Weekends With The Chief

When I was a teenager, my grandma, me and my grandpa would head out of the city and on to our reserve to my great grandfather’s house during weekends. My great-grandfather, Chief Bigplume, lived to be one hundred yrs. old.

At the time of his birth, the birth documents did not include names, only whether it was a boy or a girl. There were two boys born, one in 1902 and one in 1899. Either one may have been him. This is what I remember one of my aunts telling me. By the time I was born, I don’t think he remembered his age. It is sort of irrelevant, but to think that he could have lived to be one hundred and four is amazing.

I am very proud of my family. My fathers side is from Tsuu T’ina Nation, AB. My mothers family is from Pasqua First Nation, Sask. I grew up with one foot on the rez and another in Calgary, AB.

When my great grandpa grew older, my grandma would take care of him every other weekend. I would go with her sometimes, even though there was no cable, Internet etc. His house, along with my grannies house, are perched high upon a peak in the foothills. Looking to the west, all you can see are rolling hills tumbling over another, then crashing into the side of the rockies – nothing but green pastures and farmland out there (Oh yeah, not to mention my big family).

I remember a time when I was young, around fifteen maybe, and I still liked those quiet nights after long days of visitors (mostly the family). I would get bored and wander off by myself most times to find my own adventure. My cousins had their horses there. There were the dogs and cats, among other animals.

I can’t remember what my granny’s dog’s name was… or was it my granpda’s? No one really owned those dogs. They probably just showed up. They were “rez dogs.” I had them to call as friends. I would go and explore with them on those weekends.

I might have been too scared had I lacked their backup. Our reserve harbors a lot of wildlife (something that I am very proud of). The cities of Cochcrane, Bragg Creek and Calgary surround our land. Being boxed in by these towns may why there are so many kinds of animals thriving there. With nowhere else in the area to roam, they seem to like the reserve just fine. It is not too unusual to see a bear or a moose. It is a little more unusual to see the cougars. There is a pond by the elementary school that makes a nice home for a couple of beavers.

My grandfather’s house was nice but boring enough for a hyper active kid like me to get restless in, so I would only be inside for meals and bedtime. I could think easier and more freely out there with no noise but the wind softly washing the tall grass, or the coyotes howling in the distance at night.

My imagination could have grown big enough to fill those open spaces. Everything was an grand adventure by day and a creepy adventure at night. Nights were quiet … except for the ticking of the clock, the flipping and snapping of my great grandfather playing solitaire, and the free cable reruns playing endlessly on our old TV.

There was enough talk, I guess, but nothing a teenager would find interesting. So I would occupy my time drawing or tinkering. I always sought better and more exciting ways to deal with boredom ’til morning.

I enjoyed visiting grandfather, but those sounds, … even thinking about them now can still make me want to fall asleep! There was nothing else to hear, no usual city sounds to distract me.

My great grandpa was funny and a little, “gone with the wind” (as my grandma might say). I had a hard time understanding him talk, as he probably had with me. You would think with our big ears we would hear each other. I was always yelling too!

One day, on one of our weekends, my grandpa made an odd request. How odd for a man who lived for almost a century? I don’t know. But he said to me, “My boy, write me a story.” I did not ask why or what about. When you are raised to listen and obey your elders, you listen! Although, I had questions in my head, maybe it was just so we would not have to yell at each other (something that only just occurred to me)! I wish I could remember what it was I wrote for him …

Maybe I never really needed to tell it again (I do not think anyone could appreciate it like him, anyways). Maybe I just told him one more.

By Cody J Sewall

This post was submitted by Cody J Sewall.

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