The soil of my ancestors

The property my parents live on has been in my family for a long time. My great aunt Emily’s father Wunyadeh grew cucumbers on that land. His brother, Deskaheh, was the chief appointed to travel to Geneva and contend for the Haudenosaune at the United Nations.

Every time I am on that land, I feel a connection to my aunties and uncles. Not just Wunyadeh, Emily and Deskaheh — but my Gramma Rovina’s brothers and sisters, their children, all my cousints and now my babies. We’ve all touched the same land, immersed our hands in the same dirt and walked the same pathways for the last seven generations. It’s a precious thing.

In that soil lay a hundred thousand stories of our struggles and our triumphs. No wonder the place we call ‘Hillville’ seems so special. Sometimes I wonder if everyone else’s space on the rez feels so important? Does it?

Like in the summer, when the weather is about to turn and the wind is blowing the leaves upside down — the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I always remember my Gramma Rovina teaching me on that land how to listen for the rain.

“Look at the leaves. See they’re upside down,” Gramma Rovina asked me?

“Yeah,” I answered her. I loved it when she would enter into moments like this with me. It always seemed different. Like I was chosen for some special duty in life.

She pointed to the trees. “Look at that Nahnda. When the leaves are blowing upside down like that and the wind goes hot and cold that means a big storm is on it’s way. When you see that no matter where you are that is your signal to go home. Remember that now. Even if you are way back the bush you come up to the house and get inside,” she warned me.

We’d been sitting outside in the summer sun drinking sweet tea and watching the cars go by. Faster than normal, big dark storm clouds started to blow in. “Fold up that blanket Nahnda we better get in the house,” she said.

The summer air was energized and I felt scared and excited all at the same time. Summer storms were always my favourite. If it rained hard enough mom and dad would let us kids take soap and shampoo out to the backyard and have a rain shower.

Listen too. Do you hear the cars as they go by Nahnda,” my Gramma said. I stopped folding the blanket and noticed that way before the cars would appear you could hear them coming, their wind breaking off the valley that came just before our house. Finally one went zooming by breaking through the wind and it sounded like a jet plane. “Hear how they sound louder now,” she asked?

Surprised I exclaimed, “Yeah! Holey heck they do sound louder! How come?”

She smiled and shrugged her shoulders, “That’s just how it is. Grab those cups now and let’s get inside before the rain comes.”

We packed up our things and made it in the house. Sure enough about five minutes later it started to pour. I looked out the window and saw my brothers come running out to the backyard. Through the rain I could just make out the soap suds flying away. Smiling as bright and wide as I could I tore across that field and stripped down to my underpants to join in the rain shower.

In my memory its like time slows down for that moment. I can see my brother’s black hair drenched up against his freckled face, his eyes sparkling in the excitement of the Creator giving us a bath outside.

I can remember it all; the smell of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, that familiar sting of it getting into your eyes. The grass would get all gushy beneath our feet and little mud puddles would start to form. That same soil my ancestors walked upon now bathed my feet with mud, literally connecting us all. I’ll bet they took rain showers too. Maybe in that exact same spot.

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