January 27, 1997
Leah Charlie is a mother of four adult children. She enjoys volleyball, bingo and travelling. For years she has been bothered by what happened to her when she was seven. Writing this story has helped her to deal with those painful memories. Also she is a member of the Cheslatta Band in British Columbia and wants to study her native language and culture.
One day when I was seven, I went ice fishing with my dad. We stayed on the ice for two hours, trying to get a fish for supper. I kept on trying, putting my hand through the ice and reaching around underneath. Dad warned me about getting my hand cold, but I ignored him. At six o'clock, we headed back home, a two mile walk.
That night I was very sick. I couldn't eat, sleep, or even sit up. My brother Joe went to our next door neighbour and told him what had happened. He came up and checked my temperature. He said I had a very high temperature and should be taken into the Burns Lake hospital. As soon as we got there, the doctor said I had polio in my arm. They transferred me to the Nanaimo hospital because Burns Lake didn't have the right facilities.
I stayed in Nanaimo for two years. When I arrived home on the train, I hardly knew my parents at all. At first they took me two miles out of Burns Lake to a campground. My mom was cooking over the camp fire, and I didn't know what she was making; I went over and asked my dad what was for supper. He said we were going to eat rabbit stew. I didn't even know what it was; I didn't eat that night, because I was so used to hospital food.
My parents were speaking in their Native language which I didn't understand at all. I didn't know who were my cousins or my brothers or my sisters. I felt so lost and confused. I wished I was back at the hospital. It took me a year and a half to get used to things. To this day I still ask myself why I ever went ice fishing.
Right now I am still learning how to speak my Native language. It's very difficult for me. Other Natives laugh at me because I can't pronounce my words right. But I'm proud to be a Native.
[This weeks story was taken with permission from In This Country...Personal Stories About Northern B.C.]