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Thinking positive about the future

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Keith Matthew, Raven's Eye columnist







Holy smokes! Another year has gone by and we are still here fighting and living and loving and just being red people of the earth. That is an accomplishment given the negative statistics that we continue to churn out year after year. We have one of the fastest growing segments of Canadian society because we have to have babies just to keep ahead of our staggering mortality rates.

I find it amazing to make it to mid-life because of those statistics and I try to say a thank you every morning for getting another day. I know of scores of people who have passed away from violent deaths in my community alone. Drownings, hit by train, suicides, car accidents, cirhosis of the liver, freezing to death-these are a few of the gruesome ways that my friends and extended family have passed away in my lifetime. It takes its toll in misery on my community and I feel a certain numbness when another person passes away.

But I have a feeling that things are changing for the better.

One of my best friends by the name of Ricky who works in the healing segment of our society has an interesting idea. He works along with some of the better known Indian leaders on the residential school issues and Rick says that residential school survivors are healing themselves and we are whittling down the numbers of people who have been traumatized by their negative experiences at these boot camps.

Our communities have undergone incredible shifts over the last couple of decades and yet we are still here. In talking to a younger generation of Aboriginal youth from my rez, the young people talk about getting their degrees and look forward to being doctors, lawyers, accountants and skilled tradesmen.

What amazes me is this has been accomplished by my generation of parents who have given our children a better life by using parenting skills and generous helpings of love. Am I looking through rose colored glasses? I hope not because I really need to believe that there is a better life out there for our kids. It is what we are working for and one of my Elders told me that we won't reap the benefits but our kids will and that gives me strength.

I think back to when I was growing up and all there was in our homes on the rez was drinking and carrying on with no thought about tomorrow. In some homes it is still that way and I don't for a minute think that everything is peachy keen...however I see positive change happening and I am glad.

My cousin Fred told me the local non-Native community thinks we support our youth up here on the rez too much. We have a lot of youth on the honor roll and the best athletes on our teams are our kids for the most part. Our community supports the youth by showing up at events in force and making sure people know who we love and care about. There is nothing wrong with that. It is a change from my parents' days.

On another note, I was lucky enough to catch a performance by George Leach who recently won the Canadian Aboriginal performer of the year award in Toronto at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. Friends of mine were in Kamloops at last summer's powwow and I happened to hear that George was performing at one of the local restaurants. We all went to catch this guy in action and we were pleasantly surprised by the level of writing and slide guitar playing. This guy is awesome. He is a polished performer and is another young person to watch because he will be making it very, very big. He is an example of a new generation of young people blossoming into areas we only dreamed about a few generations ago.

I was in Vancouver just before Christmas and I took time out of my schedule to take in a Native Youth Movement meeting. It was an eye opener and I learned quite a bit about the frustration these young people are feeling. They are finding their voices and I applaud that. They are doing what their hearts tell them and it is good. I heard a lot of real passion an more than a few tears from thespeakers and I as touced.I thk these youth will do just fine. Good for them and more power to you.

That is the way I see it anyway...putucw.