It finally happened.
After a long and bitter winter, spring has arrived. Now I can return to my walk along the lake without having to dress like I’m on my way to Tuktoyaktuk. I have never been to Tuktoyaktuk; I just like the name.
My home reserve sits by a huge and beautiful lake and I only live about half a mile from it. My side of the lake has banks similar to the high banks of the South Saskatchewan River.
However, unlike the river, the lake has no benches where a person can stop, rest and admire Mother Earth.
The administration building is located right by the lake and has the only bench before or after a long walk. It’s a good place to say hello to people, as the building is always busy with those doing business with my Cree Nation. Besides, the coffee and tea are free.
After my walk, I recently stopped by the building for my freebie and to rest on the bench. I could not have picked a better time, because there was a recent election on my First Nation and a new chief and council were elected. People were coming and going to meet the newly elected.
Sometimes all one hears about reserve elections are negative stories. I can safely say our elections were transparent and in full disclosure.
There was almost a festive atmosphere with the new administration. People would stop and say hello; some would sit on the bench and share a story and a laugh.
There was no one around when an RCMP vehicle pulled into the parking lot. For some reason, I felt like getting up and walking away, but I have nothing to fear from the law.
I was in my early teens in the 1970s when the notorious Sixties Scoop was underway. This was a federal government policy to adopt out First Nations children all over the world, and the policy was partly enforced by the RCMP.
The children, especially those in pre-teens, were instructed to run and hide if the RCMP entered the reserve. Today, the relationship between the RCMP and members of my reserve has had a complete makeover.
Now, when an RCMP officer walks into our community hall for a gathering, the children run and give him or her a big old bear hug. And, the officers just don’t walk in; they are invited to the feasts, round dances and all other social events.
The member who got out of the vehicle started to walk toward the building. I could see a smile spread across his face when he came over to the bench.
“Good afternoon, sir,” he said.
I returned the gesture. Then he stopped and started to chit chat. I thought this would be a good time to ask him a question.
One of my nephews graduated from high school last year. His ambition is to join the RCMP, and he came to speak to me about it. My advice was to get a post-secondary education, as most of today’s RCMP officers have one.
He’s only 18 and this summer he enrolled in the pre-law program at the University of Saskatchewan. I asked the officer if this was the right advice.
The member told me his journey. After graduating from a criminology program, he was able to enter the training division in Regina.
But it wasn’t that easy. In his case, persistence finally paid off after applying three years in a row.
He is still a young man and has a long career ahead of him. I enjoyed our visit, as he had an incredible knowledge of the history of the force.
The big difference for him is today the RCMP is like more of a community police force than a national para-military agency.
He said he felt more like a community member than someone in uniform, but he still has to do his job at the same time.
Then another question came to my mind.
“Now that marijuana is legalized, what happens to all those German Shepherd dogs that were trained to smell out the weed?”
I thought it would be good time to try and buy one of those beautiful dogs now that their jobs are obsolete.
He got a chuckle of that, and assured me the dogs are well looked after and doing their other duties.
He walked into the building. I got up and continued my walk.