One of my most vivid memories of being 5 years old involves Ovide Mercredi.
The whole school was called to the gym. I was standing around on the bleachers doing things kids do, when word floated around that they were picking one of us to be on T.V.
I turned to see a boy, arm outstretched, pointing his finger silently at me. What? my look asked. "Pick her," he responded. "Her mom works at the band office!" Childhood logic. I playfully swatted his arm away, hoping to divert the unwanted attention, but like a slingshot it swung gently back around.
A series of events followed--probably involving my navy and green plaid dress with white tights--and the next thing I knew, I was seated next to Ovide at a table fighting boredom for what seemed like hours. An equally vivid memory was returning from the event in the gym to find my class on recess and having to drink my juice and eat my sandwich alone inside.
I now know I played some teeny tiny (literally) role in the parallel process to the RCAP proceedings.
Now, over 20 years later, my path crossed Ovide's again when he delivered a lecture at the university where I work. I debated whether or not to attend. My head was saying no; I was tired, missed my boyfriend, had been spending lots of time on campus. But my heart said yes. I had always felt a connection to Ovide for providing me with 15 minutes of 5 year old fame, and I liked what he had to say at the Crown-First Nations Gathering earlier this week.
So, I went. And am I ever glad I did.
Ovide is an eloquent and humble speaker. He didn't lecture with key points, nor in a linear fashion, nor by presenting any sort of expertise (all of the "qualities" we're used to in the academy). Instead, he told stories about his spirituality and how it manifested in his political career and rise to National Chief.
"You can't lead your people just because you're educated," he stated. "You need more. From your own people." This is something I'm always curious about. How can scholars affect real change? How do we "live in both worlds"? How can we stay grounded in our communities and traditions while balancing the rigor required by academia?
But the point he made that had the most profound effect on me was related to the difference between his generation and mine. "My generation was labeled the 'grievance generation.' Indians became known as problem people, not people with problems," Ovide said. "But your generation is different. Your generation knows the solution. Your generation will make the change."
Whether knowing it or not, Ovide challenged me to rise to the occasion for our people when I was 5 years old. And tonight, two decades later, he has challenged me again.