Arts & Récits Autochtones - The Grandfather Dreams

The Grandfather Dreams

2014 - Lauréat de récits

“Respect is something you can see, you can hear, you can feel. When you respect someone, you put your trust, your heart and your loyalty in them. You open yourself up to be respected by learning of those who you respect. Respect is an idea; a concept of life. It can only help you by letting it.”

Lisez l’histoire de Therin Quirt

Therin Quirt

Ottawa, ON
Âge 16

Une note d'auteur

This story came to me when I started thinking about what was important to the Aboriginal community and what was important to me. The Seven grandfather teachings are well known and one of the very first things I learned when I found out I was Native. I didn't have anyone to really answer me deep question about my Native heritage so; once I found the grandfather teaching it helped me a lot. Not just with finding out about myself but finding out about my culture and my history.So when I found out about the Aboriginal Arts contest I jumped at the chance. I thought what a way to express myself then in writing. I've been told I'm a good writer and hopefully one day I'll make a great one. I'm from a Mohawk reserve called Tyendinega its near the Bay of Quinite, that would be where I would live if I stayed with my entire family. Even if I don't win I'm just glad I got the chance to write for you and being brave enough to put myself out there.

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The Grandfather Dreams

I wasn’t born knowing that I was Native. I wasn’t taught the stories or the teachings, I didn’t play the games, and I didn’t know what a big part of my culture was until I had the dream.

In the beginning, I wasn’t anyone in the dream. I wasn’t anyone, or anything. Gradually, though, a setting started to form. At first, I was in a field, and then in the forest, and then on a beach, and finally in my back yard, but it wasn’t my back yard - it was so much more. They sky seemed to be a more pure blue and the sun seemed to shine brighter and the grass never felt this fresh even on the perfect day, as it did right now.  I wasn’t alone. There were seven other people with me, people I’d never seen in my entire life, and yet they seemed so familiar, as if I had grown up with them. There was an old man in a rocking chair watching over a small boy, a teenage girl playing with flowers, a man kneeling beside a deer he`d shot, an elderly woman with one long braid going down her back who seemed to be talking to nothing and yet everything, a man dressed in army clothes clutching a rifle, and a women lying on her back with her arms out stretched and her eyes closed.

I want to tell you that I ran up and joined them, in whatever they were doing, but I didn’t. I just stood there, rooted to the spot like a tree. I wanted so badly to go up and talk to one of them, but which one?

The answer was none of them.

I didn’t realize until I woke up that I wasn’t ready to meet any of them so, on that first night, I just sat down and watched them. Over the next week, I met each of them personally, and each one of them helped me grow into a better person.

The next night I was in the same place, except only one of them was there: it was a small boy about the age of ten. He held out his hand and said to me, flat out:

“You’re lost, and I’m meant to help you.”

I shook his hand and, for some reason, I found myself opening up to him. I began babbling about simple nothings in my life and he just let me talk, until I had lost my voice.  This young boy seemed to have an air of reassurance around him. As if he knew where he wanted to go and who he wanted to be with. He sat down on the ground, with his legs outstretched and his head tilted to the sun. I sat down beside him and waited; because I knew whatever he was going to say was important. When I was starting to think that he fell asleep, he spoke.

“Walk through life with integrity, be straight forward and open with your communication; accept and act on the truths around you. Only then will you be truly honest.”

And with that, he laid back and stretched out and smiled at me. I realized that was all I was going to get. I felt like he just told me my fortune from one of those cookies. But still I lay back with him and just kept replaying what he said in my mind.

The night after that I was sitting beside a beautiful girl who had a flower crown in her hair. She had her fingers woven between blades of grass, and tiny dew drops sticking to the bottom of her dress. She had an eagle feather woven into her hair. I sat down beside her and just looked at her; she had to be the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, so pure and so wholesome, as if nothing bad in the world had tainted her. Eventually she looked up at me and her eyes seemed to be all the colours in the world, never staying still.

“Fight for love, for not many people do. And the ones who do are not just one step closer to loving someone else; but being able to love yourself for who you are.”

She said all this in a breathy way as if her words were dancing on the wind and into my mind. At some point animals came close to us, all sorts of animals; eagles, turtles, bears, beavers, even a few rabbits. They were just drawn to her like a moth to a flame. And that’s when I realized she was love and every living thing in the whole world on some level just wanted to be loved. I spent the rest of my dream watching how she interacted with the wildlife around her; she didn’t cower away from things that were new, but welcomed them with open arms.

The third person I met was the man who wore camouflage clothing and was clutching a rifle.  His face was set hard and his body language looked like he was ready to pounce on anything that threatened him. He stood straight and tall, his eyes narrowed and pin-pointed on everything that moved. I won’t lie: he intimated the hell out of me, but something was pushing me to talk to him, to know what he had to say. I felt as if I should salute him, but I thought better of it, so I just stood beside him, waiting patiently for him to tell me his story. I didn’t have to wait long until he told me a true sin of betrayal and anguish. When he spoke his words, they weren’t just angry but filled with grief.

“They came like a sudden wave, strong, powerful and determined. Taking what they gave to us as if what they were doing wasn’t wrong. They wanted to build a golf course on top of one of our most sacred burial grounds. They didn’t even see anything wrong with what they were doing all they saw was an opportunity to make money.”

His hands started to shake as he was talking and suffering started seeping into his words. I almost didn’t want to know who he was talking about, but I had a feeling I would find out whether I wanted to or not. There was a long pause between us you could almost hear our heartbeats beating simultaneously.

“I fought for my people, for our beliefs, I fought to protect the community in which I was raised in. I stood against what was wrong and stood up for what was right and because of that I was shot at; labelled as the enemy, a bad man, someone who should be punished for standing up for themselves.”

He turned to look at me and I could see the anger, frustration, grief, and agony in his eyes. He started walking away but just before he disappeared from sight, he turned back and his words floated over the wind and over to me…

“Fight, for what you believe in, face your enemy with integrity and compassion; but don’t lose yourself along the way.”

And with that, he left me to ponder over the words that would forever be ingrained in my mind.

On the fourth night came the old woman, who looked to be the grandmother of every child’s story; the Crone of every tale. Her skin was tanned and wrinkled like old parchment paper. Her body at first glance seemed to be frail but was actually strong and sturdy. But it was her eyes that captured me. They were the colour of the earth; different shades of brown with hints of green all over. She held a book in her hand and beckoned me over to her. She didn’t talk at all; all she did was show me some pictures in the book she was holding. Some of the pictures were coloured, others weren’t. Some were hand-drawn, others were taken with film. All of them showed life, in ways that I never saw it before. There were children playing in a river, an old man and his wife sitting on a bench and a young woman looking straight into the camera; almost as if she was staring right at me. Her expression was indecipherable, but her eyes were so full of life that it seemed like they told a story all of their own. It was this picture where the old woman stopped and smiled and took my hand in hers. She pointed to the picture and then at herself; and I realized the woman in the picture was her. Even in her old age; it was her eyes that hadn’t changed. But when I looked closer, it wasn’t just life that filled them; it was also sadness, like she bit into an apple expecting it to be sweet but it was actually bitter. As soon as that thought crossed my mind, she closed the book with a soft thud, smiled at me and said, so quietly that it was like the rustling of paper:

“That’s life.”

I didn’t quite understand what she meant until I woke up the next morning. And even then, with the wisdom she’d given me, I knew I wasn’t done learning.

By this time I was wondering if I was going to be dreaming of people for the rest of my life, and then I thought “Would that be so bad?”

The fifth night was filled with animals: all different colours, all different sizes and all of them so full of life. I’m not sure when they sensed something I was too distracted by everything. But when the shot rang loud and clear, the animals scattered; even the branches swayed, as if a force that powerful could move the trees. When I looked around I noticed a deer on the ground and a liquid ruby colour pouring out from its body. I knelt beside it and my hands fluttered around the dying animal uselessly. I couldn’t think of anything logical. All I could think about was how to end this poor animal’s suffering.

Before I knew it, a man was walking out of the trees towards me. He got down beside me and snapped the deer’s neck. I whipped towards him and reached out to hit him; but he was too fast. At that moment I didn’t care if he was supposed to teach me something or if I would get in trouble if I hit him; I was blinded by a fiery rage.

“How could you? It did nothing too you? All it was doing was being peaceful and being alive! And you took that away. How dare you!”

He only looked at me until finally he let me go and I fell backward out of shock; I must have said something to him that made me not a threat. I was getting ready to yell at him some more when he interrupted me.

“You’re right. How dare I take away from nature to abuse my strength against something so pure and so full of life?  My family and I need to eat. I have to show them that I can take care of them no matter what, and if that means I have to kill once in a while, I will do it, but it doesn’t make the killing any less easy.”

“Then why keep doing it? There are other ways of surviving, aren’t there? Ways you don’t have to kill?”

“There’s nothing I can do to stop the pain I feel every time I take a life.  That’s why I snapped its neck:  to end its suffering. I know my life has the same value as the deer - nothing makes me better than this animal - but this is about survival.

“Now, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to see what I’m about to do...”

For the next few hours, I stayed by the stream and silently cried to myself over the helpless animal and the unfortunate strong man who was just as helpless.

When the man had a fire going, he called me over to get warm and then started speaking in a language I had never heard before. When his words stopped, he threw the largest chunk of meat into the fire. As I watched it burn, he began speaking again:

“Do you know why I did that?”  I shook my head and didn’t look at him.  “It’s because I’m offering it to the Creator.”

And that was it; that was when I woke up.

All day I looked stuff up on the Creator. I asked my teachers and my parents, but when I could only find a little information, I decided to go to an Aboriginal Health Centre to learn more...

When I went to sleep that night, I was curious (and a little worried) about what I would find in my dreams...

The scenery had changed.  Instead of being in a large open field, with flowers or animals or a fire pit or anything, it now held a cottage. It looked cozy and welcoming, so I started making my way towards it.

When I got closer, I saw an old man sitting out on his porch. His eyes were closed and he just slowly rocked himself. I made my way towards him, every step careful and patient. When I got to him, I sat on the chair opposite him and waited patiently for what he had to say.

We watched animals come and go as the sun moved across the sky. We heard the birds singing and the bees buzzing. Eventually, the moon rose and the stars danced alongside it.

I wanted to know if this was all leading up to something, but I wasn’t sure if I should disturb the man.  When I was about to give up on the whole night, he began to speak:

“Respect is something you can see, you can hear, you can feel. When you respect someone, you put your trust, your heart and your loyalty in them. You open yourself up to be respected by learning of those who you respect. Respect is an idea; a concept of life. It can only help you by letting it.”

I admit I didn’t fully understand what he meant I had a feeling it was one of things that you would learn when you grew up. So I didn’t question it I just made sure I never forgot it.

If I had known the seventh night was going to be my last night of having these dreams I’m not sure what I would have done differently… Maybe nothing, maybe something huge. But I’ll never know.

This dream was different. Everything was gone. There were no trees, no grass, no stream, no sun, and no wind. It was just dark; but in the midst of this darkness was a mirror. I was confused and a little frightened but, even so, I knew if I didn’t find out what was going on, it would haunt me for the rest of my life.

As I walked towards the mirror, I remembered all the dreams I’d had, all the things I’d learned and all the strange and yet breathtaking people I had met. There was the little boy so full of honesty, and the girl so in love that it made me smile just looking at her, and the tormented brave man who fought for what he knew was right, and the old woman with the wisdom of life in her eyes, the man who felt humility every time he took a life and the last was the old man who I couldn’t even describe in words except respected.

By the time I was done reminiscing, I was standing right in front of the mirror. It wasn’t anything special to look at, much like the mirror in my bedroom, with chipped paint and made of oak. I kept expecting something to appear or for someone to speak; but nothing came. All there was to look at was my own reflection, so that’s all I did. I studied my eyes, nose, teeth, mouth and tongue. When I was doing all this I didn’t notice my reflection changing; it started moving without me moving along with it.

Soon enongh, my reflection wasn’t my reflection anymore; it was another me in the mirror.  It smiled at me and held out his hand; palm faced towards me. I felt a pull towards it and placed my palm against my reflections; we would be touching if the mirror didn’t separate us. And that was it.  We didn’t ask questions or move around we just stared at each; taking everything in. In that moment of silent consideration between us, I realized that the boy I saw in the mirror was my last teacher. I mean, now that I really think about it, all those people taught me something, something valuable and astounding. As I continued to look at myself in the mirror, I saw all the other dreams in me; they were all in my reflection’s eyes. This had to mean they were in my eyes, too. I finally understood the truth, and the purpose for having these dreams:  it was so I could see and handle my life better.

With that realization, I woke up, knowing that I could make a difference, starting with myself.