Gathering

Dakota Floral by Avis Charley of the Institute of American Indian Arts

Dakota Floral by Avis Charley of the Institute of American Indian Arts

Thump! Thump! Thump! I tossed around like a fish out of water trying to fall back asleep. Thump! Thump! Thump! Ugh, what in the heck is that? I pedaled my feet back and forth trying to find the edge of the blanket so I could cover my cold feet. Finally, I was wrapped up like a cocoon and ready to fall back asleep. Is that Grandpa’s voice I hear? I tried my hardest to stop breathing so I could make out the muffled voice that was coming from downstairs. I loosened up my crinkled toes as I stretched out of my warm blanket, moving around to get up for the day. The sun was beaming on my face like a magnifying glass does as it burns an ant. “Aanii (Hello),” I said to the sun as I wiped the crust from my watery eyes. Sitting up, sweeping my feet around the floor, trying to feel for my moccasins, I could hear several laughs coming from downstairs as I finally put on my moccasins to head down to see who that laugh belonged to.

“Aanii!” My grandfather said to me as I walked down the creaking stairway. “How has my favorite ayashe (little one) been doing this week?”

“Good,” I said as I ran to him, giving him the biggest hug I could give. Life seemed to be a little better when Grandpa was around because he always had something fun to do.

“How would you like to come over and do some yard work for your Grandpa?” He smiled as if he knew I already knew that wasn’t the reason he came to visit. Grandpa always had the best sense of humor and always had a smile on his face. He was a wise man and always helped anyone who needed it, and he had many stories to tell. He would tell them if you gave him the time. He told me that the Creator had given me great knowledge and spiritual guidance, but it was up to me to find it. He told me that we were surrounded by our elders, who lived before us, who travelled with the wind. I was only 10 years old and really didn’t understand, but he said I would in time.

My Poppa started to explain that my Grandpa needed someone to ride into town with him to help gather some supplies for a couple of the elders on the reservation. Winter would be here soon and we needed to be ready for it because it had gotten to be worse throughout the years and it was hard for the elders to travel in the cold. “Hold on Grandpa,” I said, running back upstairs to get dressed. “I’ll just be a minute,” I shouted out as I entered my room. I changed my clothes in a blink of an eye just like Superman. “Shotgun!” I yelled as I ran down the stairs and straight out the door. But as I ran around the truck I could see my Poppa’s arm resting on the ledge of the window with his dark reddish brown skin glowing in the sunlight like worn leather.

“Hop in the back,” my Poppa said, as he looked back at me through the passenger side mirror. I jumped in the back and sat down on an old broken down milk crate that seemed to have been there since the dinosaurs roamed the earth. I turned around to face the little opening where the window used to be so I could hear what my Poppa and Grandpa were talking about.

“Let’s roll!” I shouted as Grandpa started his truck. Vroom! The truck started, sounding like a freight train as we went down the road heading out on our trip into town. I could feel the warm wind pass across my face as the high sun beamed against the back of my neck. Looking into the rear view mirror, I could see a long dust tail behind us as we drove across the dry dirt road.

Grandpa started to explain how important this trip was because of all of the medicines and supplies that were needed for the winter. “Our people count on us,” Grandpa stressed, as my poppa pointed to the town up ahead.

“We made it!” He said as he lit his last cigarette, crumbling the empty pack and shoving it between the seats.

“I hope we find everything on the list,” Grandpa said as we pulled into town.

“I’m sure we will,” Poppa said, as the truck stopped in front of the store, “They have everything here.”

“Aanii,” my grandfather said to the couple of elders standing in front of the store. “The Creator has given us a beautiful day to be thankful for,” he explained to them as he got out the truck. They acknowledged him with a smile and a hug. “Good to see you,” he said as he stopped to chat for a bit.

Me and Poppa walked into the store to start looking for things on the list. We were halfway through the list before we heard Grandpa walk in, laughing out loud. I looked up at my Poppa as he chuckled to himself saying, “Laughter is good for your spirit son, always keep a happy heart.”

Grandpa caught up and saw that we had half of the shopping done, “Holy! Look at these power shoppers just gettin’ it done. Maybe it’s time to retire and let you two handle it from here.”

Before I knew it, the years passed and it was just me doing all the gathering. That was over 30 years ago to this day and I can remember that day clearly. I wish they were still here, but I know they still guide me as they travel with the wind. Baamaapii.

Antonio Gomez is a student at Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College.

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