One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live
I’m at the gas station. The cashier asked me for my status number. I smiled at how beautifully versatile brown hair is.
I like my name. As many people have said, it is a great gift from my mother. On one hand, I’m never anonymous. I’m the only Allendria most know. On the other hand, it means I make my own meaning. There are no placards dictating the origin of my name, no coasters that state its significance.
I love the perplexed expressions on most people’s faces when I first tell them. I especially love telling them that there is no origin other than my mother’s mind when they ask. When they ask my heritage, trying to explain to themselves such an oddity, I revel in how their faces go from perplexed to utterly confused when I say my father is of English origin and my mother is Caribbean.
I love having no significant roots or ties to a physical location. Any place is my home if I choose to make it so.
It therefore interests me to see a people so tied to the land as the Dene people in Hatchet Lake (Wollaston Lake, for the “white people”).
Some can tell you all about the lake — probably the largest body of water fully in Saskatchewan — and how it feeds the land and people. The land is pure and beautiful like nothing I have ever seen before. I put my cup out of my boat yesterday and drank what it caught, which was crystal clear and tasteless.
I sat around one night with a group of healers. I helped one make pouches with local herbs that ward off ill-will. I chewed on rat root and helped pray over burning sweet grass. I had a conversation with one fellow that will stick with me about the rhythms of the earth and everything on it. 14,000 years of the Dene people’s history in the area, they say.
Another man, a friend, pointed out how willingly I was taking on the culture, how eagerly I absorb what I can while trying to participate and help out.
Elders also mourn ad nauseum the changes in the land that encompasses Canada, noting how the tar sands have destroyed northern Alberta and promise to do far worse.
Since I arrived, I have heard many lament about how the white man has raped Mother Nature.
There is a lot about how terrible industry is, and the role of the government in the defilement of various First Nations, Métis and Inuit territories. Rightfully so. Industry has been terrible, and people (including several First Nations, Métis and Inuit nations) support the industry. It should be up to government to curb environmental destruction, but the will is lacking.
Another man complained to me about “the Pakis shitting all over” their beach because they didn’t like using the bathroom. He said they were considering making it a private beach for First Nations only.
I re-entered a meeting today, after taking photos of children playing at the beach. I was supposed to take photos of local fishermen catching dinner, showing the uses of the water to carry the word of the Keepers of the Water conference in the visual sense. Upon my return, I was chastised by an old Dene woman, who said that back in her day, people didn’t go in and out of meeting, leaving to go to appointments or smoke (as another fellow did). No one should cut off elders, she said.
Cultural faux pas? Probably. Not that she would give me a chance for rebuttal, however. She barely looked at me. What does my opinion matter?
Along with my versatility of culture and “race” comes what I feel is a complete absence of belonging. I often feel I don’t have a right to anything.
What land is my people’s land? None. What people are mine? None. What right by birth do I have to anything? None.
I don’t fit anywhere. I like it this way.