My Day to ShineAug 15th, 2012 | By sbutler | Category: 24-1: Communicating Yesterday's Stories Today, Web Only
By Sheila Butler
Most days of school, I was bored with my surroundings and not much could catch my attention…until today. My teacher started talking about our local community college, the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College. That perked me up in my seat immediately. I almost felt like a dog when he hears a squirrel because it was as though my ears perked right up. My teacher had said we would be taking a field trip tomorrow to hear stories told by a local elder. Yes! This is what I had been waiting for. A day for everyone to go to my neck of the woods and they could see that it wasn’t as bad as they were told. I knew it would take forever for tomorrow to come.
As I sat in the school auditorium wiggling and switching my body, I felt like I was five years old again and waiting to open my presents on Christmas morning. The minutes felt like hours as we waited for the speaker to arrive. I was so excited for this speaker. This time it was different because he was an Ojibwe just like me. Everyone was getting impatient and kept asking how much longer it was going to take. I looked at them and said, “He is running on Indian time, dontchya know,” and laughed to myself. Of course they looked at me and had no idea what I was talking about. I told them it was an inside joke. Most of the non-Native kids I knew had a misunderstanding about my culture. Today they would see that there is much more to my people than what they knew. This was my day to shine and know everyone was getting a glimpse into the pride I have for my culture.
The auditorium fell quiet as the speaker walked in. He was a tall slim man who had many years of wisdom imprinted on his face. My friends watched him closely and studied him. I could see them checking out his long black braids, his ribbon shirt, and listening to every word of his prayer all while trying to decipher a word of what he was saying. Although I was not fluent in Ojibwe, I had heard my grandmother and grandfather talking in their native tongue a lot so I was able to pick up words here and there I told my friends what I could.
The stories were being told with such feeling and the Earth was being described as our mother and the animals as our brothers and sisters. I could see my classmates processing the information. This was totally out of their understanding and what they were used to hearing. Even though it was different, I could see everyone was honestly enjoying the stories. They were seeing what I already knew and it was great. Everyone soaked in the information, the faculty as well.
When the stories were finished there was a totally different feel to the auditorium. I felt as though everyone had a better understanding of Native Americans, as well as each other. For that moment, I could tell everyone had a peace about their neighbor and a bigger understanding.
As my friends and I left the auditorium, everyone gushed about how awesome the stories were. They were retelling the stories and the parts they liked the best. They asked me if I knew the storyteller and I replied with, “Oh yeah, I see him all the time.” I was the center of attention on the ride back to our school. Having long dark braids myself, everyone knew I was an Ojibwe so I was being asked a million questions. I was so happy to fill everyone in and tell them about my grandparents who had told me what it was like growing up so close to the land and as one with nature.
My new fame lasted about a week and then everyone had something else to focus their attention on. That was okay though because now I knew that everyone had been able to see and hear the things I knew and that my people weren’t all that bad. They knew we had a respect for our Mother Earth and everything on it. For that understanding, I was thankful.