Was visiting with my brother today and talking about this one guy from the Reserve who had some bad things happen to him. He has always been one of those good guys, friendly, generous and outgoing. He was in a car accident years ago. He lost use of his legs. I was telling my brother that I ran into him a while back in a downtown mall in Winnipeg. He was of course friendly and happy to to visit. My brother said that he was always a good guy, just had some bad stuff happen to him. My brother started to tell me how some people would go and take advantage of his good nature in the Reserve and drink up his disability money. People would go and drink with him at his home. This guy would drink too much and not be able to control the flow of pee in his stomach bag. So the pee would leak out of the bag. There would a trail of pee all over the kitchen. Guys used to say, "we're going to have some beers down at cripple creek". Sorry but I did laugh. And I did say "ho wa".
That is the way things go.
It got me thinking about my friends that have passed on and how things go. My cousin Larry passed away suddenly last year. A heck of a good guy. Funny as all heck as well. He was one of our (cousins around the same age) heroes growing up. Too bad Larry drank too much, that may have contributed to his death. Anyway, Larry was one of those guys that would help anyone. He was real Rez. He had to mannerism that you would expect from some Indian living on the Rez. He still used the old sayings; you know not quite English and not quite Ojibway. For example, He did not know what thistles were called. He only knew them, even as an adult, as Boo Boo shuck. You know the word Boo boo? It is common colloquialism in Canada when you speak to a child who has gotten hurt. Like a scratch or a small cut. You call that a Boo boo. Well thistles are those plants that have sharp needles on the leaves. Our parents in the Reserve (and most likely all Ojibway and Cree Reserves) called those plants, Boo boo shuck. with the emphasis on the "shuck". Referring to something kind of ugly. Larry still called thistles by the name of Boo Boo Shuck. And I loved that about him, No pretense.
There is the Reserve and there is the REZ. Indians that have the accent, the little subtle ways of the community. Our community was really like that. Many communities are still like that. Not getting "white-washed" as my daughter would say. Some guys/gals never stray off the Reserve. Sure they have some overnights in the "Peg", but mostly they are Rez bound. These are the people that continue with the mannerisms, the humour and the language of the Reserve. One of those guys is my cousin BoyShum. Boyshum is one of those guys that works hard with his hands. He of course is older now so his boys work hard for him. They have been a family of bush workers. Now that the bush work is gone, they are doing more landscaping. Boyshum is real Rez.
There are lot of people from our Reserve that use the word "boy" in their everyday speech. Everyone is called "boy". Hey boy! It is not negative or a slight on anyone. It is just the way it is.
It is a good thing really. Because with all those Rez folk, you still have the connection. The connection to what makes us different from main stream. The connection that we can not afford to lose. That we are all about the community. Even if it seems strange to outside eyes and ears.
The one sad thing is with the loss of Ojibway language being spoken, lot of the English-Ojibway made up words are also dying. I guess that is the way things are.
So next time you see a thistle or are pricked by its needles, don't forget to say, "watch out for those Boo Boo Shuck".
It is not true Ojibway, but hey Boy, it's still Rez.