HOLY CRAP!!! There it was, a moose the size of a three-story walk up lumbering across the highway as only an animal weighing over 1000 lbs can do on four legs the width of spaghetti. How such a beast can even stand, let alone strut is one of life’s mysteries
He stopped in in the middle of the road, turned his head, and stared at me as I quickly slowly from highway speed to a full stop.
“OMG! OMG! A moose,” I spat, “A friggin’ moose.”
I had never seen a moose in all the tens of thousands of kilometres I’d driven to present my cyberbullying workshops at First Nation Schools in northern Saskatchewan. I grabbed my cellphone, jumped out of the Batmobile (my plate is IMBTMAN), and took a couple of pics before the moose turned, and flailed across the road like a drunken sailor, before disappearing into the forest on the other side.
“Thank you God! Thank you Creator…uh, thank you Moose, for letting me see you today. WOW! THANK YOU EVERYONE,” I yelled, as I climbed back into my truck. I couldn’t contain my excitement.
CUMBERLAND HOUSE CREE NATION
The road into Cumberland House, Saskatchewan is 100k of gravel interspersed with long patches of bogs…covered in…uhhh…gravel. I’m driving along at 90k, the road is straight, and though gravelled, very solid until suddenly, FLOMP. That’s right, FLOMP. I had hit a stretch of road that’s as soft as marshmallow, and the Batmobile began to sink.
The next 300’ was an act of pure fishtailing trying to stay afloat in a sea of gravelled quicksand. By far, this road is the worst I’ve driven on in the past 5 years of travelling north but my Ram 4×4 stayed true. I finally get to the reserve school to talk to the Gr K-12 classes on cyberbullying.
The morning was fantastic. All the younger classes were enthusiastic, and so much fun to talk to. I anticipated a much tougher audience in the afternoon as the gym would be awash in wave after wave of teenage hormones. Gr 7-12 would be in their, lounging in their chairs like deboned chickens, hoodies up, ball caps or toques on and earbuds hidden in the dark recesses of what would normally be their ears. Lord help me as I would take my life into my hands entering that lions den
Lunch came quickly, and I was ushered into the commercial kitchen located in the school. The entire school gets a hot meal, and today it was ham, corn niblets, salad and perogies.
“What’s Ukrainian food doing on the Rez,” I asked one of the six cooks.
She smiled and replied, “The kids love perogies.”
Of course they do. Who doesn’t. As a half Ukrainian, half Irishman with a blast of French and Cree blood in me, I know perogies. I told her there are three kinds of bannock, baked, fried and these, boiled bannock with mashed potatoes and cheese inside. They loved that idea lol.
“Speaking of fried bannock,” she said, “We were told you loved fried bannock with raisins, so we are making some for you.”
With a wave of her arm, she directed my attention to a young woman in a pristine white apron dunking neatly cut rectangles of bannock, two slits in the top, in a pot of bubbling oil. Smiling, she told me the two freezer bags on the counter were for me with more coming. What a perfect day. What an incredibly amazing day. Wonderful kids, fantastic teachers and fried bannock with raisins…Food from the Heavens.
By the end of lunch, she had four huge bags waiting for me. Not wanting to be a pig (though I am a retired cop so if the show fits), I took one bag and thanked them profusely. They insisted I take all four, but I said I couldn’t. I hugged them, and left with my bag, smiling and feeling like I had found paradise
JAMES SMITH CREE NATION
Highway 35 south of my hotel in Nipawin turns near a town called Ridgedale, a normally sleepy community where little happens, except one awful day when a bus carrying the Humboldt Bronco’s hockey team collided with a semi steaming down secondary highway 335. Many people were killed that day, with many others severely injured. Following Google maps on my iPhone, I was told to turn right at the intersection ahead, and as I slowed to turn, I saw the Bronco’s memorial set in place remembering those who passed, and those who had suffered that awful day. I wasn’t expecting to see this, and the site caught my breath.
I stopped, got out, and stood in silence reading the signs, hockey sticks and other items set in place. I looked up, and there was an eagle circling overhead. I felt a strange tug to get going as though I needed to get to James Smith without delay. I said a final prayer, and boarded the Batmobile before heading west on Route 335.
I gave two talks in the morning to classes at Bernard Constant Community School in James Smith Cree Nation, and was joined at lunch by an older gentleman who came over, introduced himself as Wayne Burns, an Elder in the community who works in the school teaching the students respect and kindness which dovetailed perfectly with what I was teaching them. We shared a meal and I listened as he taught me more than I’ll ever be able to teach the kids I talk to.
He asked me if I had Cree in me, and I told him I did but it was several generations ago. He said that though I may not be full blooded, the fact I had Cree blood in me meant I was Cree. He said he could tell by my energy, the way I taught the kids, and by my desire to listen, and to learn. I was completely blown away.
I told him about the moose on the highway, and how a close friend of mine, Reg Bugler (Ceremonial name: He Who’s Heard Everywhere), an elder from a reserve near North Battleford, Saskatchewan, asked me if I had given thanks to the moose for showing himself to me. Of course I had, though unknowingly, thanked God, the Creator, and the Moose in that moment.
James Smith elder Wayne Burns, asked me if I had ever noticed an eagle flying above me, and I had honestly forgotten about the Humboldt Bronco memorial from earlier. He told me that the moose’s presence was a gift from the grandfather, food to sustain me, and that I should’ve stopped and given thanks using tobacco. I should offer some to the Creator by holding my hand high above my head, then lowering it some, and offering tobacco to the grandfather, lower again to the grandmother, then place some on the ground honouring Mother Earth. I was spell bound. Such an incredible day of learning.
As I left James Smith Cree Nation, I replayed the events of the trip over in my mind, the moose, the bannock with raisins, the Bronco’s memorial, and that eagle…THAT EAGLE!!! HOLY CRAP!!! THERE WAS AN EAGLE OVERHEAD. I got shivers and goosebumps as I heard the words of Wayne Burns ringing in my ears…”Have you ever noticed an eagle flying above you?”
Life is a journey, and if we can simply slowdown, listen to others, and realize we don’t have all the answers, amazing things happen that at times seem disjointed and unrelated. Nothing is unrelated in this world. Things happen for a reason. People come into your life for a reason. What a trip.