Reserve Visit

I had an opportunity to visit a reserve here in Manitoba this past week and found the experience quite interesting and a tad terrifying. The terrifying part refers to the hoard of horse flies—the locals call them bull flies—that swarmed my vehicle as I slowed down to park. I felt like I was in a Hitchcock movie. While I did get used to the constant hum of the flying brutes, I never got used to their size or their number. 

Once I put a cover on my head, I was braver about checking out my surroundings. An acquaintance of mine, teaching at the modern, handsome Lawrence Sinclair Memorial School, had invited me up to do a science lesson and a book reading. Her suite in the recently-built teacher residence included a spare bedroom.  

About three hours north of the city, on the western shores of Lake Winnipeg, Jackhead is a tiny community of about two hundred people. There are no stores or commercial businesses on the reserve—just a nursing station and a K to 9 school. There’s a mix of new and old buildings and construction dominated my impression of the community.

It’s a beautiful location. I visited the beach area twice during my stay to watch the pelicans. Of course, I had to collect a stone or two. After all, stones tell stories, and there are stories in Jackhead that need telling. I told the children, that those are their stones—their stories—and that they need to ask questions and listen to the answers. 

It was curious that while my friend's front window looked out over the school and a new structure being built to specialize in counselling for traumatized children—the back window faced a crumbling church, St. James Anglican, leftover from a bygone era. An overgrown cemetery looked beautiful in the June evening light as a crow posed, like only crows can, on one of the crosses. 

The students themselves were a delight—and as bright or as needy—as any I’ve encountered in my classes here in the city over the past few years. In spite of the bugs and the long gravel road, this was a fun and educational adventure. Kudos to the hard-working staff at the Jackhead school. Summer holidays well-deserved for everyone. 

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