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GRANDFATHER' S STORY

Wind, still. Wild, silent.

With a gnarled hand, the 90-year-old man pointed to the full August moon and said, "Can you see the scars upon the face of the moon, the injured land? That is what my grandmother spoke of long ago. She said there was once a war. It was a big war between thinkings. It was between those people who did not care about life and did not care i f the moon remained a dwelling place, and those others who wanted the moon to remain a good place to live. That war used up the moon. And when the moon caught fire, there wasn't even enough water to put it out. It was all used up. The moon burned. A huge fire cooked everything. Just everything."

Later, just before dawn, we stood again with Grandfather in the early chill; lok-mhe, the light just before the silver of dawn. He told us of his fears of how this Earth could be itamji-uw (all used up) i f the people of all of the world do not correct their manner of wasting resources and amend their arrogant disregard for life itself. Thirty miles to the north, Akoo-Yet shivered white against the velvet dawn sky. We were surrounded by the immense silence of the flat land of Atwam, where the Pit River meanders towards the sea.

Our talk turned to Akoo-Yet. "The power that balances the universe, Mis Misa, dwells there," Grandfather said, nodding a white head in the direction of the shining mountain. We knew that we were about to hear another story, so old that time could not erode it and so real that only truth and understanding could recognise it.

An old coyote howled in a black canyon somewhere to the south. An owl glided nearby, wings whispering upon the darkness, huge eyes searching for slight movements in the sea of darkness. Over near the mountains there was a soft roaring sound of falling waters as the winds brushed the thousand

pines. The perfume of sage moved all around us. A meteor streaked across the night sky, a white arrow - vanished - as i f i t were but a part of an imagination.

In our custom, one is not supposed to intrude into the silence created while someone who is telling a story hesitates to either search for proper words or to allow the listener time to comprehend. At this moment, however, I thought Grandfather should be aware of some plans for the most precious mountain of all of the mountains of his life. "Grandfather, did you know the white man wants to make buildings upon Akoo-Yet?"

After a deliberate silence, Grandfather's frozen posture relaxed. Then he said, "Can you say why the white man wants to make buildings there?"

Sometimes I explained things to him like he was a child. "I t is for money and entertainment. They have a ski lift on the mountain now so the people who want to slide down the slopes don't have to climb up. They ride on a chair. The chairs are pulled to the highest point by huge cables. Now they want to make a town on the mountain - a city."

There was another silence. Then, with the tired motions of an old grizzly bear, Grandfather said, "It must be time to tell the white people the story of Mis Misa." And he began to tell it.

The Story of Mis Misa "When Quon (Silver-grey Fox), the power that created all that we know, and Jamol (the coyote power that still wants to change all that Quon has created) were through with making this land, it is said, the Great Power made a law, a rule. This 'law' Quon placed within Akoo-Yet. By doing this, Quon made Akoo-Yet the most powerful of all mountains. He gave the mountain a real job. My Grandmother told me of this 'law'. It is known as Mis Misa by our people. I have never heard it

The Ecologist, Vol. 30, No 1, January/February 2000

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