[This blog is dedicated to the students of Northern Lakes College in Alberta.]
In the Fall of 2000, before As Long as the Rivers Flow was published by Groundwood Books, Larry Loyie and myself (Constance Brissenden) were invited to talk to the students at Lord Nelson Elementary School in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Since the book came out, followed by Goodbye Buffalo Bay, When the Spirits Dance and The Gathering Tree (all from Theytus Books), Larry and I (Constance Brissenden) have give more than 600 talks together. But Lord Nelson Elementary was our first.
We made a real connection with the students who were great listeners. Larry talked about his last summer in a traditional Cree setting and his years in St. Bernard Mission residential school from age 9-13.
We have saved a giant green thank-you card from the school ever since. It is two feet wide by three feet high. On the front is a painting done by a student of a Haida mask.
In the past eight years, the card has been crushed, bent, rolled, and is wet and blurry from raindrops – and it means a lot to us.
Before the thank-you card falls apart, here are some of the students’ comments, from eight years ago:
Thank you, Larry Loyie. We thank you for telling us about your life and showing us some of the different medicines you used as a child and thank you for showing us pictures [of traditional life and of residential school].
I really enjoyed your presentation.
Thank you for coming to our school and talking about your life. It was pretty hard, remembering your past.
I really liked the story about your grandmother [Bella Twin, who shot the biggest grizzly hear in North America).
Your book is cool and your life must have been hard. I’m really sorry.
Thank you for sharing your family story with us.
I think your book is going to be a big success.
Larry, I think you’re cool!
I was really interested in the book, the part where your grandmother shot the bear. I understand how hard it was not to speak Cree in that school.
I think your book is very good!
… We hope the students are doing well in high school now! Please read Larry Loyie’s new books — you will like them!