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did have a problem with bears, and when the snow stopped and after a fair bit of shoveling, off we went. ≈∞≈

I used to do some work with a young fellow from Japan, he had a strong interest in North American Aboriginal cultures, and over time he had forged some strong friendships. I was in the Vancouver area one evening when he called me and asked if I wanted to join him and his friend for dinner at the ‘Great Wall.’ I don't know if it’s still there, but at the time it was located near the west end of Robson Street downtown. It was small, with very plain decor, but served up fantastic Mongolian food. I couldn't turn that down. Nob was about 5 foot six with his boots on, Robert, his Northern Manitoba Cree friend, was near 6 foot five with his boots off. Robert was in good physical shape and weighed in somewhere around 250 pounds. He had some experience with the prison system as a young man, but had turned his life around and become a community worker and human rights activist. He was very well spoken and soft spoken. He also wore glasses. Just across from us was a fellow about 35, clean cut, fair haired, perhaps 5 foot 11 and 180 pounds. He was just finishing his dinner, and he seemed to have been drinking more than he should have. When they delivered his fortune cookie he couldn't read it. He patted his pockets looking for his glasses but had no luck. He looks straight at Robert and says, “hey, gimme your glasses, I wanna read this.” Robert very softly said “I can’t do that.” The guy asked again, and then again. In his last try he said “give me your glasses I wanna see my future”. Robert very slowly stood up and quietly said “I'm not giving you my glasses but if you don't f#$k off, I can predict your future.” The guy left without further predictions. ≈∞≈

Billy Borque was also a very large Cree fellow, who also happened to be my boss for several years. He was the owner/operator of Loon Air Ltd, a small charter company based in Fort Smith, NWT. It was unusual to see Billy without a smile. If you did, it was a good time to not be the focus of his discontent. Billy was an excellent business man and an extraordinary bush pilot. He was able to blend his traditional skills with his love of flying. He was fair, generous and funny. He became a legend in the North. He and I both had trips scheduled for early Saturday morning departures. At 6:30 AM, he phoned and said meet me at the Pinecrest for breakfast at 7:00. As we were walking across the parking lot, a very ragged-looking guy popped out from around a corner and said,

“Billy lend me 20 bucks, I'll pay you Tuesday.” Billy handed over a 20 and away the guy went. I said “you know that's 20 you won't see again. He said “yep but now he owes me 20, and I won't see him again for two years either.” ≈∞≈

My Japanese friend noted earlier was named Nobuo. He had picked up the nickname Nob and he was comfortable with it. He came along on a fishing trip to the NWT one summer, and I had made arrangements to have Billy's company fly us out. Billy was at the float base when we arrived. Naturally I introduced the two. I used Nob's nickname. Billy reached out his hand to Nob but looked at me and said “what's his real name, I ain't calling anybody knob unless I am looking for a fight.” In a small remote Dene community on the shores of Great Slave Lake, a young fellow had gone to school then eventually worked his way into a government job. Along the way he worked in the field of economic development. He was a handsome and fit guy who played hockey, rode snowmobiles and hunted on the land. He left for bigger things and rose up the government food chain. Several years later he visited the community, as an influential bureaucrat, to be involved in some serious negotiating regarding a development proposal. In true government fashion, he arrived late in a grand and self-important manner. The Band Council was already sitting in the Board room. The Vice Chief was a young guy; he looked up and the first thing he said was, “holy shit you got fat.” Mr. Government said, “hey but I am still quick as a cat.” Without looking up, another council member said, “ya... a D-8.” It set the tone for the meeting in a hurry, there was to be no hat-in-hand bargaining happening. ≈∞≈

Mickey is a fellow with Cree roots. Under his given name he is now a well-known BC artist that sells his pieces for thousands of dollar. He is also talented musician and has a super quick wit. Back in the 60s it was still legal for employers to ask job applicants for their “racial origins.” Mickey applied for a position in Edmonton. He wrote down Canadian. The employer said no I need to know your racial origin. Mickey said “I am Cree, French and English you don't get more Canadian than that.” He didn't get the job – something about being uncooperative. ≈∞≈

Charlie was a big man, very near the same size as Robert whom I mentioned earlier. For a while he was a longhaul trucker. Other times he was a forest fire fighter …/ VOL. 30, NO. 1, AUTUMN 2016

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Dialogue Vol.30, No.1 digital edition  

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