Remembering Jimmy Raincloud

From the Scanlon Creek Times, submitted by Michael Penny, Ahoappa Tribal Elder.

This winter marks a macabre anniversary for the Ahoappa First Nations tribe. It will be three years since Jimmy Raincloud’s terrible death on a lonely, snow-covered sideroad, his body cast away like so many promises of the past. He would now have been 23 had he survived.

And although we know that the Scanlon Creek police claim to believe they know who commited this and other acts of murder, there are those among us who feel that the killing will never cease. Our tribe has been nearly wiped out twice in the past twenty-five years. What will stop a third monster from visiting our young and carrying their souls into the night? The Ahoappa, like many First Nations peoples, will once again be easy prey for those who kill for nothing more than sport.

And who is to blame for this? The Wasichu? Certainly they are to be mistrusted because of the historical misdeeds heaped time and time again upon our people. And certainly the murderous Reverend Tillman was white, as were many other butchers over the centuries.

But I believe blaming them is too easy. Perhaps we should share a small portion of the blame, for letting ourselves become too indifferent about our fate. The young people who fell victim to this most recent serial killer may have found bittersweet relief at his hands; indeed, he provided an escape from joblessness, drug and alcohol abuse, police brutality, and sexual abuse. Their indifference to their own lives begat others’ indifference as well.   

And change can start with us. With the Elder Council’s and your help, our beloved Chief Morning Sun will usher in a new era for our young peoples’ future, introducing something they didn’t have before. Hope. Belief. Courage. Respect. All qualities our beloved Black Feather possesses, and of which we will all be the beneficiaries.

God Bless Jimmy Raincloud, a young man who did not die in vain. Never forget the lessons we have learned from his tragic ending, and if anyone can help positively identify his killer, please contact this newspaper directly.

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Hank Gillespie’s Journal

Late Fall in Fort York

That’s it, I’m packed. Just need to pocket this journal and my Percs, two things I’ve learned that I can’t live without.

If anyone reads this they already know about the nightmares. Darkness. A single lightbulb hanging aqueously from a tree. Weeds encroaching on my limbs. Sea life gliding by, patiently waiting for my struggles to cease so they may slowly feast. Strange burning around my throat.  A man as old as time itself smiles toothlessly above; my own teeth broken and sliding down my throat on a coppery river.

And every time I wake my brain feels aflame. I dry swallow the Percs, never remembering to keep water by the bed. And then I write in this journal before I forget what I dreamed about. The reading the next morning is usually amusing to say the least, at least in the light when my subconcious is not so threatening.

Yet every morning for the past fourteen days only two words greet me from the otherwise blank pages: Scanlon Creek. My childhood home where we lived with my grandmother. And home of the Tillman Massacre.

Scanlon Creek has laid buried in my heart like a dirty secret for decades. But suddenly it’s calling me, almost taunting me to return, promising me that this pain will end once I reconcile myself with Tillman. My grandmother too. And myself.

Time for one last cigarette before bed. Hitting the road first thing. Praying that I’ll leave the nightmares behind, but knowing that my baggage will be heavier than I expected.

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Do you have to be in a fire to know it burns?

There’s a scene in Raincloud that has caused a little controversy in my life.  It concerns a young man, Skinny Davis, and how he was assaulted by two predators at a cocaine party. Assaulted in a violent, humiliating way that caused him endless physical and spiritual pain. And written in a way so that the reader will choke on the stench of the afterburn. And then lose their lunch.

Friends question me with thinly disguised motives. Members of my family looked at me a little differently, wondering how deep and dark that little spot on my heart really is. And I’m glad. Question me all you want. I wouldn’t be doing my job as a writer if my readers were not so profoundly affected.

Thanks for the credit.

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