My first post was punctuated by an unanticipated separation from my Macbook – well, more importantly, its connection to the internet.
I just returned from a long weekend spent in my boyfriend’s community, Bkejwanong (Walpole Island First Nation). The trip was too short, as it always is, but was certainly worth the approximate eight hour drive (one way). Whether or not we can term these visits as ‘vacations’ is an ongoing debate between me and my boyfriend (for now, I will call him ‘R.J.’). Although relaxation isn’t always on the agenda, other essential criteria are met, such as being away from home and, the big one, having fun.
As usual, it was a great trip. Some highlights included my customary trip across the (artificial and imposed) border* for shopping and eats; attending my first toonie auction, where I bid on a BBQ and a patio set for my new apartment (but unfortunately didn’t win); renting It’s Complicated, which I totally loved, the old-fashioned way at the video store; and, last but certainly not least, capturing photos of the swans who live on the river.
Actually, I think I will show, rather than just tell, you what I did this weekend and some of the things I love about these vacations/trips/visits/term-TBD:
Poncho's delicious and cheap menu
Taco (my fave!) and tostada
I am convinced that this is one of the best kept secrets on Turtle Island. We eat there on every trip. Located in New Baltimore, Michigan, Poncho's is a family owned and operated Mexican restaurant. They make their own tortillas and serve everything straight out of the oven. For $9 I got Combination #2, which included nachos smothered in cheese, a taco and a tostada, and enchiladas, beans, and rice (the entree). And the margaritas aren't so bad either.
2. R.J.’s family
Without a doubt, R.J.’s family are the most kind-hearted people I have met (barring my own family, of course!). I have always been somewhat shy, so it takes a lot for me to bond with those outside of my immediate circle. But, from the time I met them almost two years ago, R.J.’s family has treated me with kindness, love, and respect. They are what make the 16-hour trip bearable.
3. The land
Swans on the St. Clair River
Teeny tiny turtles
The land upon which Bkejwanong sits is breath-taking. On my first visit, I was absolutely stunned by how gorgeous the water is. Up until that point, I thought only the ocean could be so blue. A lot of the land is marsh and swamp (so they don’t have basements – I used to find that weird!), which could be why they have so many diverse types of trees and plants, including weeping willows. Quite a change from the pines and maples down in my neck of the woods.
Disclaimer time: I don’t want to glorify or glamourize life on the reserve. It’s hard. As R.J. and I were curled up on recliners at his parents’ house watching It’s Complicated, we heard a loud noise. It sounded to me like firecrackers. Soon after, the phone rang. As it turned out, R.J.’s uncle’s was shot at with an automatic weapon. R.J.’s uncle described the shooter, his neighbour, as a “good kid” with whom he’d always gotten along. And now this good kid being criminally charged.
The issues in our communities are complex and inextricable. But I choose to focus on the good times and memories of R.J.’s community this weekend, my own community, and our communities across Turtle Island. The strength, dignity, and resilience of our peoples is immense. Sharing laughs and good conversation over a cup of coffee on the front porch is much more powerful than a shot in the dark.
*Note: I use my 'expired' Indian status card as a tiny form of resistance. Did I stop being an Indian in February 2009? Although even having the card opens up an entirely separate debate I will save for another day.