Feature Column: Going back down the bush

Good to see you all again. I know I am often in my own world at times back at home. I love it here. We used to and maybe still do call it “the bush”.

“Where you going?”

“Down the bush!”

Though there is not much bush left at all. I cannot help but be a receptor when I come home, since I was born at the Lady Wellington Hospital—site of the new clinic sixty-six years ago this June.

Coming and going for so many years I’ve grown accustomed to maintaining my objectivity as to how things are at a fundamental level back on the Rez. I scoped out a few things around the community and region the last few days. I walked, hitchhiked, observed, chatted, drove and would have taken public transit if we had any. Bus line blues.

I’m writing on my note pad in my sister’s car and it’s 1:13 a.m. Sunday morning at the Bank of Montreal parking lot. What’s going on? Some fellow who’s been shouting rodeo like calls for the last few minutes has gone back from whence he came. Traffic is still quite heavy. Of course, Bingo just got out and the winners seem to be circling the village.

We’ve faced so many passings this last while and I feel a deep sense of mourning on so many levels here at home. Most of my time has been spent at the Brantford General Hospital and what a mad, crowded and busy place that is. Hats off and thank you always to health care workers worldwide. But you can’t help but observe what’s happening when hanging around a hospital. Another family reaction to a fentanyl overdose and a 15 year old child whose life is on a string at the ICU.

Makes you wonder if we do enough for the opioid epidemic. We face it daily not only in our community, but in communities around the globe.

There was just a ’60 Minutes’ episode on CBS about this. They said much of the drug comes in from China and is man made. Seems the more powerful quality of drug is used as a tranquilizer for elephants. It’s infiltrated the black market drug trade and is cheaply bought in China off websites and can receive the drug easily through the postal system in the US. Because it’s is cheaply purchased it is used to cut other black market drugs and is creating havoc in the public health system especially in North America.

A CBC report this weekend said much of the drug has influence on youth with low self-esteem and high incidence of youth who have suffered trauma. Of course, as native people we have a history of trauma — which we often refer as generational trauma — over multiple years from residential school experience to only name one. No doubt our children’s children are being effected. The report went on to say that the best treatment is not alienating or blaming but rather they need love and affection more than ever.

Another issue I thought to discuss and a rather abrupt subject change is the Caledonia situation of 2006, Kanonhstaton, “the protected place.”  The land has remained untouched for last 13 years this April. Since the conflict that fateful spring nothing seems to have been settled, at least not to the common person driving by the last decade. It looks like a badly designed war memorial.

Thankfully no one was really injured throughout that stressful time that long ago.  Since the conflict besides feeling like we should do something benevolent. I have this idea, maybe with the town’s approval…let’s plant that field out with corn. Organic old school white corn. The whole field! And we care for it all summer. Then come fall time when it’s time to harvest we invite the communities both ours and theirs and harvest the corn.  Then feast the corn with Caledonian; then finish off with a Harvest Music Festival on site. It’s time to begin healing process especially with communities along our Grand River. There, I said it.

I walked up Chiefswood Road towards Chiefswood Park and saw the new cabins! From the village I can see much wear and tear on the roadways, creeks, and fencing this winter.  But the most obvious was the amount of garbage in our ditches along our main byway.

In my travels, much of the road highway trash is handled by prison gangs. I thought first of the oceans that are filled with plastic and garbage. It’s so easy for a bird to ingest something we take for granted like a plastic bottle cap. But the impact of garbage in our main thoroughfare here down the bush could affect our wildlife. Probably has already— so the need to spring clean up seems opportune.

When I noticed the situation I thought, ‘Who is going to clean this up, we don’t have prison gangs’? I thought, school children might learn a lot about waste if they cleaned it. Makes them think more about recycling. I imagined an ‘anti-trash-out-the-window’ campaign. A photographic billboard featuring the kids looking like “Iron Eyes” Cody from the 1970’s with a tear in their eyes. Then I thought, ‘No. The cars are going to fast. It’s too dangerous,’ I thought.  Then I thought ‘Well, maybe the whole community. Ok everyone. We are cleaning up Chiefswood Road today. Go!


You can email Gary at hayetwahs@icloud.com

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