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Justice and the Indigenous Peoples of Canada PART 5 – It’s not just about the men… Norm Zigarlick, an itinerant senior based in AB/SK [Series began in the Winter issue, Vol. 29, No.2]

There is a saying that behind every strong man there is a strong woman. For the most part that has been true throughout history. It pretty much has to be true because without women there would be no men at all. There is also a case that could be made for the statement that behind every babbling man drowning his sorrows in the poison of his choice, there is also a woman. Of course, in our modern world of what now might be called “expanded genders” it has become very difficult to generalize these formerly profound utterances. I`m not well enough equipped with grey matter to go deep into the new realities, but I am old and that gives me some sort of seniority to write about the history I have witnessed. As far as my observations of fairly recent aboriginal history are concerned, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that women were an absolutely essential part in the lives of the men that, in many ways, were the heroes of my past. There is no particular order of importance to the notes I am about to pass on but, having said that, it does seem to make sense that I mention when I first became aware of the quiet, determined intelligence that I saw manifest itself over and over again for the next sixty years or so. I was in third grade in Uranium City, Saskatchewan; it was in the early days of the Uranium boom. There was a young girl in my class, her name was April; her mom was Aboriginal, her dad English. He had very little imagination when it came to naming his kids. April had sisters May and June and a brother August. April was quiet, very pretty, thoughtful and was always in the top 5% of the class in anything we did that didn’t involving hollering or disrupting the proceedings. My older siblings were in classes with the other girls and they were of the same ilk. They sure didn’t get their serenity from their dad. Gus was a local legend who made a ton of cash with mining claims and insanely expensive products at his general store. In 1953, he loaded up most of his kids and flew to England (a very big deal in those days) to witness the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Had Ritalin been invented in 1953, Gus would have been the adult poster boy for ADHD, and the stuff would have had him too drugged up to walk. 24 dialogue

WINTER 2016-17, VOL. 30, NO. 2

Brother August was a bit above that; there wasn’t enough Ritalin on the planet that would have even slowed August down. No shortage of intelligence with either of them, but the term “high energy” doesn’t cover the rest of it. April and an over-achieving little blonde kid named Lena were the teacher’s pets. This was 1953, when an Aboriginal kid that hadn’t been beaten by a teacher, but did pass a grade, was considered unusual. It was confusing to us regular folk that this could happen because John Wayne certainly didn’t explain it that way. I spent 3 years in classes that April was in; she never changed. It doesn’t sound reasonable but by age 8, this kid was already displaying intelligence, wisdom, kindness and a certain belief in herself that a lot of adults never find. I didn’t know what any of that meant at the time I just knew she was very cool and smart. April wasn’t alone in the world. When I was nineteen I met a bunch of people in a small town in the NWT. I was surprised at how welcoming the young people were to a stranger that just showed up to work in a nearby mine. In theory they were in the sticks and out of touch with the real world. In reality they were at least 20 years ahead of the rest of North America with regard to the genuine social acceptance of individuals no matter the race creed or colour. One of the people in the community was a tall good looking girl of seventeen. Her parents were Métis and two of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. He was a hard-working commercial fisherman and she raised a large family of eight kids, all of which fit the mould for what humans should be. The first thing that struck me was how well they all got along and how much laughing went on. It wasn’t giddy, giggly stuff; it was witty, topical and hardly, if ever, harmful. In the middle of that was the seventeen year old, she had that same sense of where she fit in the bigger world that April had shown me a decade earlier. She had the nickname “Deeds” and everybody in town under the age of fifty knew her by that. The reason for it? She was a tall, good looking, smart and funny high school sweetie that by all counts should have been a smug, demanding, selfimpressed cheerleader like the ones in American movies. www.dialogue.ca

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Dialogue v 30 n 2 winter2016 17  

Canada's unique volunteer-produced magazine for ideas, insights, critical thinking & radical imagination - shared in letters, essays, storie...

Dialogue v 30 n 2 winter2016 17  

Canada's unique volunteer-produced magazine for ideas, insights, critical thinking & radical imagination - shared in letters, essays, storie...