Monday, March 31, 2014

"Charlie Wenjack", by Willie Dunn

Most Canadians are at least passingly familiar with the long horror story that was our Indian Residential Schools.  For those of you not familiar with the subject, I recommend reading the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's "A history of residential schools in Canada", which does a better job of summarizing the situation than I ever could.

Recently, while discussing the issue with a friend I wanted to show them the text to singer/songwriter Willie Dunn's song "Charlie Wenjack", which tells the tragically short story of the boy of the same name.  The lyrics could not easily be found online and so I thought I would reprint it here so more people would have a chance to appreciate it.

If there's a copyright holder out there who stumbles onto this and has an issue with it, please keep in mind this is entirely to help keep a small part of Dunn's work accessible; no one's making any money here.

Wawatay News has an audio file of Dunn (who died in October 2013) singing the song, so if you'd like to listen to it while you read, click here to open that link in a new window.

The following is reprinted verbatim from my copy of Ward Churchill's "Kill the Indian, Save the Man", which, if you have any interest in learning more about the residential schools, is an excellent resource:

Charlie Wenjack

(Who died in 1966, aged twelve, running away from an Indian residential school near Kenora, Ontario, trying to get back to his father and his people)


Walk on, little Charlie
Walk on through the snow.
Heading down the railway line,
Trying to make it home.
Well, he's made it forty miles,
Six hundred left to go.
It's a long old lonesome journey,
Shufflin' through the snow.

He's lonesome and he's hungry,
It's been a time since last he ate,
And as the night grows bolder,
He wonders at his fate.
For his legs are wracked with pain
As he staggers through the night.
And he sees through his troubled eyes,
That his hands are turning white.

Lonely as a single star,
In the skies above,
His father in a mining camp,
His mother in the ground,
And he's looking for his dad,
And he's looking out for love,
Just a lost little boy by the railroad track
Heading homeward bound.

Is that the great Wendigo
Come to look upon my face?
And are the skies exploding
Down the misty aisles of space?
Who's that coming down the track,
Walking up to me?
Walk on, little Charlie,
Walk on through the snow.
Moving down the railway line,
Try to make it home.
And he's made it forty miles,
Six hundred left to go.
It's a long old lonesome journey,
Shufflin' through the snow.

 -  Willie Dunn

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Thing About the Desert...Part 3

On September 24, 2013 I returned from a two week vacation during which I flew to Texas and ended up taking a 3600 mile road trip across six states, along the way visiting four national parks and catching up with a friend I hadn't seen since the first time we met five years ago, when I threatened his life over a card game in Morocco.  

Along the way, my friend and I decided to look into local ghost stories and ended up with one of our own.  This is the conclusion of that story.




The first time it happened I only caught it from the corner of my eye.  

The Subaru’s dashboard readout had still been misbehaving, no longer even pretending it was properly calculating the miles remaining in our tank – from 600 it had counted down to 500 or so, then back up past 600 – but just around midnight the whole thing went completely blank, then flashed briefly, before going back to normal.

“Did that just go blank?” I asked.

“It did, then it flashed 1:00.” Mike replied.

“So now the clock is boned too?”

“That’s the thing," he said.  "It displayed 1:00 on the ‘miles remaining’ part.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

The Thing About the Desert...Part 2

On September 24, 2013 I returned from a two week vacation during which I flew to Texas and ended up taking a 3600 mile road trip across six states, along the way visiting four national parks and catching up with a friend I hadn't seen since the first time we met five years ago, when I threatened his life over a card game in Morocco.  

Along the way, my friend and I decided to look into local ghost stories and ended up with one of our own.  This is part 2 of that story.





A look at Google Earth shows the area to be dotted here and there with houses but on the ground, in the dark, the turnoff to Angel Canyon Road from Highway 89, some six miles into the desert north of Kanab, felt so remote it may as well have been the far side of the moon.  After leaving the highway we followed the road down a small rise, past low shrubs and patches of scrub grass, to the start of the 350-acre Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Best Friends is noted as being America’s largest sanctuary for companion animals, recognized for their commitment to their “no-kill mission”; they believe that 90% of shelter animals are adoptable, or could be with the proper care and treatment.  It seemed a bit grim, then, that the sole reason we were in the neighborhood was on the off chance of seeing someone wearing a fur pelt and firing pellets of ground-up human body at their enemies, but that didn’t stop us. 

Aw, that's cute.  Now make with the evil witches