First of all, I need to make a definition. Indians, as we knew them, are now called First Nations, while those who come from India were East Indians.
And a distinction. Those Indians became just “friends,” no different from us.
Years ago my husband wanted to paint Indian children, but we didn’t know any Indian families. So I phoned a radio station and they told me to get a hold of Clifford Paull, who then gave me his nephew, Percy Paull’s, name. When I talked to Percy, he invited us to come to his home.
They were getting ready for a potlatch, and someone was trying to make a sign to show prices of the food that would be for sale. Mickey took a list, and went home and painted menu signs for them. Of course we were invited to the potlatch, and that was the start of wonderful friendships.
When he did a painting of one of the children he would do a second one and give it to the family to say thank you.
He did a painting of Andy Paull, Percy’s father, who had passed away before we met Percy. You cannot do anything for our Indian friends but what they give back. We got an invitation to dinner at Audrey’s (Percy’s sister), and our boys got a separate invitation. When we arrived, Audrey said they had decided to have it at Percy’s, but we would have to wait a few minutes. When we did go over next door, there was a whole roomful of people, including Chief Dan George. And, we were both presented with Cowichan sweaters! Hand knit!
We participated in the planning for the next Potlatch. We had so much fun! And then, the following year, Mickey was the Guest of Honour and was presented with his headdress and a Talking Stick that was carved by Percy. He was also made an Honourary Chief, and given an Indian name… Secumlusqualwon. It means a person with a kind heart who helps people.
Percy said they honoured us because we taught our children that they and their children were equals. Our boys would walk the five miles to the reserve to play with Audrey’s son. Sometimes Frank would come back with them and stay over night, and I would drive him home the next day.
To be continued