It seems very strange to be penning this column at Swift Current instead of working at my own desk, but it is the layover point as I head home. My latest journey did not take me very far, but it was an interesting outing nonetheless.
After attending Mosaic, a multi-cultural event at Regina, we drove home and I turned around the next morning and went back to the queen city. I know that aside from such action sounding absolutely ridiculous, such a trip is a waste of fuel and contributes to global warming. However, the requirement to have a rental car from southwest Saskatchewan made the second trip necessary.
My latest adventure took me to the Piapot First Nation north of Regina for six days. I had heard and read about pow wows at the reserve named after the famous Indian chief, but had never visited. Therefore, my curiosity was somewhat satisfied with my short visit. Years ago, I heard of Piapot being a man of wisdom and action for his people, but cannot delve into all that since this column is late and I am sure the office manager is tapping her fingers and anxiously looking at the clock. Therefore, I am providing a brief history of only one of many events that characterized the chief’s life. It is only a tiny bit history about the chief and a local tragedy that led to the town of Piapot bearing his name. The information below is from “Miscellaneous Tidbits” found on the website “alittlehistory.com.”
It was decided to use railway boxcars to move Piapot’s band from the Cypress Hills to his new reserve near Qu’Applelle. At Maple Creek, about 800 of Piapot’s band were loaded into boxcars, and the doors locked. Unfortunately, on the journey, one of the box cars came off the track and rolled down an embankment. The boxcar ended up on its side with doors blocked. Its ends had to be broken open to free the Natives.
There were no serious injuries, but the Natives were upset. The White people had treated them badly, so it is not surprising that some of the Natives thought the accident was part of a plan by the White people to kill them all. They turned their anger towards the brakeman, drew their knives, and chased him down the tracks. The Natives who had been in the overturned car decided to walk to Qu’Appelle, while the rest finished the journey in the train.”
Unlike Piapot’s journey, my trip to and from the chief’s reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley was uneventful. However, it was made memorable by the many people I met and stories of past and present they relayed to me. I wish had been able to spend more free time on the First Nation as a traditional rain dance got under way a few days after my arrival. The event certainly was successful as clouds blew in midway through the four-day ceremony and rain poured down. The evidence showed up in my hotel room when the roof began leaking in the bathroom at 1 a.m. and thoroughly soaked my shaving kit and other essential manly stuff.
Lanes leading to houses on the reserve lack gravel and were quickly turned into mud bogs which I thought would engulf my little rental car for sure. However, a tow truck or push was never required as practice at riding the ridges and finding the most solid ground paid off. There was a time when I would simply put the pedal to the metal, say a prayer and hope for the best. Then promptly curse and swear at my misfortune when I would slide sideways into the ditch or get hung up on a massive rock concealed in a mud puddle. Since I have invested heavily in common sense in the last few years, I used that and backed out of a couple of lanes when I realized that forward progress would soon be coming to an end and retreating would be out of the question.
One of the most surprising characteristics of the reserve was the huge number of ticks I encountered. Perhaps it is the food I eat that attracts them or my aroma on a hot day. In any case, I literally picked ticks off my neck and arms after sitting outside for only 15 minutes. The little rascals tickled as they crawled up my legs and headed for the family jewels. That’s when a desire to pull down my pants on the spot became almost overwhelming. Instead, I had to get into my vehicle and drive to a semi-secluded spot on a grid road, then whip down my drawers and do an inspection and insect removal.
Despite my precautions and actions to remove the blood suckers, several of the hitchhikers managed to go back to my hotel room with me. I guess they wanted to party with their host, but I wasn’t in the mood. After changing my clothes, I spotted them on the toilet and bathroom walls. During a couple of outdoor interviews, I literally watched them climb up a child’s riding toy and found them crawling across the paper I was writing on.
One member of the band told me the critters are at their peak and will soon be decreasing in numbers. Another guy likened the situation to native pesticide. “Either they don’t bother you or you end up with a pest inside,” he explained with a laugh. Thanks to his advice I try not to sweat the little things in life, but it’s difficult when it comes to ticks.