It always brought out the worst in her when she dreamt. To her, "the visions" were not just dreams or nightmares; they were reality. And whenever she woke, she would forget the truth only to fall asleep with her eyes open.Lisez l’histoire de Anahi Palomec-Mckenna
Canoe Creek, Shuswap, BC
Weyt-k, my name is Anahi Palomec and I am Secwépemc from Canoe Creek, BC.
I wanted my piece to explore the intergenerational trauma of the residential school system because I believe that many people in my age group are unaware of the mass effects that carry on into today’s society. Consequently, a lot of today's Canadian youth are disconnected from the past. I live with my grandma who was misplaced from her community and has been directly affected by residential school. My grandmother has influenced me as a storyteller because I have grown up hearing her stories from a very young age. Many of her stories come from personal experience, and I feel compelled to continue her stories through a fictional narrative. Often, I find myself sharing her stories with school peers but I can see from their reactions that they are not familiar with some of the themes or historical content. I use my stories as a tool to educate in a way that is still entertaining for people, because I feel that I can make the themes more relatable. I see myself as a traditional storyteller in the sense that my story has elements of ambiguity and that the listeners can insert themselves in the story and draw their own meaning. There is also an element of documentation and the passing on of oral traditions. I want to honor my grandmother by carrying on the tradition of being a storyteller and pursuing a University degree in writing.
Mother had the dream again. Because of it, I was forced to leave my house, in search of temporary sanctum.
It always brought out the worst in her when she dreamt. To her, "the visions" were not just dreams or nightmares; they were reality. And whenever she woke, she would forget the truth only to fall asleep with her eyes open.
"I wish you had never been born, boy. I give you the best life I can and you slap me in the face by calling me a liar."
I referred to her as a "delusional drunk with a heart of stone". But I never called her a liar.
Our relationship was a constant roller coaster much like her emotional state. It had its ups and downs, but the vicious cycle never ended. Between the screaming fits and the fist- sized holes in the wall, the cops were consistently visiting. Constant whispers about "chronic savage behaviour" only angered her more. This was the fourth time this month that the police picked her up. The dreams just got her in trouble, but like an addiction, she couldn't stop them from taking over.
"Jakob, you have to believe me this time." she said. “The woman of the woods crept towards me. She howled like a wolf and her swift feet made my knees go weak. I was helpless. My kí7ce watched her take me, and she didn't run for help. She just watched me, skúye. Do true mothers just watch their babes disappear? "
That was the last thing Mother said before I was shipped off to the reserve.
I was fifteen, not a skúye. I had been walking myself to school since I was seven years old, but the cops thought I needed to leave Williams Lake, if just for a little while.
The bus ride to Canoe Creek was underwhelming. Dusty, winding roads and barren trees scattered and misplaced, was not the scenic view my mom described. The only human life form I saw was the bus driver, but he barely met human standards. A long nose and buckteeth were his best features, though the rotund belly that hopped up and down with each bump of the uneven road was a close second.
We arrived near a house that was barely standing. Bright blue paint was peeling across the front and sides of the exterior. It had tires and broken vehicles polluting the front yard and a large wooden structure with black garbage bags strewn across. The reservation was fairly quiet aside from the buzzing crickets and the sound of the odd vehicle racing around the mountain. Clumps of tall grass were sparse and unevenly placed across the property. There was no forgiveness to be known in the harsh terrain's steep ascent, though it had character.
I waited for one hour on the crooked wooden steps by the house before encountering any human life. A fire red truck covered in mud sped up to the front door.
"Eh, you must be Lonny's nephew."
"Do you know where my uncle is?" I said.
"He's at the powwow. Jump in the car before the bears get you, eh."
My face paled, but then his thick bellied laugh brought the colour back to my cheeks. "I'm just jokin' with you, city slicker. But if you wanna see your uncle he's at the powwow."
I hopped in the passenger seat and he drove. I could probably trust him: He knew my uncle at least.
We arrived at the cedar harbor and I felt as though I had been here before, perhaps when I was small or barely a thought in my mother's mind. I crawled out of the vehicle and walked around the arena, staying close to the cedar planks. There were few dancers there, but the pounding of feet on thin summer grass to the beat of the drum made it feel overcrowded. Outside the south entrance, there was a tall, dark man wearing a Toronto Jays Baseball cap and faded blue jeans that were ripped at the knees. The man was hefty, possibly in his mid-fifties, but he had the same jovial demeanor, as my friends back home.
"Sonny, come over 'ere," he said. "Are you Dana's kid?"
Was he talking to me? I couldn't help but stutter my one word response. "Y-e-s."
“I'm your Uncle Lonny. You probably don't remember, 'cause the last time I saw you, you were only a couple months old. Your mother, how's she doin'?"
How do you think? Would I come by my own will into the middle of nowhere?
"She's fine." I muttered.
I avoided human interaction for the duration of the evening, wanting nothing more than to go back home on the next bus and sleep away the suffocation of an empty night. The stars began to appear amidst the darkness and I knew it was time to head back.
The car ride back was longer then I remembered. I wish the silence could have continued for the next two weeks but Lonny felt like words were necessary to fill the emptiness surrounding us.
"You know, Jakob, your mother, sh-she's tryin-"
"You know nothing about my mother."
He paused." Do you know why your mother's havin' a rough time?"
"Because she's a psychopath!" I bit my tongue and immediately regretted speaking. Before I knew what was happening, I felt a painful ringing in my ear and my whole face pulsating. A red hand mark was plain across my face.
Uncle Lonny only looked out the front window of the truck, for a moment before his stone face relaxed. He spoke once more.
"Have respect or you’ll get it 'arder next time. Now let me tell you my story. When your mother and I were little, we were sent away from our 'omes. We were sent to residential school. Ever-eh night, before we slept in the dormitories, we would pray that one day we could go 'ome. Your mother was 'urt in a way you could-e never understand.” Tears rolled down his cheek.
“She told me that it was her fault because she was Shuswap. So she moved to the city, to escape the part of herself that 'urt 'er. She never looked back on the reserve, because she could only remember the car rolling up and the man stepping out. Our mother just watched him grab us and stick us in his car. Your mother never forgave and never looked back. I fear the only part of her that is still Secwepemc is you."
"I don't understand."
"She didn't want her skúye to live the life she did."
He nodded. The shadow across his face haunted me, leaving me wondering, like a child again.
"Take it easy on your muma, Jakob, for my sake. She may be tough on you, but she loves you."
The next two weeks flew by. While I packed my bag, I almost thought I would miss the reserve. The bus pulled up next to his house, but I wasn’t ready. Uncle Lonny grabbed my bags and threw them on his back.
"Maybe, you can come visit me again soon. I can show you 'ow to 'unt like a real Shuswap man. I really liked 'avin' you up here, boy, and if you ever have trouble in the city, you know you can come 'ome. Maybe I'll cook you moose nose soup next time."
I knew what he was trying to say, he didn't have to say it. "Kukwstsétsemc , thanks unc-uncle. "
He held his hand out to shake it, but instead I had to hug him. He jolted at the unexpected embrace. I knew I shouldn’t have done it. He didn't like to be touched. I walked towards the bus when I felt him lift me up and squeeze the breath out of me. His hands were warm on my arms like a father's touch and his grip tight. He couldn't let go.
A smile crept across my face as I walked up the steps to the back of the bus. We drove off and I watched my uncle and the reserve slowly disappear behind evergreens and walnut browns. Animals scattered across crimson hills, retreating into the brush. I closed my eyes for a moment, the swaying movement of the bus lulled me and for the first time in years, I dreamt of my mother.