EXCERPTS from RED WOLF
Jennifer chats on WhiStle Radio about Joseph Boyden's endorsement of her book
Jennifer reads from Red Wolf on WhiStle Radio
Photo: Bill Warren
From Chapter 15
Father Thomas added the final touches. He smoothed the fresh mounds of soil with the back of a shovel and pushed newly cut pine crosses into the soft dirt. He frowned, annoyed that the sap from the wood was sticking to his hands. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and tried to rub off the resin, but it only smeared. Sighing, he crossed himself and beseeched God to save the souls of the little savages. And then he went about his day.
From Chapter 12
Often the older boys mocked the younger ones when they were being punished, sneering at those who were forced to kneel in the corner, ridiculing those with the striped haircut. But no one laughed while Turtle was being whipped, not even Henry. Red Wolf closed his eyes so he couldn't see, but his ears still heard the sound of the leather smacking into Turtle's skin and the yelps that turned to moans and then to whimpers . . .
Red Wolf didn't see Turtle for many days. The morning that he reappeared in the refectory, Red Wolf was elated. But Turtle had changed. He was broken. The light in his eyes was gone.
From Chapter 8
"Do we ever get to eat any of this?" Red Wolf asked.
"No! " Turtle replied. "It goes to a place called Market."
Suddenly, another question came unbidden from Red Wolf's mouth.
"What does savage mean?"
There was a time long ago, when wolf and man lived wild and free.
When the white-skins lived far away across the Salt Water.
The woods were big then and the forests thick.
Elk and moose were plentiful, the rivers clear and full of fish.
Counseled by the wisdom of the old ones and guided by the Spirit
We lived in harmony with Mother Earth,
Wolf and man together, yet apart.
From Chapter 14
For ten long months Red Wolf's heart had ached to return to his family. Now that he was home he was disappointed. Everything was strange. It was as if they had sent him back to the wrong home, the wrong family. In his memory, home was a fur-lined, birch-bark wiigwam. The reality was a shack made of pine boards, topped with a rusting metal roof. It reminded him of the potting shed at school where dead children, it was said, waited for spring when they would be planted in the ground.
Father Thomas had given the children a summer assignment, to turn their parents away from the sinful, savage ways that led to Hell, and guide them instead on the path to Jesus. Red Wolf had not completely understood the lesson, and Father Thomas's words did not easily translate into Anishnaabemowin which was beginning to return to him. However, the boy had learned quite thoroughly that he was a filthy Indian and a savage. The knowledge had left him feeling sullied and ashamed. If he told his parents that they, too, were filthy Indians and savages, they would be dishonoured and ashamed also.
An unnatural silence settled over the family. When they spoke to him, he answered in monosyllables, or not at all. But Red Wolf was comfortable with silence. He had learned over the past year that silence usually meant safety. For his parents, however, the silence in the small cabin was deafening.
There was a time before the loggers cut the great pines and floated them down the rivers,
Before the traders used our furs and skins to clothe the white ones across the Big Water,
Before they made us believe that our ways were evil and our wisdom was foolishness,
Before they controlled us, contained us, tamed us, restrained us,
Before the diseases, the guns, the metal traps, the poison bait.
There was a time before we were savages,
Wolf and man, together, both.
There was a time long ago . .