide, feeling her warm body next to hers.

The realization isn’t sudden or unexpected; it’s not a flash of white light, not an epiphany. It’s simply uncovering that last piece of the puzzle and letting it slide snugly in to finish the picture. She used to think that that picture included her being a warrior in the great tradition of her family, just like Grandfather whom she loves so much. But now she knows that the picture won’t satisfy others, not even herself, and that she won ‘t shake the feeling of being lost.

“Maybe,” Benaeshih says out loud, glad that the streets are still empty. “May be I can be another kind of warrior, but the kind that creates. A different kind of creation.” She doesn’t know what kind of creation she’s talking about, but the image of Ellen, with her short blonde hair, dances in her mind and she smiles sadly to herself. Benaeshih tries not to think about how Grandfather probably won’t accept her if he ever finds out, how much more her father would hate her, how disgusted Adelaide would be. A cardinal flutters by and lands on the branch of a nearby oak tree. His bright red plumage stands out against the stark whiteness of morning.

She stops and looks at the bird. “Aawnii, eniweg miskobenaeshih-enze,” she greets him in Anishinaabeg. Hello, pretty little cardinal. He watches her as she approaches her building, and then disappears from sight when she goes inside.

Benaeshih can’t help but feeling sad as she creeps through the door of the apartment, moving quietly so that she won’t wake her father.

 


"Understanding Companion" by Bineshiinh Smoke-LeFort, age 11 from Six Nations [Download in PDF]

Bineshiinh Smoke-LeFort, age 11 from Six Nations, is the junior on-reserve recipient for her short story, “Understanding Companion”.

Bineshiinh Smoke-LeFort, age 11 from Six Nations, is the junior on-reserve recipient for her short story, “Understanding Companion”.

I wake up to the sound of rain pattering on the rooftop.   It sounds soft, until I hear the thunder. Then I look out the window to see it’s pouring buckets worth of rain.   I look around my cozy bedroom pausing every now and then, taking in the feeling of comfort.   Suddenly, I remember that Honey is probably terrified at the sound of the loud, startling storm.

Quickly I climb out of my warm multi-colored blanket. I grab a grey knitted sweater off the floor, it’s probably filthy but my horse is much more important than that.  I swiftly get up and out of the clothes I was wearing, throw more dirty clothes on with the sweater, and dash outside toward the stable. I look down at my feet and see I’m wearing my new slippers. Oh well, they’re black so stains shouldn’t be too bad.  I go from a slow walk to a quick jog, feeling the rain hit my face even harder. But its okay, I’m almost to the entrance.

The whinnies seem to be getting louder and louder. Honey is screeching and crying. I open the door and whisper, “Its okay Honey, I’m here,” in a soothing way. She looks at me with her beautiful brown eyes.  She slowly softens her expression as I come into her wooden stall.  I smile while I gently brush my hand on the side of her chestnut neck. The rain has calmed itself now and I think I’ll take Honey for a ride.

It is a perfect Friday morning. The air is crisp and fresh.  The sun has just started to rise and is exotic against the now purple and pink sky.  I love mornings like this. Normally, people sleep-in during the summer, but I get up at sunrise to see my one friend who understands me- My horse.  She is my friend, my sister and what brings happiness to my life.

I look at Honey, now saddled up and ready to ride with a contagious happy attitude. I put my foot in the stirrup, bouncing a few times before finally swinging my other leg over the saddle.  Honey turns her head and looks at me as if to say “Come on Catherine, you’ll feel better after this ride.”  Smiling at Honey’s cheeriness, I gently nudge Honey’s side with my foot so she’ll know we can go now.  Starting at a trot we graduate to a canter then we get faster and faster until we were finally galloping.  I find it so fun and amazing to gallop through fields of vibrant grass and sun-yellow dandelions.  It’s a difficult feeling to describe when one gallops.  It’s rewarding, fun, exciting and it helps to relieve stress and sadness. I imagine all the pain of my parents’ divorce plus the stress of school and friends slipping off of me, into the air where it will either be lost forever or purified into clear, fresh, crisp air.

I guess what I’m trying to explain is even when seems that life is purposely trying to pull you under dark sea of sadness, simple things help us ease our emotions in a positive way, without hurting us. For some people it’s reading, swimming, going on trips or simply writing a short story that helps to cheer our spirits.  In real life, riding horses helps me forget my problems or worries and keep focused on good things in my life. And even though the story I just told you about is only my imagination painting a picture, it helped me because writing is another one of those little things I like to do in order to feel happy. See, it’s easy to find things to do that are fun and make you happy. I hope that this story makes people look at things a little differently.


"Makwa" by Jared Bissaillion, age 16 from Thessalon [Download in PDF]

Jared Bissaillion, age 16 from Thessalon, is the senior on-reserve recipient for his short story, “Makwa”.

Jared Bissaillion, age 16 from Thessalon, is the senior on-reserve recipient for his short story, “Makwa”.

The Makwa was once a normal creature that lived among the First Nations People. In the beginning he struggled to keep up with the other creatures. But his internal struggle of being strong yet gentle kept the Makwa behind.

One day a great sickness came over the people of the First Nations. This unknown sickness threatened the population, and Makwa set off to find the cure to help the people. Prior to leaving, Makwa told the animals to watch over the village and the people. Many creatures laughed and walked away, but among them there were three who saw knowledge in the words that Makwa spoke. The Eagle, the Wolf and the Turtle representing the air, the land and the water; each with the ability to watch over their region, set off to watch over the people.

The Makwa knew his journey would be hard, but the respect he would gain was greater than the challenge. He did not know where to go, but a part of him did. Every night when he went to sleep he had powerful dreams that were giving him strength to carry on and directions on the quest that he set out for. Every morning at the break of dawn he set out.  The cold, crisp air kept him going. As he walked through what seemed to be an endless forest he would rest up. When he did, his dreams would fill his head bringing his morale up and learning where he needed to go.

Every day the villagers grew weaker. Medicine men and women were called from different parts of the region, each bringing their  own medicine to try and help. Many tried, many failed  but the village was still getting  weaker.  The sickness started with the Elders and with each passing day it kept getting worse and worse, until  there was only the youth and young children left in the village. The food was dwindling, the Chief decided that there was no other option except to let the young ones hunt.  Many still needed to learn but there was one by the name of Running Wolf, who was taught by his father to hunt.  He gathered all the people willing to hunt for their village.  The Chief was proud of the young ones, and presented them with an eagle feather before they set off.

Soaring through the air, the Eagle followed the young hunters keeping a constant eye on them. He flew just above the trees as they crept through the forest hoping to return home with plenty of food for all. As Eagle glanced down, his attention was captured by Wolf. He was standing behind some brush with his tail down and head lowered. Eagle cried out to Wolf, asking for his assistance. Knowing the young ones were going hungry and in need of food the Wolf was able to startle a buck into a nearby open field for the young ones to strike down. The children and the youth gave thanks to Eagle and Wolf for their help and not letting their community go hungry for the time being.

Makwa stopped to rest at a nearby stream to collect himself.  He had been travelling nonstop for many moons and was now growing exhausted. Just when he thought that he couldn’t go any farther, Makwa gazed down into the cool blue stream that was flowing steadily. He noticed something different, something he had never noticed before. There were tiny little leaves flowing down the stream. Makwa looked harder at the leaves as he took one in his paw. Having never seen this leaf before, he decided to travel upstream to find where the leaves were coming from.

With food in their stomach, the villagers felt better, but the sickness was doing a number  on all. Some of the young ones decided to go fishing. They jumped in their canoes and paddled off. Without the direction of the adults the young ones travelled too far without knowing where they were going. Little did they know, they were lost. They decided to fish, not paying attention to where they were. The fish were plentiful, with each cast they were able to hook a fish.  Several hours later, with a canoe full of fish, they decided to head back. Realizing they were lost they started to panic. The young ones were rowi ng their hardest when the tip of the canoe bumped into a mighty object, which they thought was to be a rock.

For many hours Makwa followed the stream that gradually became a river.  Every now and then he would see that leaf so he knew that he must be getting close. After two more hours, he came to a magnificent lake. That’s when he saw it. A beautiful golden oak tree on a luscious island in the middle of the lake. With the sun shining down on the golden leaves Makwa was almost blinded by the sight. Makwa knew that the journey would be long so he had decided to rest up for the night.

Shocked at what just happened the young ones in the canoe took a look to see what they hit. They found out that they hit a giant turtle. Upon realizing they collided with the turtle they were worried there was damage done to him or the canoe. Thankfully nothing was wrong. The turtle spoke to the young ones saying, “You are lost Young Ones, let me help you find your way.” He began to swim signalling the young ones to follow him. Turtle kept up a steady pace with the Young Ones behind him. After a few hours they arrived safely at the village. Exhausted, the young ones thanked Turtle with some of the fish they caught. With that Turtle swam away.

When Makwa was sleeping the spirits told him the history of the island. It had been untouched for so long because a mysterious creature was protecting the land. They told him that he needed to get across to the island and to honour the protective creature and to talk to it. When Makwa woke up he began to make a spirit plate and a sacred fire. Once he got everything ready he began to say a prayer. A shadowy figure started coming across the water to where Makwa was standing. Makwa continued talking when all of a sudden a mighty serpent came out of the water.

The village was growing more sick. The youth began showing symptoms and the entire village became full of worry.  Knowing their  food supply would only last  them a few more days they offered more prayers to the Creator and to Makwa in hopes that he would be coming back soon with medicine. As the younger ones were getting sicker fewer and fewer were able to go hunting. Wolf and Eagle were trying as hard as they could to help, but they needed to take care of themselves too.

Unafraid because he knew he had the spirits protecting him, Makwa began talking to Serpent. Makwa asked the serpent if he could go to the island. Serpent told Makwa that he protected the island for many years. Many times people tried to get to the island to use the power of the tree for their own use and greed. He told him that the one that passes the test is able to leave the island. Makwa asked if he had what it takes. The Serpent told him only to go and with that he was off. Makwa started out for the island.

Only Running Wolf and two other youth were able to go hunting because they were still strong while the village grew weaker. They decided to go deeper into the forest hoping to find bigger game. Without the protection of Wolf and Eagle the young hunters were without their guidance.  As they headed off deeper and deeper into the woods they decided to rest up at a river in hopes to run into a wild animal. As they were getting a drink of water they spotted a buck down the river bend. Careful not to scare the animal, they slowly crept toward it until they were within firing range. With their bows drawn and their sights narrowed they fired a shot at the buck.

As Makwa got closer to the island he started to notice several empty canoes floating around by the shore. He kept swimming to the island until he was finally on shore. The island was surrounded with beautiful trees and untouched land. With Serpent still on his mind he headed toward the tree. As he peeked over the hill he saw it, the magnificent golden oak tree. As he got closer to the tree he sensed something was wrong.

With a perfect shot the buck was down. Seeing as it was across the river the young hunters decided to swim to the other side to get their game. When they got to the other side they decided they would be able to swim the deer to the other side. The young hunters found it easy at first to get to the other side, then after a few minutes it started to get more difficult. As the buck started to sink they worried that all their effort was worth nothing.  As much as they tried to keep the deer afloat it was bringing all three of them down. Fearing for their lives they had no choice but to let go and let it sink.

As Makwa got closer to the tree his senses started to heighten.  Out of nowhere the giant Serpent came before him. He said to Makwa, “You are in my territory now , you no longer have the  protection of the  others. You must now pass my test if you wish to leave the island.”

Makwa stood tall and accepted Serpent’s challenge with pride to Serpent’s surprise. The serpent told Makwa a riddle that he must answer right or he would never be able to leave. He told Makwa, “what do rich people need, poor people have, you can’t hold it but if you eat it you will die.”

Makwa had no clue what the answer was. Makwa tried to think the answer knowing that this was his only chance to get what he needed for his people. Serpent told Makwa that he only had until the sun set. Makwa looked to sun. He saw that it was just touching the horizon. He knew he didn’t have a lot of time.

When the Young Ones got back to the bank of the river they were sad and disappointed that they didn’t get anything. Just as all seemed lost the deer seemed to be rising out from the river until it was finally on the bank. It turned out that the Turtle was watching over them and when he saw that the deer started to sink he went in after it bringing the deer to the surface. Happy that the turtle helped them the Young Ones gave thanks to the Turtle and returned to the village with their  fine buck.
With time running out Makwa knew if he didn’t get the answer soon he would be stuck on the island forever! He looked at the sun that is now half gone he was running out of time. Makwa was trying as hard as he could to think of what the answer was to the riddle still he did not know what it was. Then he started to see spirits and as he looked closer he saw that they were spirits of people. The spirits told Makwa that the Serpent was an evil being that trapped people on the island. The tree belonged to the people of this land but he had been using it to lure people to the island. The spirits told Makwa the answer to the riddle so that he could get the medicine and free the spirits that were stuck on the island.

Makwa looked to see the sun was almost gone and he went up to the serpent and said, “The answer to your question is nothing!”

With that the Serpent was gone and Makwa made his way to the golden oak tree. He noticed that growing along side the tree was a small moss that  he had never seen before. He knew as soon as he saw it that it was the cure that he had been looking for. Making an offering of tobacco to the Creator, Makwa took a paw full of moss and began his way home. He knew that it would be a long trek  home but he was determined  to get there  soon.

With the buck in the village the people only had enough food to last them a few nights before they went hungry again. The village Chief knew that it wasn’t enough to sustain them until Makwa came back. Knowing the hunters couldn’t sustain themselves for much longer, he decided not to tell the village how near doom was, as to not create more panic. The next morning, after not seeing Makwa or hearing from him, they decided to gather and make a sacred fire. They felt they needed to give Makwa more strength for him to come back to the village soon.

Makwa was walking for many hours. He started to feel stronger like a strength deep inside of him was coming out. He started to run, faster and faster through the forest stopping at nothing. He was bound and determined to reach his people and return to the village with what he thought was the cure for their illness. Makwa didn’t stop, not even through the night. Just over the horizon he saw it. His village with a slight amount of smoke rising from the centre of the village. He ran down to the village breathing hard trying to get the people’s attention. A young child spotted Makwa and started yelling for everyone to greet Makwa. The people rejoiced and brought Makwa around the fire. Suddenly he was exhausted and nearly collapsed at the fire. Regaining his footing, he gave the medicine man the moss, hoping he would know what to do with it.

As the medicine man took the moss, he had an overpowering vision of what to do with it. The spirits told him he must put it in the fire and let the smoke flow through the village. Coming back to the real world he knew exactly what he needed to do. He put the moss in the fire and said a prayer. As soon as the moss hit the fire it burst into a large cloud of smoke engulfing the village. This smoke was not like any regular smoke. It was not bitter tasting but it was sweet. It did not blind them,  but it cleansed their sight. As the smoke died down the villagers noticed that the strange sickness had passed, and they were regaining strength. Wolf, Eagle and Turtle could be seen in the light of the dawning sun watching over the recovering village.

From that day on, the four animals were known as a helpers and protectors of the village and they watched over the people for many years, until their children could take over the role.

The End


"My Trip to Gowie Bay" by Parker Waswa, age 12 from Fort Hope [Download in PDF]

Parker Waswa, age 12 from Fort Hope, is the junior fly-in recipient for his short story, “My Trip to Gowie Bay”.

Parker Waswa, age 12 from Fort Hope, is the junior fly-in recipient for his short story, “My Trip to Gowie Bay”.

Day 1: We drove our skidoos heroically over the ice to Gowie Bay and got our cabin ready for sleeping in. After our heroic endeavour on the ice, we made lunch. Then we went hunting but didn’t catch anything. We had to walk back because the skidoo ran out of gas. We dragged the sleigh home. It was easy because my dad did almost all the work.

Day 2: I woke up freezing because the fire was out.  Breakfast was being cooked. It was fish. This was intresting because we started our heroic endeavour without fish and picked it up from a friend. That morning we cleaned up around the cabin and grabbed the net. We didn’t end up casting the net because there was too much ice and not enough water.

Day 3: We had to pack up and get ready to leave. The hard part was the first half because all the ice was melting. We had to drive the skidoos on mud, rocks,and cruise across the shallow water. It was hard for me and the skidoos. But after that it was easy until we got to the portage (the portage is a connection between water where fur traders crossed and was well kept through the ages). My mom got off the skidoo and I went through portage. The reason that she got off is that we fell into a big puddle on the way to Gowie Bay. When we got home there was a sudden sense that we were safe. I felt good about driving from Gowie Bay.


"daughter feel pain too.." by Charmaine Thomas, age 16 from Big Trout Lake [Download in PDF]

Charmaine Thomas, age 16 from Big Trout Lake, is the senior fly-in recipient for her poem, “Daughter Feel Pain Too”.

Charmaine Thomas, age 16 from Big Trout Lake, is the senior fly-in recipient for her poem, “Daughter Feel Pain Too”.

momma don’t see, daddy don’t know. sometimes I think it’s better to keep it on the low. mother judges me, because I look like daddy. but daddy says “Just stay happy.”

momma’s a bum, she thinks I’m  dumb. sometimes momma gives me something that makes me feel numb.

momma say daddy not mine. momma say my real daddy have another big family ... that makes me feel sad...

daughter never say word to fake daddy .. and we look alot alike... so daughter says “That’s my daddy.. the real one.”

:) Daughter don’t care what momma say now. she mad at mommy rest of her life. :( daughter now need drug to numb her pain daughter now feel .. plain. som-etimes she go insane sometimes her tears fall like rain.

Now daughter live with Grand ma and daddy call once in awhile... daughter happy with grandma. daughter protect grandma, grandma do same. :)
daughter love the great things daddy say. .. he call her ‘sweetheart’ ever since she was baby :) sweetheart make her feel special.

daughter feel pain when momma make her feel plain momma don’t like me, but she say she love me. momma say she want best for me. she keep daughter 6 month new born and grandma take daughter she now 15 years old. she say life hard & life no fair. grandpa left couple years ago, grandma says he went to heaven. she say “Don’t cry.” Cousin left too. daughter feel empty because their gone. Auntie feel pain too. she has a baby.

she make daughter happy.. Auntie has 5 months with her new baby. daughter even more happy :D

sometime life feel sad,  insane and crazy. daughter have bestfriend...Make her feel happy and painless :) daughter have another bestfriend, who make her feel laughyy and happy. They help out alot :)

Life no fair, but life go on.. .