Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day Sixty-Nine: Six Generations

Students lean into their circular tables, writing on recipe cards. Alma Poitras. Lorraine Cyr. Wayne Goodwill. Chief Mike Starr. Francis Delorme. Keitha Brass. Each story must have a focus statement. Somebody does something -- it must be an action -- followed by BECAUSE. What is the motivation? These are instructions from Michelle Hugli Brass, chief editor of our First Nations and Metis Leadership Literacy Project, which is moving toward a Magazine format. This makes sense since Michelle edited Shout Magazine, whose target audience was Aboriginal youth ages 14 to 18, for approximately eighteen months a few years back.

"You are my writers," Michelle says to the students. "The teachers work for me, too, as sub-editors." She smiles. "I'll give them assignments, too." She laughs with the students. "I'm their boss."

Lesley Farley shows the students mock-up pages on the projector, which she's created on her laptop. She is the Design Editor and a full-time digital artist and film maker. She has one black and white photo of Mike Pinay, cowboy hat on and finger pointing in emphasis. In mixed sized font, some words underlined and others in capitals, her lead begins, "Elder Mike Piany lived through residential school and the pass system with a spirit unscathed and now he believes in the spirit of the treaties..." Michelle is standing by the door. "You know, every morning on facebook, Mike sends a message, 'Hey everybody, hope you have a good day. I'm just here with my double double.' He's always talking about his coffee," Michelle says. "That's really fun. You could list some of his posts as sidebars with this feature."

Three girls have already contacted their chosen leader, Sandy Pinay Schindler, and arranged an interview for this afternoon. Michelle sits with them to review their focus statement, interview plan, and any questions they might have. She tells me, just before she goes, that the girls are super read, and if she was still doing radio, she'd put them on the air. Wouldn't change a thing.

At lunch I walk over to my friend's house and surprise her. They're eating Kraft Dinner, the real stuff. "It was on sale," she says, and we laugh. We always laugh. Even when things are hard, like they are right now, we laugh. She nurses her baby. Her toddler tells me all about Toy Story and their cat that keeps climbing the Christmas tree which had to be tied to the curtains to keep it from falling over. I lay down on the couch and close my eyes. It feels so right to rest. Just before I leave, we talk a little about the serious stuff. We hug at the door and my eyes ache with tight tears.

During my prep I make the Community Outreach Christmas Dinner poster. By the end of the hour, I'm feeling dizzy and flu-ish. The bug has been flying around the community for more than a week. Jade tells me I could go home, so I do. I take Michael's vehicle. I fall into bed.

Now it's late. I've been in and out of bed all evening. And now I just want to wrap up my day, but my heart is back with my girlfriend. If I was writing a story for our First Nations and Metis Leadership Literacy Project, I'd write about Char.

Born in Treaty Six Territory, Char is Cree, but was raised by her grandparents in old-school Metis style. Although she isn't all that old, only 34, she attended residential school in Lebret. Char is no complainer, and life has not been easy, but today she holds five children's hearts as their stay-at-home-mom because she is the first in six generations to raise her own children.

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