A chat with two Native American boys

At noon today (25 July) I hosted a lunch for the Mayor of Tateyama, Japan and about 15 others from that city who are visiting Bellingham. They are here celebrating 50 years as Bellingham’s Sister City. The lunch was in Big Rock Garden Park, a 2-1/2 acre sculpture garden that my wife and I developed over 25 years ago as a nursery to provide a sheltered employment for brain damaged, mentally ill and mentally retarded young individuals. It now serves as he city sculpture garden. After the lunch I brought the group down the path to our house. There I showed them the 150 year old log cabin made of old growth cedar slabs with dove-tail corners which I had salvaged from a site about 20 miles away. I numbered each log and reconstructed the structure in my yard. I also showed the Japanese visitors several Hudson Bay blankets that we had, one a brown four point blanket and the other, a white one, a three and a half point blanket. I explained how the British Hudson Bay company traders exchanged these blankets for 3 and a half beaver pelts or for four beaver pelts depending on the number of stripes on the blanket. The blankets also were over 100 years old. I use them on my bed.

In the evening I joined the group of Japanese visitors in a farewell party of fun, western folk dancing and games. At the end of the evening, Shingo Ito, a young student from Japan studying at the local university who works for me when not in class and I were leaving the building when confronted by two teen age Native Americans who asked if we had any food left over as they were hungry and had a ten mile walk back to the reservation. I instantly responded “Hell yes, come on in.” and took them to the kitchen where the staff was putting away the left overs of the evening meal. I asked them to fill two plates with food, which they did. One of the boys asked if any of our group were going toward the reservation and I said I was. Shingo looked at me with wonder as this was opposite the direction to his apartment and no where near the road to my house.

As we drove to the Lummi Reservation I got the kids to talk. They shortly found out that I knew their aunt, their grandmother and many other relatives and elders in the tribe. The younger brother told me that he recently went through a naming ceremony held in the shaker smoke house. I congratulated him and told him to treasure his new Indian name and his culture, to protect them and to pass them on to his children and to his children’s children. Shortly the older boy (18 or 19 years old) admitted that he had just been released from jail and that he was an alcoholic. I told him to join his younger brother in the smoke house and to go to the sweat lodge with the members of that faith. Believe in them, I said, they love you and want to keep you close to their hearts. They will help you to give up the alcohol and the need to escape from an unfriendly world. I told them that they had a wonderful treasure, a culture passed on to them by ancestors who predated any white man in the region. Hold on to it, preserve it, treasure it and be proud of it, I told them. We talked all the way to the reservation.

When we arrived at the edge of the reservation I stopped the car and got out and opened the door for one of the boys. The other got out on the other side of the car. The younger came forward and offered me his hand and said “Hysqe hsiam, Hysqe.” His older brother came from around the car and said “Let me hug you” which he did, and then as he backed off, with tears in his eyes, also said Hysqe hsiam.” (thank you, friend.) They walked off in the darkness and I got back in the car.

As we drove back to Bellingham Shingo Ito said “This has been a wonderful day. I have gotten to know more of America today. Thank you, domo arigato Drake sensi.”

Peace and love to you all.