I think of you Abe!

I think of you sometimes. I will always remember your name. We met one early afternoon. I took the lunch ferry from Horseshoe Bay http://www.britishcolumbia.com/regions/towns/?townID=3978 to Nanaimo http://www.sandy-travels.com/vci.shtml. On the way to Gold River for some fishing. I had worked there in ’67, this must have been in ’71.

Just before Parksville I saw you walking along the road. I stopped, asked where you were going. You answered Campbell River http://www.campbellrivertourism.bc.ca/. We talked. You said you took the first ferry to Nanaimo. That was half a day ago. I wondered why you were still walking, 1.000’s of cars would have passed by, you did not explain that. You looked some worried, and tiered. You had a job on a fishing boat, a Salmon troller from Campbell River, for the season. But, you were late.http://nativefisheriesalliancealaskabc.blogspot.com/

We small talked. You hesitated to talk open to me. You had a distrust to white that I could not comprehend. This job for the season was everything for you, and now you were late. We arrived in Campbell River ,straight to the docks;  your boat was gone.

That was it. I invited you to have a beer at the Discovery Hotel in Campbell River, next to the marina. We walked to the entrance to the beer palor. It was now just a few minutes to closing time. At the entrance you said that you could not enter . I did not understand, being a squeare head from Norway. I dragged you in. We sat down at a table. The waiter arrived. There were just a few people scattered in a huge beer hall. The waiter said that he could not serve us. I did not understand. The waiter could not explain properly. You, my friend, explained to me, that if we moved over to a dark, empty part of the parlour, behind the curtains, to the Indian section, then we could be served.

I could still not understand, but I was thirsty, had a long day, and still many hours on bad gravel road to drive. In the far end of the parlour, behind curtains and dividers, there the waiter appeared with a round of beer. You explained, you were Indian, Indians could not sit with whites and drink beer. If a white wanted to have a beer with an Indian, he would have to sit with them, behind the screens and curtains, in the Indian section of the parlour. It was my first meeting with an Indian.http://www.firstnations.de/development/coast_salish.htm My first meeting with a world I never knew existed. My first meeting with reality. My first meeting with a world I did not want to be part of, that I wanted to change. Some years later I had to opportunities to work with natives all over BC. A great pleasure.

As a side note; When playing soccer for Sons of Norway, we played in Sechelt against the Band team, in the same division. If we won or lost, we dared not go for a shower in the basement of the Band Hall, we made a fast run for the cars and the ferry back home to Vancouver. I 1981 when I moved to Sechelt and worked there, Chief Stanley Joe came to me and said clearly that I should play for the Sechelt Indian Band soccer team, and I did as long as I worked there. Chief Joe remembered how it was to play against me. We became good friends later, but at that time he just wanted me on his team, not against. That is an honour that must be earned.

Back to my friend Abe Joe. We meet some years later, Abe Joe was an artist, a good one, carved anything with just his pocketknife. In jail he had no choice of woods to carve, he carved the most wonderful eagles, totems, whales, talking sticks, from 2×4 wood scraps.

We meet again when I had a business in Gastown. We recognized each other immediately, like brothers, we had shared an event, that many years earlier in Campbell River, that was hard to forget.

I bought anything Joe carved for the next ten years. I may be paid too much, Abe Joe got money, got drunk and went back into jail. But he got messages to me, I got him the finest yellow and red cider and other wood he wanted for his carvings, and every few months we exchanged crafts and words.

We never did hug, it was not Abe Joe’s way, he was always formal in speech and behaviour. Abe Joe ( Abraham Joseph )was originally from port Alberni, but he never talked about it or wanted to go back.

I think of you Abe Joe, God Bless you. My coincidence now says that I could have done more for you. Sorry. Forgive me.

In years to come, I had the opportunity to work with and for many Native Bands all over BC. I will in other short stories vrite of Sechelt Indian Band, the first Band with self Government in Canada, I then worked as Economic Development Commissioner for The Sunshine Coast Regional District in Sechelt. (and played soccer for “the chiefs” )

Some projects on the Charlotte Islands http://queencharlotteislandseh.com/, North Vancouver http://wikimapia.org/1794897/Squamish-Band-Indian-reserve, Squamish, Lilloet http://500nations.com/British_Columbia_Tribes.asp,  D’Arcy and others, and for 5 years as Economic Development Officer for the Okanagan Indian Band in Vernon, BC. http://www.okib.ca/ There working with all the Bands, local, Regional and across the border to USA. The Columbia River salmon run http://columbiariversalmon.com/ is a forever ongoing case. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_River

Some of these experiences I will write about, they are dear to me, and will hopefully give some reality to Canadian life at those times.


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