To the Dump and Beyond!


When I was a young girl (good gawd it seemed like yesterday!)  my dad would take us (me and my siblings) to the dump on the Rez (slang for reserve) to find some treasure or two to bring home.  I thought it was the greatest thing, kind of like hide and seek except it was the treasure hiding and we had to seek it.  We got treasures without having to pay for it; OMG who doesn't love that?!!

Back in the days when I wasn't hitting a two number age, we were really poor.  I know others will say they were poor too but we were poorer than the average poor family except we didn't know we were that level of poor (side note - poor is a stupid word to describe others - it's colonial for sure). 

I remember Dad and mom would buy the main staples of puffed wheat, flour, potatoes, powdered skim milk and if we were lucky sugar; the rest of our food came from the land or water.  We ate duck, goose, beaver (only if it was in the trap by accident), deer, rabbit, fish, partridge and anything else we could secure from trees or bushes such as apples, berries and maple syrup. I don't remember a garden but I suspect there was one somewhere; being little you don't think of where food really comes from until you get to an age where you have to.  Food from the land and water was also free; well it is free if you don't count the labor that goes into cleaning, cooking and picking. 

I don't remember ever having store bought bread or that there were any other kind of fruit except an apple, berries and oranges until I was in my early tween years. Xmas usually brought an orange or clementine in our stocking beside the apple and some hard Xmas candy; such a treat to see an orange because we rarely got one!

We always wore hand me down clothes and clothes others gave my parents for us.  Only new shoes and a set of new clothes at the start of the school year, which we wore out quickly.  Often we didn't have anything but bread for our school lunches so we had to take plain bread to school for lunch.  I didn't mind it if dad sent us with bannock but I didn't like eating plain bread at school; the other kids would look at us funny. 

We had some tough times for sure - back then you had to live on the land a year before you could apply for a house so on the land we lived. Dad and mom had a lot of support and we stayed in makeshift places (tent for 3 seasons), my great-grandmother's old house for the winter, then rented for a bit from someone who was leasing land on the outskirts of the Rez.  No indoor plumbing, no heating except for a woodstove, and no running water so we continued to haul water and wood and go to the outhouse before it got too dark and scary to go. Looking back we were healthy, loved, clothed and fed - all the good stuff.  Oh life wasn't perfect but I do recall I was hardly sick in those times and re-cycling, re-using and re-purposing was definitely our way of life.  

The dump was our store. The land was our store. The hand-me-downs and gifts of used clothing were also our store. All were free.  We were rich in our being poor (if only we knew we were

I still go to the dump to find treasures, to find things I can fix and give away if I can't use it. I compost and do my best to reduce my consumption of things.  When my children were little and I couldn't afford furniture or clothing I gladly accepted a free couch needing repair, free clothing that needed to be sewed or cleaned, food past the expiration date (most canned food is good up to a year after the expiration date - food banks will accept them still) and anything else we needed.  It was rare I purchased anything new.  I attended sermons with my sisters (even though we were not religious) to get milk for our children, sold my jewelry given by my ex-husband for diapers and food (you cannot eat gold - its not good for you), lined up at food banks and attended free functions where I knew there was food and a good chance I could take the remaining food home. I got bus tokens by attending some functions which I would use to travel to doctor's appointments.  I washed clothes in my bathtub and hauled my children in a wagon in the winter to get places when I had no money or tokens for the bus. 

Yep.  I did that and more and I am damn proud of it because it helped us survive. |I worked extra jobs and did odd jobs while attending university - anything to support my children and pay the bills. I knew a higher education would ensure I didn't have to struggle but it sure was a struggle to move through it I tell you! However, the values I learned as a little girl got me to where I am now, has shown me to work for what I need, to take care of what I have, and to give if I have too much of something. It wasn't easy because I used to have a hard time letting others help me and would not tell my family I was having difficulty; lucky for me they would find out and help.  

And I can honestly say I disliked having to go to sermon's for free milk or food because I thought others were worse off than me and believed someone else other than me could use it more (plus the sermons were weird - pretty sure I was going to burn in hell but I didn't!). I never thought I was the person who needed it even though I did. There is always someone out there who is worse off than you, who won't have their hand out expecting you to give to them but will need your hand regardless.   Xmas should not be the only season for giving.  If you don't need something (like food that has expired but not past the year date) please give it to another who could.  If this was an apocalypse and you didn't have any food left in your cupboard I am fairly sure you would eat anything that has expired! Like I said in the beginning - to the dump and beyond - the treasures await for those who give.

So be kind to each other, don't expect or demand a handout if you don't need it, find the good in the negative and let go of jealousy, anger and the expectation the world/the Rez owes you something. You may not always find what you need (like in the dump) but you will always find someone who is in the dumps that needs your spirit to see and boost theirs.

In good thoughts,



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