Valentine’s Dead

boy followed grandfather
like a puppy
villagers smiled
as they walked by

Grandfather/respected Elder
stood 6ft, 7 inches, 255 lbs
his 5 yr old grandson
could do no wrong
being trained in Carrier traditions
to be a warrior, perhaps a chief

together they made wood
smoked fish & moose
tanned & stretched hides
while telling ancient stories
honoring “all relations.”

approaching vehicle
broke the silence of nature
RCMP officers and an Indian Agent
“we’re here for the boy, he must go to school,
it’s the law.”
“it’s not my law, this young one will learn our ways.”

boy sat under a Pine tree, watching in horror
grandfather stiffened with rage
the two yellow stripes stepped back
drawing their revolvers
the other white man said:
“we don’t want trouble old one
the boy must come with us
he deserves a Christian education.”

he took boy by the arm and
led him to the black car
with as much care as a puppy removed
from his litter
grandfather watched them drive away

Valentine never returned
or saw grandfather again
residential school removed his “insides”
and cultural map
becoming a refugee in his own land
the East End of Vancouver
became his hunting grounds
panhandling nickels & dimes
to buy a bottle of 35 Sherry
sharing with urban clan members
survivors of the Canadian Holocaust

seedy ally-ways became home
“hey Bro, could you spare two dollars”
deep-sea dumpster diving for food
“hey Bro, got an extra smoke”
food banks, handouts, and charity
urban trap lines
their innocence stolen
from those in black robes

Valentine returned home today
in a Pine box
found dead on a bench (from exposure)
in Pigeon Park, at 55
buried next to his grandfather
fifty tormenting years later
after all, boy deserved a Christian education.

Charles has been a social activist for 35 years. He can be reached at : Read other articles by Charles.