WHEN EAGLES SOAR
A ten year-old Aboriginal boy should be full of laughter, but not Jay. He is sad. His father who is White, just died.
It’s not nice when children call Jay “White Eyes” at school.
“You are Mi’kmaq my son. Your heart is Native, no matter what your skin speaks. Kisu’lk weswalata, our Creator took him,” his mother says.”
Getting back to school is not easy, and the test of Jay’s healing begins. Morning class is finished, time for lunch. And children’s words follow him.
“No Tongue! No Tongue!” is a name with many names.
“I am Mi’kmaq,” Jay tells them.
“Hey Jay!” Peter, his best friend is White. They are in the same grade five-classroom.
“I’ll see you after lunch,” Peter says.
The boys always walk together for school.
“Why,” he asks at home, “must I go to that school? They do not understand the traditions of my past.”
“Names and faces can’t hurt you,” his mother speaks. Her skin is dark and her cheekbones like a raven, searching, hunting, and protecting.
“What’s for dinner?” Jay asks.
“You’re always hungry,” Mother Bear speaks again. “I made some of your favorite Mi’kmaq bread, Lusginigen.”
“Oh Lusgi!” Jay answers back, using the shorter name.
“Yes. Always hungry,” his older cousin answers from a corner of the room. She does everything well. Playing ball. Soccer. She has many friends. Sometimes Jay is jealous.
He is her opposite. When his feet tripped running to first base, he was shamed. Jay became ‘Mikchikch the Turtle’ when others’ words created a path of sorrow to his heart.
In the woods last November, he watched Oapos hopping then eating the remainder of fallen apples. He felt the same, except he was hopping from one sorrow to another.
Jay was his father’s name. And mother Bear wanted him to be like him. Study and read. Watch and learn
His White name is Jay. Inside Jay’s skin he is Mi’kmaq.
Grandfather’s stories from his time at the residential school were lessons to be remembered.
“Why could you not wear your Native clothes?” Jay asked one day. Grandfather’s answer was a tear. “Never mind,” his lips said. “My sorrow is not yours.”
And then he taught Jay much.
Your father’s funeral was a celebration,” his grandfather said. “And there is happiness in the sadness of his passing.”
“What did you promise my father when he went to Niskam?” Jay asked.
Grandfather’s answer was the knowledge he taught Jay, who became Eagle Feather, his grandson. It was his gift.
Grandfather said, “The Great Spirit gave us instructions to take care of the earth and all the creatures.”
The fireflies became Jay’s friends. The rabbit became his candle of trust. The birds and other animals in the forest became his family.
They formed part of Jay’s circle.
His feet soon walked paths bathed in moonlight. And his heart was filled with songs from the past, Jay’s heritage.
Many lunches later, Jay finished and looked at his mother. “Your ‘Lusgi’ was great ma!”
“Such a beautiful boy. Isn’t he Nan? And look at those teeth. I can’t believe you are almost twelve years old, then soon, a teenager.”
Jay’s smile was like a quiver full of happiness for her. “What does it matter? Jay felt like a man now.”
And his feet danced to the beat of drums made from deerskin.
Grandfather told him, ” We must thank the deer for giving up his life, so we may share his hide.”
His grandfather also told him an Eagle Feather is an important symbol. It represents truth and carries prayers to the Great Spirit.
An Eagle flies highest and sees best. Jay became Eagle Feather, a carrier of truth.
Sometimes Jay dreamt his grandfather was sent by Glooscap, a wise leader and teacher. He never married, the legends say. His life was with Noogumee an adopted grandmother and a young boy named Marten.
They were his family.
In Jay’s teachings he pretended his grandfather was Glooscap. In his learning Jay became Marten, his son.
“A young boy becomes a man,” grandfather said, “when you are no longer bothered by people who tease you.”
Jay’s ears heard much.
“We are people of the Dawn. Mi’kmaq greet Dawn with a pipe. We hold on to the earth to make it good for everyone,” grandfather said.
Jay learned the Circle Dance is an important part of his culture. In the Council Hall everyone stands sideways and moves around the drums.
Then turn, placing hands on shoulders, following the leader in his deerskin lace suit of clothes. Drumming sounds tingle in the back of Jay’s head.
Goosebumps make the blood in his veins flow like a wild current. As his steps dance, he hears voices. As when his ancestors greeted the first Europeans.
In the evenings, Jay hears the song of Mother Earth that forms a bond:
“…voices are echoes from canyons
where laughter is free as the deer
and tears travel with the falling rain
when my soul is no longer in pain…”
“Tahoe!” is his yell of triumph. It is said at the ending of each song. “I thank you, I acknowledge you.”
Preparing for school, Jay watched his mother. She is also like a partridge, moving quickly from one moment to another.
“Wipe your face. Brush your teeth. Scoot to school.”
Peter is now two years older and waiting for so they may head for school.
Jay’s grandfather taught him to put away ‘No Tongue.’ That it was only a name to mock him.
“Be a proud Mi’kmaq, young Son” grandfather said.
Jay now has warmth and protection. He soars above difficult things. His wings are as beautiful feathers.
Peter calls through the doorway with impatience. “Hurry up, Jay! Or, we’ll be late!”
Once he was “No Tongue.” Now Jay answers with a new
Song. “Eagle Feather is coming!”
* * *
© Richard & Esther Provencher 2007