Jana reports from the front lines

  • Mar. 29, 2005 6:00 p.m.

By Jana McLeod-On Wednesday I had resigned myself to staying home and missing a day of checking in, but my husband declared, “oh yeah, I talked to Arnie, he said he would be here at 5 am to pick you up.” Looking at him in disbelief, not only am I not sure if my heart would be beating at that time, I can’t believe he would ask him to pick me up, I mean the VP of CHN? Wow!
Now to be fair, I should say both the president and vice-president have been known to me to for many years, so to see these guys in another light brought a newfound respect for what both men do. I also had the opportunity to watch Arnie hold his ground as a person with an aggressive manner wanted to pass the line. The respect, diplomacy, and patience with which he carried himself was something to look up to for sure. Leaning over to a person held in high esteem I whisper “man, I’m so glad I’m not in politics! I would end up wanting to slap a few people!” Laughing we both just watched as the fellow promising to be back the next day left, none too happy. Since the blockade, seeing these guys in another light made me realize just how important Guujaaw and Arnie really are to Haida Gwaii.
Waiting for Arnie to come Wednesday morning I had everything packed, except a pen and paper. As I kick myself Arnie motions to the back seat where one of his friends is seated and comes up with a folder and pen.
“There you go” he says. “You can keep it for yourself.” Generosity just comes naturally.
We get to the barrier and a few are already heating up by the fire on this chilly frosty morning. There is some talk of the return of the person getting a little hot under the collar the day before, none think it’s too concerning and the discussion moves on.
A few people do come; one local contractor wants to work on his equipment and the other to collect gear, all handled with gracefully on both ends.
The weather is so cold that frost is everywhere. Guujaaw comes over and says something in Haida and looks at my coat “gee, looks so cold,” He motions to his sons and next thing you know I am being offered wool sweaters and warmer garments. I am much too high on adrenaline and I hunker down by the fire before he convinces me to take the clothing. Always looking after others in such simple ways, try to walk into any camp without being offered food or warmth. Just comes naturally. Even when the police come taking care of things the talk remains jovial and teasing, I always leave with a light heart because of this.
Dale comes for a while and it gets serious for a spell, however the mood stays lighthearted and always hopeful. He just backs up the idea of “local control”. I have a new admiration for the mayor of Port for the risks he is taking among what some see as a community split, a very gutsy man.
Arnie says, “Well we better go,” telling us that the convoy is happening today and he has to go back to Masset to prepare. I am shocked, thinking how luck is on my side. He drops me off and I pass out for a bit on my couch while he leaves, but then he’s back to fetch me for the festivities.
Stopping at “New Town” we line up for a drive down south. Haida Nation flags are displayed with pride, one person has his huge flag welded to his trailer hitch, and many admire it. Not too many cars, we start down the road as the Vice-President plugs ACDC’s Thunderstruck into the stereo.
Pretty soon we reach Port Clements and stop at Gas Plus for more planning. Then it is on our way through the community and onto the blockade in Juskatla. When we reach there a demonstrator jokingly asks for our pass. Not missing a beat, Arnie motions to the big Haida Nation flag protruding from the back window and says, “right there buddy.”
What a remarkable day and the feeling of showing up at the south end to the welcoming of Haida singers led by none other than the highly esteemed leader of the Haida Nation. After all for me my laundry and neglected children beckon, but I think of those staying, fighting selflessly for all our futures often.
You can help by donating either funds or needed items. Please visit www.haidanation.ca/islands/islands.html for more specific directions on what is needed. I do believe the organizing of manning the line in four-hour intervals is being handled by Nika and Danny at 559-8133, beautiful baby girl by the way!