“What are you taking pictures for?”, I heard in an unfriendly tone. I froze a little. It wasn’t that I was doing anything wrong but I did find myself in a Northern first nations town and was trying not to be disrespectful in any way. After explaining who I was she took it upon herself to give me her informal tour. “Welcome to LA! <hoarse laughter> That’s what the locals call this place…”
“In my language my name means butterfly.”
And so began my tour…
“They put those up for the kids after the school shooting”.
“Two of my brothers are in there. Died as kids.” I did not want to open any wounds with any kind of response begging an explanation. I could only look on sympathetically.
“People stand outside the liquor and offsale stores at night. We call them zombies. They slowly walk up begging for money or booze to anyone that walks by.”
“They call this (area) the bermuda triangle. People come drinking down here, and don’t make it home!” The three points on the triangle were a bar, a liquor store and another bar. When asked where they end up her reply was “The cops get em or they end up in another bed or on the street”.
“I’m a wino.” <hoarse laughter>
Parting ways (she was heading to the liquor store), she couldn’t help but ask if I could give her money for wine. She asked even though she knew I was a doctor. With stubborn sincerity I explained I couldn’t do that for her, knowing it was for alcohol. Maybe I would have seemed more real to her if I had given it…
“Where are you from?”. It is a simple enough question but it happens too often here. I wear very casual clothes, jeans and t-shirts. I suspect it is the color of my skin. I am in a huge minority in La Loche. People assume I am a teacher or in health care. When I tell them I am a doctor it is met with silence. I’m not sure what it means.
“I love the land. I hunt and fish. It’s my home”. I had asked another gentlemen why he stayed in such a rough part of Saskatchewan.
A health care worker told me, “I was going to leave years ago. I was stressed and couldn’t take it. But I stayed because I wanted to help the people here.”
Stay tuned for more.