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


I’m surprised when I think back on it that they didn’t restrict us from doing that. That we could go and sell baskets in town. Or do business with the town people. Because we were not allowed to be in Powell River, unless we had business. So I guess that’s business so it’s okay. You didn’t go and hang out, or you weren’t allowed to mingle with the white people. Unless you had business. Yeah. Everything was so segregated – you went to the Rodmay to eat, there’s a certain area to sit. You went down to the cafeteria, which used to cater to the mill workers. It’s no longer there. But there’s a designated area that you would go and sit. The corner’s for Indian people.

And we didn’t eat out a lot. Like, we’re so free today to go and, “Which is the best restaurant to go?” And you have your choice. You have your pick. Well, back in the day, as small as Powell River was, we didn’t have that freedom. We didn’t have the choice. I never had a friend, a non-Native friend. I couldn’t invite anyone to come to our home, because we were just a totally different world. We were worlds apart. And if we went to town, it was to shop. There was one cafeteria in town, in the townsite just above the mill site there, that we would go, and there was a designated area for Native people. That’s where you went and sat. You didn’t sit with other people. You went and sat over there – it’s in a delegated area for Indians.

And then, going to the movies, that would’ve been in the later forties, mid-forties, that you couldn’t sit with non-Native people. We’d walk to town to go see a movie, at the Patricia Theatre. And we didn’t have cars then. I remember going to the movies with my grandparents, and I was just a little child, where I remember being packed on my uncle’s shoulders and … we would go as a family. And walking home at night after the movies. There’s a designated area for our people, which was upstairs at the balcony.

And if that balcony was full, if it happened to be a good cowboy and Indians show, you know! We enjoyed that. Cowboys and Indians! [laughs] Our young guys were always the cowboys. Oh dear, that is the truth. That’s a fact! [laughs] The young guys, the young boys, yeah. They were the cowboys. They’d say, “Yeah, go get ’em, cowboy! Kill ’em! Shoot ’em!” That’s how naive we were! [laughs] Oh boy.

But you know, we’d walk all the way there, which is what? About four miles. And sometimes we didn’t get in – we’d walk back again. Walk home. But that section below, down in the main area. And there’d be lots of seats there. No! You weren’t allowed to go there.

So that was, you know, that history of discrimination and racism. So it was really difficult to – it was a difficult life, that you couldn’t do anything. You didn’t have the freedom to go to the movies and to go wherever, unless you’re told. Unless you’re given permission! “We’ve built the school now, your children can come here, but please don’t dirty this building!”

This just makes me so angry when I think of that. “And you can come to this theatre, but you sit upstairs. You can come to this restaurant, but you sit over there!” It’s like we’re dirty or we’re … I don’t know. We just didn’t fit in.

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