We lived with him and spoke briefly to him, but his spirit for social interaction had left his body almost entirely since his return. We all feared him in a way that was not completely understood, though we knew to keep in line when he came near. His aura struck tension into our hearts, and we all acted differently in his presence, carefully watching our each and every move. Shouting and yelling ensued some nights, bright lights and loud sounds enveloped his brain for hours at a time. There was no cure, Kokom told us to remain away and familiarize ourselves with this “new man” and to have mercy.Lisez l’histoire de Shadrak Gobert
I am an Aboriginal student attending high school in Toronto, Ontario. Originally from Frog Lake First Nation Alberta I have found great strength and gratitude in embracing my culture and expressing it through many different ways. I identify with my culture in a very large way, and therefore want to help my people prosper in todays modern world. I am seeking a post secondary education in the fields of sociology and psychology.
This creative work has implemented within it many personal experiences from my families history. Though fictional characters and scenarios have been used, the underlying theme is very much real, and the issue has been present in the Aboriginal community over the last century. I have worked to highlight this main theme in my story because I believe it is important for every non-aboriginal and aboriginal person to be aware of such issues. We are a unique segment of Canadian society that needs to be recognized and heard.
Thank you very much for your consideration of my piece, I do hope you enjoy.
Those who arrived on the train dispersed into scattered clusters of relatives waiting on the platform. I expected the station to be much busier, but I remembered that Kokom used to tell us how few came this far north by train. Seeking his face among the crowd I scanned each individual as they poured out of the small entrance and exit of the car. I expected to see him as I had always pictured him in my mind, with his perfectly braided hair to his waist and his dark bronze arms, I looked for this man. Anxiously waiting I felt an urge to shout for him, but I refrained from opening my mouth, his name caught in my throat.
When I did eventually catch sight of him it was far too late. He had made his way toward us, almost standing on top of me before the recognition kicked in. I didn’t know whom this person standing before me was. His eyes reflected a fog, and his mind displayed a visible unrest. As he reached for me there was hesitation, his hands coarse and unfamiliar, I did not picture it this way… not this way at all.
The ride home was quiet, all of us were unsure of the tension among us and it felt too much like fear. I could sense that we all wanted to ask questions, but we were not comfortable with him in our presence after so many years. Our independence had grown in his absence, and at the time we had only him to blame, we had been abandoned and felt lost.
That night we spoke subtle words of no real substance. Kokum spoke to him in Cree, they were both serious, lacking natural warmth and she knew we were unsettled so she led him away to be alone with her to share their thoughts. We were used to this treatment by now.
The following weeks brought no real change to our lives. We lived with him and spoke briefly to him, but his spirit for social interaction had left his body almost entirely since his return. We all feared him in a way that was not completely understood, though we knew to keep in line when he came near. His aura struck tension into our hearts, and we all acted differently in his presence, carefully watching our each and every move. Shouting and yelling ensued some nights, bright lights and loud sounds enveloped his brain for hours at a time. There was no cure, Kokom told us to remain away and familiarize ourselves with this “new man” and to have mercy. Some mornings we would wake to the setting of a house flipped upside down.
Taylor – “My grandfather’s best friend told me about how he too experienced similar affects after his time was over, but he took his life over it before he could make his return”
Me- “And the worst part is there never was any recognition, not even compensation, given to any who did return”
Taylor- “That’s what I tell myself each day I think about him living through those atrocities. Would he really have been the same man? … So what did the following months bring?”
Our day-to-day survival on our reserve didn’t improve even with his return. He was thrown back to us as more of a burden than anything else, but he was part of us and we couldn’t lose our hope in him. None of us attended school during this time; we needed all the assistance at home, and had plenty of mouths to feed, including his. Friends and relatives from across the reserve would come to visit him from time to time, they heard of his “disease” and showed their support in different ways. We were always grateful when they brought food for us to share, gifts like blankets and sometimes clothing were also given on occasion.
Slowly after many months he began to help us again. It started with him walking more and taking an interest in our endeavors, such as trapping and fishing. Even with this improved physical closeness there was still a large gap always visible within us mentally. Affection had not yet returned to his blood. Throughout that summer we witnessed him grow, almost like that of a newborn child. A glow returned to his skin and warmth could be seen during rare moments. His body filled out and he began to regain strength in his bones. On some days he would spend hours in the woods like he used to, simply taking in his land and it’s plenty. He and Kokom talked more as time went on, and occasionally she would talk to him about becoming a “nehiyaw” again. She would speak to him softly in Cree describing the spirit of his identity as a native man for many hours. He and his mother returned to sharing the early rise of the sun thanking the creator for the four corners of the earth. She reminded him of his home by spending those early mornings carefully picking the longest blades of sweat grass to offer to the creator, to smudge, and to heal.
On one brittle day I saw our uncle Raymond walking across our field towards our house. Raymond did not own a vehicle and must have spent many hours walking to our home throughout the afternoon. Two rifles were slung across his back. He came in to greet us and asked him if he wanted to join in on a hunt in the woods. He went hunting that day, but uncle Raymond and him never went hunting again after.
My personal relationship with him stayed similar over the following years. He had moments of grieving now and then, but they occurred less frequently and in shorter durations. As a child though it never occurred to me that he did not have a choice to go.
Taylor- “Our people suffered during those times I know what its like”
Me- “We, myself and my siblings, we survived the trauma of our father coming back to us after that war overseas, but I don’t think he ever did.”