Telling Our Stories:
Story telling is the Shuswap
way of passing our history
to the next generations
After I did grades one and two at the Mission, I transferred to the newly built Sugar Cane Day School. That was in 1954 and I turned eight that year. There must have been about twenty-five to thirty of us kids attending, ranging from grade one to five.
Every day after school, after my chores, I would go visiting somewhere on the reserve. At the far end of the reserve was the Alphonse home. I would visit there almost daily. David Grouse lived there. David began to give me advice, mentoring advice I would say. He would scold me when he knew I did something wrong. He would give me praise when I did good. He always asked what I learned in school.
This one time, we were down at the big bridge fishing after school. It was in the spring time and long dry hay and grass was everywhere. There was a whole bunch of us kids at the bridge fishing. It seems, as long as I can remember, people would burn grass in the spring. It just seemed like it was a custom or something, people just burned grass in the spring. So this one time, someone started a fire by the Big Bridge. Of course all of kids had to get involved. So we were all pulling bunches of grass and lighting them then running here and there lighting other grass. In the process I had bent too close to one of the fires and I got my hair, eye brows and eye lashes burnt to a crisp. I didn’t get hurt because it had happened so quickly. I don’t remember if I got any scolding when I got home. It probably wasn’t too harsh because I can no longer remember. However, I remember going to the Alphonse’s the next day and meeting David.
The first thing David did was notice my hair or the lack of it. He called me to come closer and he examined the damage. He asked in a stern voice, “What happened?” I froze. Most of the time I didn’t fear David, but this time he sounded mad. My mind suddenly sped up to a hundred miles and hour trying to think of a good answer. I blurted out,”It was Jimmy Sandy, he burned my hair”. Of course Jimmy was nowhere near when it happened. He then said I’m going to talk to that Jimmy when I see him. He then got up and looked out the window and who would you believe was playing outside- Jimmy. He went to the door, opened it and called for Jimmy to come in. I was caught, my lie was going to be exposed. I started trying to fess up yelling,”It wasn’t Jimmy, it wasn’t him”, but too late Jimmy had come in.
David asked in a very cross voice,”Ricky(my elders always called me’Ricky’) says you burned his hair, is that right?”. I interjected very loudly,”He didn’t do it”. But David didn’t seem to hear. Jimmy said,”What!”. Again David says,”Ricky says you burned his hair”. Jimmy responds,”He’s lying, I didn’t do that”. Again I yelled,”He didn’t do it, I did”. This time David hears me and turns to me,”What you lie for? You got Jimmy in trouble. Don’t you lie again and you shouldn’t be playing with fire. It’s bad”. I never forgot that scoulding. And Jimmy forgave me in a short while. Jimmy was one of my best childhood friends.