Arts & Récits Autochtones - Commitment


2014 - Lauréat de récits

His truck comes to a halt out in front of her corner plot home. Raymond walks up to it and finds her sitting outside on her front stoop alone. She looks up at him with a blank expression and rests her head back down on her knees.

Lisez l’histoire de Shadrak (Shak) Gobért

Shadrak (Shak) Gobért

Toronto, ON
Frog Lake First Nation
Âge 20

Une note d'auteur

This story was inspired greatly by my late great grandfather who served in the Second World War. My great grandfather was a member of the Frog Lake First Nation (my home reservation). He always told stories of his time overseas, sometimes fond memories, sometimes terrifying ones. Even though he came back traumatized to an extent, he never regretted his service, which made me intrigued as to why he went in the first place.

It's well known that Aboriginal people from across this nation fought for Canada in both World Wars, but only few people speak of the motivation as to why they would even consider doing so. Why would thousands enlist when Canada didn't even recognize them as citizens, and openly continue to call them "savages"?

These questions motivated my research into the subject, and subsequently this short story was produced as a result.

Lisez la suite


Etching his name proved to be much harder than he had anticipated. His hand trembled as the pen shook and began to tap gently on the wooden table. Slowly he lifted his troubled gaze off of the document in front of him and let it settle upon the low-set window across the office room. He could see the trees glistening and the sun’s rays; he was comforted by the idea that the summer ceremonies would begin soon.

Is this necessary? Selfish? Is this the best decision for us? Endless questions clouded his choice.

“Is everything alright?” asked the man on the other side of the counter just to the right of him.

“Um… yes, everything is fine, thank you.” The clerk, with a concerned look on his face, turned back to his stack of applications and resumed his stamping.

“You know young man, you’re doing the right thing for your country,” the clerk stated.

With his fingertips beginning to moisten from the sweat of his palms he lost his grip on the pen and swiveled his head towards the doorway.

The door shut behind him as he walked to his truck. A couple of drunk white guys start heckling, they shout “Hey dirty Indian what you doing in town you – you betta head back to your filty reserve… you tryna sign up for our war… we don’t need you… only good Indian is a dead one.” The smaller fat one throws his beer bottle and although Raymond moves quickly it catches the edge of his forehead… he feels a dull ache as the bottle shatters to ground and figures that it isn’t worth the trouble. He jumps into his truck and peels out as the drunks attempt to kick in his taillights.

His truck rumbles and groans as it crosses the bridge from Montreal to Kahnawake. He lets out a slight sigh of relief as his truck crosses into reserve land. He looks down the dirt road towards home… leans his foot off of the gas pedal and makes a right towards Tracey’s instead, she hadn’t spoken to him in nearly a week – he knew something had to be wrong. As he drives he pictures her silhouette the first time he laid eyes on her almost three years ago now. A small smile takes over his face as he imagines her full lips and shimmering dark brown hair. All of his senses come to life as he becomes lost in thoughts about her.

His truck comes to a halt out in front of her corner plot home. Raymond walks up to it and finds her sitting outside on her front stoop alone. She looks up at him with a blank expression and rests her head back down on her knees. Just as Raymond is about to speak she says under her breath “I-… I’m pregnant”. Raymond’s breath becomes caught in his throat, as the tension slides up his body from toe to head. Slowly she gets up and walks into the house, leaving the door open behind her. He finally breathes out and is surprised by the lightness he feels come over him; his shoulders roll back as he walks inside, closing the door behind him.


“Don, is that you? Don?” his wife calls from the living room as he enters.

“Yes Otsi’tsa, it’s just me; I decided to stop at Martha’s on the way home, I had to pick up some tools that James left for me, before he went last month.”

Grace comes striding out of the living room towards him then. “So that’s why you’re so late getting back – what’s that you’re holding?”

“Some bannock, Martha made it for us.”

Grace grabs it from him and takes off into the kitchen. “ Bless her heart, this should help out a bit around here,” she says, casting a concerned look at Don.

Don takes off his dirty boots and buckskin jacket. Immediately he goes to see Rocky in the living room, who had just returned from residential school for the summer. Grace was planning a celebration dinner for his return, hoping that it would lift his spirits; she’d noticed that Rocky’s smile wasn’t as big as it used to be.


“Where’s your older brother?”

“He left right after you did this morning, said he had some work to get done,” Rocky responded.

From the other room they could hear the rustling of Grace in the kitchen as Raymond’s truck rumbled up to the house. They could hear the creaky swinging of the door again as his eldest son entered.

Raymond walked inside and looked at the photo of his grandfather as he took off his shoes. It had sat there ever since he could remember, but it wasn’t until now that he truly took in the stoic face and military uniform that his grandfather wore. He had been a code talker in the First World War, a highly respected position among the Mohawk veterans. Would I be a code talker too? Raymond wonders My Mohawk is perfect.

“Khwe Ista,” he says to his mother as he enters the kitchen. Grace was already preparing the bannock and what else was left to add to dinner: some pieces of dried meat and a couple of vegetables from out back. She grimaces at the meager amount of food in front of her, feeling a wave of sorrow before quickly snapping out of it, her attention moving back to her son as he walks in to see her.

“How was work today, Raymond?”

“It was alright, they let us out a little early so I had some time to get things done around town.”

She looks at him warmly but then with irritation in her voice she states, “I still can’t believe that they’re making you work Sundays at this point, it’s just not right. This foreign war for the whites is just plain stupid, why should you and your father be working overtime to support a country that hates us anyway? Foreigners overseas have little to do with any Indian… Are they even paying you extra for all this work?”

“I can’t ask them to pay me more, you know that – I could very well lose this job, and they’re already giving me $4.50 a day, which is far better than most of us are getting around here. And let’s face it: I’m lucky to be one of the few Indians they were willing to even hire.”

She turns back towards the kitchen sink and continues to wash the freshly picked carrots and beets with a newfound vigor.

“I just don’t understand why a government that doesn’t even recognize our own independence as sovereign nations expects us to not only help them with their war, but also go overseas for them. What if Martha’s husband never makes it back?”

“He’ll make it back just fine, Ista” Raymond sighs as he sits down on one of the rickety wooden chairs at the table.

“Well even if he does make it back in one piece, do they really think that we will be treated any differently because of it? Any Indian that goes overseas for this effort is a traitor in my mind.”

“James is anything but a traitor, Grace! What if I signed up today? They’re only doing what is best for their families, you know that’s why Martha let him go,” Don replies.

Both Grace and Raymond turn their attention to the doorway where Don is now standing.

“Haven’t you ever thought that some of these Mohawk people are joining because they want to do what’s right for the future of us all? That they are joining because the days of Mohawk people keeping to themselves is over? That we’re now going to have to live with these whites one way or another?”

“ I think dad is right Ista, they aren’t doing it because they want to; they’re doing it for the betterment of us all and for our future with these white people. They’re only trying to better their families.”

Grace looks at them both irritably, dropping the vegetables and stomping towards Don. She slaps him on his right cheek as hard as she can. “How dare you threaten to leave this family for a white man’s war! Do you remembernothing about my father? Do you not remember the time he spent overseas during the “Great War”? How he left for the same reason, thinking and hoping that his generation would be treated differently upon their return, and do you know what happened to them? DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED?”

Don trembles as he thunders back at her, “OF COURSE I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! Nothing… nothing changed, but these are different times, and this family needs the money.”

“CHANGE? They treated them like dogs when they got back, their time spent there was useless. Whites only cared to use our people for the front lines of their wars and then shipped them back home to horrible conditions, hoping that they died from the diseases they carried back with them,” she shouted.

Don breathes deeply and walks over to the table with a regretful look upon his face; he pulls out a stool from underneath the table and sits down, gazing at the floor. A blank state sweeps over his face “They pay $8.00 a day for service overseas, something that our family could use. We all know that’s why Martha’s husband left, and look at them now. Martha and the kids are doing well.”

Grace stares straight into Don’s eyes. “I know we need that, but I’m not willing to let my family fight and die over there”

Don looks at her with shame in his eyes, pulling the recruitment papers from his pocket. “It’s what’s best for our family, and I won’t let Rocky grow up with no money like you did, Raymond,” he says, looking at his son across the table gravely.

By this time Raymond’s palms have begun to sweat as he reaches inside of his pant pocket. His eyes turn to his mother as he places a familiar paper on top of his father’s. Raymond lifts his head to meet his father’s gaze and Don stares back at him, their faces both sharing a confirmed moment of reality.

Grace steps back as the anger drains from her face. Tears roll down her cheeks.

Raymond gently takes her hand and draws her to him as she sobs into his chest. “It’s what’s best for this family… what’s best for my family.”