As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder

The Police

The police could come patrolling through the reserve several times a night. And if your lights are on, they come right to the door: “Why are your lights on?” In those days it wasn’t even electricity. It was, like, a gas lamp or a coal-oil lantern. Come knock on the door, check what you’re up to, why you’re up that time of the night. So you can’t be up late at night without causing the police to be suspicious. There was no street lights. There was nothing. So quite often people, when they started and if they wanted to party or socialize, cover the windows with heavy blanket and – so that the police don’t come and check. A bunch of fugitives. [laughs] They’d come right in and look around. If there was any booze, they had the right to take any liquor that’s around the house if there’s any.

Yeah. Woke up and the police were standing by the bed. We were both in bed, like, my husband and I were sleeping. And I don’t know how he came in, if the door had been left unlocked, but there were two police officers with a flashlight shining in our face and wake up to that. It’s quite startling. [laughs] I don’t know what they were doing, if they were looking for someone else. I can’t remember what their excuse was. Yeah. It’s weird. So thank goodness it’s not like that anymore. They had more right then, you know, never givin’ people an opportunity to defend themselves. If you’re found guilty, you’re guilty – in their eyes, right?

That little jailhouse in the townsite used to be always full of our people on the weekends. When they were – it was okay now for them to go to a pub, so you drink all you want there, the men did, and when you left there if you were staggering, you ended up in the jail. And it got to the point where it would be quite full and they even put women in there with the men.

We were over visiting Rose and Alec, and they were logging buddies. They were always talking logging talk and that. So I’m sittin’ in the main living room with Rose, and we’re visiting, and Alec and my husband were sitting off in a room – there was a bedroom there, and they were – they’re sitting there talking and visiting. Next thing you know, a police officer comes through the door. And there was just a curtain on the door. There was no door, just a curtain to cover the doorway. So hearing the police come in, I guess they put their bottle on the windowsill – window ledge – in that little room. And the lights are on, of course it’s dark. Yeah, “What’s going on in here?” That’s how he used to be.

The police would just walk in: “What are you guys up to?” And it’s like you’re scolded or, you know, rough – it’s not anything like “Oh, how are you today?” kind of thing. You know? “I was just passing through, checking to see if you’re okay.” No, it was “What are you up to?” and “Where’s your husband?” Right away Alec came out of the bedroom and, “Oh, officers.” And by then he’s kind of jagged already. In the meantime they had put that bottle on the ledge, and there’s a curtain. So officer went there, I guess looked around, didn’t see any bottle there or anything. So left and went out through the kitchen and around the house, and there was, like, a walkway going down by the house. I guess when you looked like that at that window, you seen this bottle on the ledge. Comes back in, goes stomping into that bedroom, grabs that bottle, and walks out with it. So of course Alec and my husband were really upset by … they took away their bottle of whiskey. Followed the police officers outside, and they’re jabbering away like a couple of magpies.

They’re, “You can’t do that to us,” and “That’s our right. We paid a lot of money for that bottle!” and blah, blah, blah. Officer just ignored them and went in his vehicle. So they kind of went around the vehicle – Alec’s on one side, and Dad’s on the other side, and they’re nattering at the officer from both windows in the police car. “You can’t do this to us. We’ve got our rights,” Alec was saying. “I was in the Army. I served in the war.” And what did he say he was? He was – oh! “I was in the 47th brigade,” he said. [laughs] I don’t know if he knew what that meant. And the officer was standing there, and I’m over on one side. I’m telling my husband, “Come with me, let’s go home.” In the meantime the officer had spilled that whiskey right on the road by the vehicle – upended the bottle, spilled all that whiskey out. And he said, “Now you go home.” He was telling that to us, like, me and my husband were standing there.

I wasn’t drinking at all myself, but I was telling him, “Let’s go. Let’s go home before you get arrested. Let’s go!” Oh, they were nattering at the police officer. Finally the police officer just left. Left him there and – yeah, they were very disgruntled about their whiskey being poured out of the bottle and onto the road. So it was just always like a “catch me if you can” – hide and seek and always hiding from the law over nothing.

And one time we were at his other friend’s place, which was at Charlie and Bessie’s, Charlie Peters. And it was a beautiful day like this, and they’re sitting outside on the grass close to the house. And this police car came whipping up the driveway off the main highway, ’cause they lived up on the highway. Officer pulls in. And just went up to him, and Charlie got up and he ran and he went down the bank. It was a steep bank there. He went tumbling down the bank. He was running away from the police. And of course my husband, being stubborn, wanted to argue. He was sitting there and he, “We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re just here visiting.” And officer went, looked over the bank, and Charlie’s way down there. There’s a lot of bush down there. It didn’t bother him. He just left him: “Okay, you. You’re coming with me.” And he didn’t want to go. He’s digging his heels in. So I’m helping the officer – help put him in the car. I said, “Come on,” I said, “you go with the officer.” ’Cause I was worried they would beat him or really rough him up. So I’m helping the officer! “Get in a police car – go, go!” [laughs] Oh my gosh. Just for nothing. You’re sitting there, minding your own business. But I guess you’re breaking the law. [chuckles]

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