Orange ribbons are banging on the rear-view mirrors of the cars. Native drums on the speakers. The landscape slowly changes from flat yellow plains to huge green trees and, finally, to mountains. Our spiritual journey is at our doorstep. I feel it’s spiritual. Prayer, purification and ceremonies. Teach and share as we meet people. They see us in our orange shirts. Tears flow along the way, but we support each other.
We don’t just come with the Sacred Pack and freebies; we come with our own personal residential school stories. It’s a bond, and the thing that brought us together. I hear from other people who, like me, have been drawn to this trip. It wasn’t an “if” or “might” type feeling; it was a must. We have all been called for this pilgrimage. We each have our gifts to share. Sweetgrass is stronger when braided together. The same goes for this group of grandmothers and mothers on a spiritual journey to the mountains.
Toddlers on each site. (Photo: Vivian Ketchum)
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THE GRAMS ARE COMING, I SAY IT TO THE LITTLE LITTLE.
Coming up with gifts that you haven’t had a chance to play with. Prayers you never had the chance to hear. The love of a suffering community. A community that shares its history with yours.
Yes, the grandmothers are coming. Warrior grandmothers who will demand justice. We are coming, Little ones.
RAISE YOUR SMOKING BOWLS WESTWARD.
Lift up your prayers in the east. We give the sacred package to the chief today. I dreamed of a mother crying for her child. I couldn’t shake the dream. He kept replaying in my sleep. I share my story with another residential school survivor. She is over 80 years old. A guardian of the knowledge of the language. I am comforted. He feels so good. Healing.
A DOZEN OF INDIGENOUS WOMEN OF SIMILAR STORIES.
We travel together for a week, journeying towards a spiritual goal. Show support for a grieving community. There are no arguments or scrabbles over who the boss is. Instead, we each use our individual gifts. Each obstacle was overcome through a group effort. When one was weak, another took over. We have reached our goal and completed our trip.
I think Manitoba needs an aboriginal woman chief. We are getting things done. Endless black paving stone. Lead home. I can go home. I can see my family. I can see the sunset once more. People know my name. I manage to…
WHEN THE WALLS BEGIN
In a chain.
Yellow buttercup flower
Under the chin
Do you like butter
The smell of grass
Mixed with the smell of
a sewer nearby.
The shiny swing
With its long chains
The chains of the swing
Who pinched the palms
From your hands
Still too scared of
My feet and my hands
Were too small.
The group of trees
With its sticky sap
The green hedge with
Its thorny bushes
He walked around the building
This basement window
With this strange mirror
It distorted your image
If you were dancing in
The gray staircase that
Children knew how to avoid
In this office
It looks picturesque
But it was my prison
As a child
Where i learned
Where the whisper
Viviane Ketchum is a member of the Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation and lives in Winnipeg.
This story first appeared in the October / November 2021 issue of Broadview under the title “Survivors’ Journey”.
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