Over the summer, I was asked to present a workshop activity on the legacy of residential schools. At the time it was an unexpected and unplanned presentation that I could not figure out how to start, how best to introduce the subject and highlight the legacy issues. I told the following story, mostly off the top of my head (yes, I'm proud of that). I decided I liked the story, it stayed with me after the presentation and I decided to write it out and tweak it a little. I wasn't sure whether I was going to share it but my friend Marj talked me into it. Please respect my ownership and please be kind. Thank you,
Jenny's Medicine Walk
Good evening ladies and gentlemen! Thank you all for coming out to celebrate this incredible achievement in the life and career of my Jenny- sorry! The wife said "Don't call her that! She has a phd!" So, thank you for coming out to celebrate this great achievement by Doctor Jennifer Renée Charlie!
I don't mean to brag but I take full credit for this discovery. It was after all me that contributed the brains to the package. Thank god she got her Mom's looks! Heh, heh, heh, I'm going to pay for that later. I did show her how to use willow bark to deal with the pain she had when she knocked out that tooth when she was a little girl. My Jenny was out climbing that old cedar out back of the house, took a great fall.
I'll be damned if that didn't catch on. I live in fear whenever she goes on a holiday. She always liked to fall. That first skydiving trip nearly killed me. Honey, you don't need to send me the video of it EVERY time, just remember to call when you're on solid ground.
My Jenny- sorry, my Dr. Charlie, always trying stuff, exploring, always asking me why when we were out in the woods. Always asking how this worked or what did that do, always wondering. I knew from when she was a pup that she'd change the world.
I watched it all, the wins, the losses, the achievements, the heartaches- I'm still willing to beat up Tommy for breaking your heart, Sweetie... and he is very much aware if that... Oh, and guys! Want to make sure your daughter's prom date is respectful? Be gutting an elk in the front yard when he shows up to pick up your little girl.
But, really, now. I have to give her Mom the credit for taking her out in the bush, for helping her when they medicine walked and showing her what each plant did. I have to credit Jenny's Grandma as well for telling me to shut up when I tried to send my Jenny to. bed when she was listening to Grandma and Grandpa's stories about the early days. I am going to take credit for tricking Jenny's mom into falling for me in the first place. So, I get some credit for this success.
I knew you'd change the world, Sweetie, but cancer... Wow. I don't know what you saw in those old plants or what Grandpa's story inspired in you but I'm so glad that they were there to guide you. I never thought people would ever translate their old stories into scientific gobbledygook but you found a way. And you made it sound like the most beautiful song I ever heard.
"YOU. ARE. WRONG. MISS. CHARLIE. THAT. IS. JUST. A. WEED." Does that sound familiar? I remember every letter home from every science teacher. Every meeting where they tried to tell me that you just didn't understand science, that you were spouting make-believe and wasting the class' time. I remember you in those moments too. That Charlie defiance on full, fiery display. They called you a stubborn, imputent little girl. I spent a lot of time trying to explain world views and different understandings but it usually ended with wait till you see what my Jenny and her "weeds" accomplish!
Hey Mr. Miller... Look what my Jenny and her "weeds" accomplished! BAM!
I'm so- I'm so... Wait... Wait... I'm remembering it wrong. I'm not sure about that name? Was it Miller? No. It's gone. I'm sorry honey, I don't remember it, I- oh god!
I'm sorry honey, it didn't happen this way at all. I'm so very sorry. There's no cure for cancer. There's no Doctor in front of your name and no fancy letters after it. There's no terrifying videos of you jumping out of planes or late night phones calls to share your frustrations, deadends as well as the eureka moments. There was no late night drives into the city to pick you up and bring you home after a horrible break-up, no first kiss, no science projects, no stories with Grandma and Grandpa down by the river. There was no losing a day in the woods with dear ol' dad playing hide and seek when you should have been in school.
I'm so sorry, my Jenny, my little Jenny, there is no you.
There is no you, my sweet little girl, because there is no me. You see, they took me away from my mom when I was four and sent me to a residential school. I never got to come home.