Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Abenaki Roots

Jason was sitting right in front of the half-broken air conditioner of his family’s trailer, hoping to get the littlest bit of cool air. The awful chlorophyll stench reeked from the AC as Jason was trying to watch his father’s old Star Trek DVD’s. This has been the typical summer day for Jason since it has been reported recently that a bacteria has infected the lake he usually swims at daily. This was the only “summer fun” his family could afford, and that was because it was free. Jason’s family lived on a Native American reservation, which unfortunately did not consist of the blissful imagery of long-haired men playing the flute in a circle, pow-wow dances, and huge feasts after celebrating a good crop that people envisioned. Instead, it was a place of rickety trailers where people basically got drunk every night, like they just got diagnosed with a terminal illness and learned they only had six weeks to live. Jason’s family income was legally known as “below the poverty level”. The only sources of income they had was his mother’s low wage job working at a convenience store at the only gas station in Old Town Maine, while his father was currently out of work due to trying to commit suicide the previous year and receiving disability insurance. This was the last month he would be receiving disability insurance and he was supposed to be looking for a job, but instead, he spent all of his time playing video games with his best friend Bear, who was the only person on the reservation that was 100% Native American. His parents could not afford to send Jason to summer camp, go on family vacations, or enroll him in expensive sports programs. The only things Jason could do by himself was to go swimming or bike riding. However, the last time he went bike riding, he was beat up by some older teenaged boys. His mother had work during the day time, so Jason stayed home alone- every day. It would be nice to have friends, except that Jason was a scrawny runt that was a dyslexic albino freak. He was constantly picked on by the people who lived on the Native American reservation, for not looking a thing like them and by the white boys at school just because…he was well…different. Jason had two older siblings; a sister named Amber who was 22 years old and lives in Vermont on a different Native American reservation with a husband and three kids already, and a brother named Trevor, who was 19 and a trucker that earned good money (according to typical Native American standards), but was away from home a lot. He missed his older brother Trevor terribly. He missed the canoe camping trips he’d take with his brother once a summer, the homework help he’d get from Trevor that both his parents refused to do, and how he taught Jason how to smoke a cigarette every once and awhile. Jason’s brother said he’d come home soon, but did not know when. Suddenly, Jason heard a jolting knock on the door. Surely, Jason thought this was the same inebriated man whom the last time kept whacking a rubber chicken against the door shouting, “Let me in, let me in…” at only 9am in the morning. Jason decided to take a peek, with the phone in his hand ready to dial 911 if needed, but then he saw his brother Trevor! With extreme excitement, Jason ran to the door, swung it wide open, and then leaped into his brother’s arms shouting, “Pamola!!” Pamola was the affectionate name given to Trevor by his family. In spiritual tradition of the Abenaki, Pamola was a humongous omnipotent monster who lived on the very top of Mount Katahdin. Like Pamola, Trevor was huge and looked mean and vicious, like a monster, but unlike Pamola, Trevor had a heart of gold and would sacrifice anything for his family members.

“Jaseee, Jay-man….what up my bro?” greeted Trevor. He then gave Jason a brotherly fist bump.

“You’re looking at it; my sadly pathetic summer.” Jason said solemnly.

“You aren’t kidding me baby brother. When you’re watching dad’s old Star Trek movies, you know that you’ve reached an all time low of patheticness.” Trevor exclaimed motioning his hand towards their grainy looking television screen. This is what Jason liked about Trevor; he had such an honest way of putting things. He never messed around and tried to make things seem wonderful when they weren’t. “But you have nothing to fear my man…,” Trevor continued, “because your big brother is going to be up here in Old Town, Maine for a whole spanking two weeks!”

Jason’s eyes then welled up with tears of joy and hugged his brother tightly saying, “Seriously?!?!”

Trevor then pushed his brother away lightly and exclaimed, “No Jay-man, sorry, I meant that I was going to run for two hours the whole town of Old Town and then leave for Alabama. No, of course I’m staying here for two weeks, you know I don’t pull bull crap like that brother. Now quit crying like a sissy, no wonder you don’t have any friends at school, and get into my beastly truck and we’ll drive to Bar Harbor!”

“The Bar Harbor?!?!” Jason asked excitedly. Jason had never been to Bar Harbor before, but had always wanted to go and see the mountainous terrain of Maine, while relaxing on the beach, in addition to maybe seeing his first live moose.

“No, I mean a soap specialty store where they sell so many different brands of soaps that it is enough to cover all of Bar Harbor. Of course I mean Bar Harbor, now get in the car already and let’s go!”

Jason loved the feeling of the warm sun against his chest and the sound of the seagulls playing music to his ears. The warm ocean breeze encasing the air was a stark contrast to the half-broken smelly AC air that Jason had endured earlier.
“I wish I lived here.” declared Jason.
“Yeah, so does you and everybody else on this planet.” Trevor exaggerated.
“I know, but like on a serious note, I hate living on the horrible Native American reservation. I hate hearing the sounds of drunken men argue as I am trying to fall asleep. I hate having no money to do anything, and most of all, I hate not even looking a speck of Native American because of this stupid albinism. All I look like is a freak of nature!” Jason vented. Jason is one of the few people in this world living with a rare condition called albinism. Albinism effects the pigmentation of the skin, and makes you look as white as snow. It also affects the way your bones grow, the way your face is formed, the way you learn, and the way you see. Because of having albinism, Jason is as thin as a chicken bone, has dyslexia, and has to wear bug-eyed glasses that make him notoriously picked on by the other kids at school. Jason has the eyes, nose, and mouth of a Native American; but the light blonde hair and skin of someone who was from Scandinavia which made him look quite peculiar.
“You know buddy,” Trevor said in a softer voice, “most of the people that live on that reservation are barely ¼ Native American, maybe even some of them are an eighth. Heck there is only person who is even fully Native American that lives on our reservation, what does that tell you?”
“That I’m the person on this reservation that looks only 1/16 Native American?” Jason asked sarcastically.
“You aren't getting my point bro;” Trevor said getting sterner, “being Native American isn't all about what you look like but what is in your heart.”
Jason then quipped, “Well let me tell you this much, there isn't one bit of Native Americanism in my heart. The only good thing about being Native American is that I can go to the University of Maine for free. That is, if I can get in.”
“You are only twelve years old Jay-boy, you’re too young to worry about getting into college. What I mean is that there is actually a lot of really cool stuff to our culture. Like you know the canoe we built last summer? That is in our blood brother, our tribe the Abenaki, is famous for working with birch bark to make all sorts of awesome things!!”
“So we made canoes, big woo pity do!!” retorted Jason.
“But there is more than that. You know why Amber is such a good dancer and is now a dance teacher? That is because the Abenaki loved to dance. We danced in all sorts of ceremonies such as sagamores and marriages. And do you want to know why Mom is such a good artist? Because the Abenaki loved arts and crafts such elaborate stitching, basketry, beading, and of course, making artifacts out of our beloved bark!” explained Trevor.
“Huh, I guess I never really thought about it like that!” stated Jason.
“Yeah, and do you want to know something else really cool!? If the Abenaki weren’t here, there would never be such a thing as summer.”
“What do you mean?” asked Jason.
“Now let me tell you a story about one of my greatest Native American heroes,” said Trevor, “Once there was a tribe of Native Americans that resided near the sunrise, they were called the Wananiki, or in English terms, Children of Light…”

“Children of Light?!?” Jason snorted in a condescending tone, “That sounds like some type of cult to me!”

“Now just shut up and listen!” scolded Trevor. “Anyways, there was a man named Glooscap who was their master. So one day, it became bitter cold where the Wawaniki people lived, and not even fire could keep them warm. The people of Glooscap were starting to die. So therefore, Glooscap journeyed up so far north that everything was covered in icicles. However, he found a wigwam and there sat the humongous giant Winter!”
“Wait, hold up? You know I am twelve years old, not six, right? Do you expect me to believe in crap like that?” exclaimed Jason.
“You hold up and just listen to me!” Trevor stated, yelling this time. “Anyhow, they started talking and talking until Winter used his charms to make Glooscap fall asleep for a long time. Six months later, he awoke. Unsure what to do next, a wild bird named Loon told Glooscap of a land down far south. There resided an omnipotent Summer who could overtake Winter’s deadly powers. Then, after riding a whale’s back, Glooscap met the gorgeous Summer, her hair decorated with flowers. Glooscap told her of the situation and together they ventured to find Winter again. When they found him, Summer broke Winter’s charm and his icicle wigwam melted to the ground. Suddenly, the grass began to grow, flowers began to blossom…”
“Like spring?” Jason asked in a sarcastic tone.
“No like fall, yeah I mean spring, now pay attention!” ordered Trevor. “Now, Winter was very heartbroken that he no longer had his special powers. Therefore, Summer and Winter made a deal. Winter could rule the weather of Glooscap land for six months of the year but not be as powerful, where as Summer would then come back up for six months of the year and rule the weather of Glooscap land. So they made the deal, and it worked out beautifully.” Trevor enthusiastically explained.
“So is this the part where you say thee end?” Jason asked.
“It isn’t a fairy tale Jason; it is a part of our Abenaki history.”
“History?!?!?” Jason said laughing out loud, “That’s a nice story and all, but I mean that’s impossible…it just is.”
“It’s all spirituality Jay-man. It’s what you believe in your heart. You know how people believe that the Earth was created in seven days and that Adam and Eve were the first humans ever created in His image. Well, I believe that this is how the seasons were created. It may just sound like a myth, but then you have to look back on your Native American roots and know that we are the type of people that would fight for having a summer and winter. It’s all what you believe.”
“You do have a good point! In my heart, strangely, I do believe it’s true. I guess I’m just afraid to get in touch with my inner Native American roots.”
“Don’t be frightened brother. I know you may not look Native American, but you have the mind and soul of one.” Trevor said smiling.
“You do too! Thanks for telling me the story!” Jason said.

“No problamo!” Trevor exclaimed.

The boys then together watched the sun go down, appreciating their Native American heritage in a way they both never had before. Tomorrow, they knew they would be watching the sunrise, thinking about the Wawaniki people and how Glooscap fought for this wonderful summer night.

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback