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Culture and Language, Native Rights and Issues

The Faceless & Forgotten…

Last week I went into Seattle for a job interview. No big deal, hit the ferry, cross the water and hit the pavement. Nothing new really.

As soon as I got out of the terminal I saw an Indin couple with a little sign, not sure what it said, I didn’t really care, I just saw some people down on their luck. I went up to them and gave them the change in my pocket, asked them the usual Indin questions, where yah from, oh yeah, do you know this person or that person, watcha doin here. They were stranded and were just trying to get home. They said they had been there two days and out of everyone I was the only one who took the time to talk to them other than some cop who asked them to move it along. They smiled, I smiled back, shook their hands and wished them the best.

Before I got to the office I counted 27 homeless people in various stages of duress. That was just along the pier. Got to the office, checked in for part one of my interview, found out I had to go down to a big dock down the way so I caught a bus. On the bus was a homeless man just trying to get anywhere but here.

Got to the second part of my interview, did what I had to do then decided to walk back along the waterfront since it was a beautiful day. Besides the runners and walkers and bike riders the first person I encountered was a security woman talking to the bushes it seemed. As I got closer I realized she was talking to some guy who decided to take a nap in those bushes. Guess he was too close to the path and someone had complained. Probably out of fear that he might wake from his drunken slumber and ask someone for change. I offered my help and helped the guy up and walked him to a park bench away from the path. He said thank you and I gave him some change, even though he didn’t ask. He said thank you and went to sleep on the bench.

So along my way, now not so merry, not so sunny anymore! My mind clouded over with an overwhelming sense of sadness.

I saw a young guy along a little stretch of sandy beach looking for something it seemed. I had lit up a cheap cigar and was lost in thought when he approached me. He had tattoos on his face, long hair and some of the bluest eyes I ever saw. He asked if he could bum a cig off me. Told him they were lil cigars and asked him if he minded, he replied no so I gave him four because that’s a good number. He looked surprised. I asked him his name and wanted to know his story. His name is Sid and he once worked at a Tattoo shop til it burned to the ground, so he hit the road with the money he had and the money ran out in Seattle. He couldn’t find work anywhere no matter what he did and I told him I could relate. He seemed happy to have someone to talk to so I hung out for a few more minutes before I was back on my way.

I came upon a young couple who had made a shack out of driftwood and scraps along the beach. They had a german shepherd named Cutty, short for Cutty Sark maybe? I was petting Cutty when the young man came out of the makeshift home and said that Cutty usually didn’t like strangers too much and that there must be something about me that he liked so he said I must be alright in both their books. I asked him what had brought him this way and he told me freedom. I asked him what he meant and he said that he and his girlfriend ran away from a group home when they were sixteen and had been on the road ever since. He was an orphan and she was abandoned and they found love and family with each other and Cutty who they had rescued from some asshole who beat him, rescued being they waited til dark and stole him. I was simply amazed! I offered them a dollar and the kid refused and told me I probably needed it more. Like everyone else he was just happy to have someone listen and talk to. I petted Cutty, gave the couple hugs and promised I would keep them in my thoughts, then back on my way.

I came upon an older Indin man on a fishing dock who went by the name of Salty. We started talking and he was talking about the Seattle Police and how they treated the homeless worse than shit he said. He said last year his friend had been killed by the cops and he wasn’t even armed except with a small, dull knife. I told him I remember reading about it and he said it was good I remember because his friend was a good man and deserved to be remembered somehow! He asked me what brought me this way I told him hard times and dreams. He said dreams were a way of telling us there is a reason for living! He said thank you for the taking the time to talk to him and on my way I went. I remember looking back towards the fishing dock and I didn’t see him anywhere. Strange, maybe he turned into a fish and swam away.

I knew the next ferry wasn’t due for awhile so I took my time as I walked towards the terminal. I saw many other faceless faces and I watched how people reacted to them. Most ignored them and acted as if they weren’t there, others made it clear they didn’t want to be around them by going out of their way to pass by as far from them as the sidewalk would allow, others made comments not to give them money cause they were just gonna buy booze or drugs, assuming that’s all “those” people wanted!

It sickened me to watch how uncaring most people were, how ungrateful they were!

I had a dollar left to give and I saw a young couple with a little puppy close to the terminal so I stopped and petted the puppy and asked their names and what brought them this way. Hard times and I said I could relate. Brandon and Beckah from Chi-Town. They were trying to get some money for dog food so I asked if the puppy liked pastrami? I had bought a sandwich earlier for lunch and never got around to eating it so I offered it up and puppy ate it and when was done jumped all over in my lap since I sat with them on the sidewalk, licking my face! They said I was good man to do so! I gave them my dollar and went along my way after hugs and more kisses from puppy!

After I got on the ferry I stared out onto the water and wondered how people seemed to easily dismiss those on the streets! I was amazed at how many homeless Indins there were, I was amazed by their stories and their determination to make it somehow, someway in this cold world of ours.

Maybe I relate more because I know what it’s like to be homeless and not have anywhere to really go. So maybe that helps me to appreciate how much or how little I have at any given time! Maybe it helps to not take anyone or anything for granted and to be grateful for what I have!

I know how easily everything can be taken away and I’m left wondering what the hell happened, now what? I know how easily it could be me sitting on the sidewalk asking for your mercy so that I might be able to get something to eat and yeah, maybe something to drink, but that’s mine and their business. I know what it’s like to be passed by with eyes so judgmental and looked down upon like I’m less than human.

I know what it’s like to be dealt a shitty hand in this game of life!

So when your out there and you see someone who needs help, don’t think, just help anyway you can! And when you receive those golden smiles in return their is no better feeling! Don’t judge because you never know how or when it could be you in that same situation or something like it!

You could be one of the Faceless & Forgotten……….so count your blessings and pay it forward when you can! Lem Lemtch!

Chad Hiatt Chippewa Cree/Kootenai by blood Human by nature

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About CRG

Editor in Chief of the Voice of the Indigenous, Writer.

Discussion

One thought on “The Faceless & Forgotten…

  1. What can I say? This is such a heartrending post, yet so filled with warmth and compassion.
    Thank you!

    Posted by michaelwatsonvt | June 7, 2011, 11:58 am

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