Unchained Heritage - Creative Essay

The Elder sat alone on a slab of granite outside a carelessly-
erected tent on a Native reserve near Beardmore in northern Ontario, just
east of Lake Nipigon. The previous night\'s rain was already drying off the
ground, leaving only scattered mud patches in it\'s wake. Soon the early
summer sun would turn these into crusty bits of dirt, only to be muddied
the next rainfall.

The roar of a twin-engine charter from Dryden filled the air. A
squirrel, apparently frightened by the noise, scampered hurriedly past the

Elder, pausing only momentarily to sniff the air before taking refuge up a
nearby tree. About a minute later, the plane was completely out of sight,
but the squirrel had not yet come back down from his tree.

The Elder eased himself off the rock and stood up, looking about
him critically. This was not the land he used to know. Although he was
nearing his sixty-third birthday, he clearly remembered coming to this same
location with his father as a boy. There were more birds then, he thought,
and more trees. The Elder walked a few steps to a creek to wash his hands.

A very faint metallic odour met him as he bent down, but he did not notice
it as his nose had long become insensitive.

The Elder shook his hands dry and glanced up at the position of
the sun. It was high overhead, indicating noontime. He sighed, knowing that
in a couple of hours his son would bring his family from Toronto to visit
him. He did not like his son very much, but he put up with the annual
visits for the sake of the grandchildren: he was their only link to their
heritage. For one month a year he would show them how their ancestors
lived. How he lives.

He thought back to his last visit to the Hogtown, more then
twenty years previously. An early morning walk along the lakeshore was
ruined by the constant reek of rotting fish and the deafening roar of cars
rushing past on the Gardiner. He had followed the shoreline until Don

River, where the expressway simply turned into a parkway: woes by another
name. He has wondered why expressways were always built along lakeshores
and rivers, the most ecologically-sensitive areas of the land, and decided
that he would never return to Toronto.

"Now Toronto comes to me," he murmured softly.

The Elder walked back to his tent and rummaged about inside,
producing a peace pipe that was more then two hundred years old. He had
long quit smoking, on the advice of a physician in Beardmore, but at least
it would break the ice with his grandchildren. He carefully unrolled a
pouch of aromatic tobacco, whcih he had imported from Virginia and saved
for special occasions, and removed some leaves, which he placed in the
pipe. He then set about busily creating a campfire.

"Everything must be just right," he said to himself. From his
jacket, he removed some grains and nuts, which he scattered on the ground
nearby. He hoped it would attract a few birds and small animals. He wanted
to be sure that his grandchildren would enjoy their culture and be proud of
who they are.

Before he could light the fire, the Elder heard the distant grind
of a car. He hurriedly made a few last-minute preparations, then set to
light the fire. The breeze from nearby Lake Nipigon made it difficult, and
as he fumbled with twigs and safety matches he caught sight of a giant
beast through the gap between the trees. He dropped the matches and stood
up, expressionless. The beast, a blue Lumina passenger van, came to a stop
just meters away, and five figures poured out of its belly.

Two children ran up to the Elder and hugged him. "Gramps!" one of
them exclaimed. "We\'ve missed you so much!"

The Elder forced himself to smile. He hated being called Gramps,
but that was what he was to the kids. "Let me look at you," he said pulling
away. "You\'ve grown!" Beaming faces looked up at him happily in response.

A third child walked up and laid both hands on the Elder\'s
shoulders."Hello, Grandfather," he said."How\'s life up here?"

"Peaceful," he replied. "Have you finished school yet?"

"No," laughed the oldest child. "You always ask me that same
question; you know I still have a year to go."

"Here come your parents," replied the Elder. "Hello, Ted. How are
you, Wendy?"

"Just fine,Potewan," replied the Elder\'s daughter-in-law. "We\'re
a but tired, though, after