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If we talked about the past

we would say how strong our people

were and how they had survived

the constant rains and the great floods

and how they lived in the ground

and how they, like us, took the fish

throughout the year and how it fed

their families. And if we talk about

how they would war against other

river and island tribes who would

come upriver to try to take our people

back with them, we would say

we had great warriors who would wait

for the canoes to come to shore

where we would club them to death.

But today we do not use violence

to survive and we have become quiet

and accepting of our neighbors though

in the beginning we were almost wiped out

as sickness came with the people on ships

who wanted to trade and cheat us of our fish.

That sickness nearly wiped out all river people

but today we are still here, and we survive.

Our children have grown up with loss

and alcohol and drugs and they too fight

for their lives in a world that does not

seem to care about them but we try

to teach them the lessons from a long time

before there was anything written down.

In our ceremonies we repeat those words

and our children will also repeat those words

and so we the river people are still here.

We are all the silent warriors and we say

enough is enough and our young they pick up

the drum and they sing new songs

and they stand and shout to the world

that we are still here and will never leave

this simple island on the great river where

we still take the fish and yes, we still live

where we have been for thousands of years

and we are the ancestors of our future as

a child picks up a drum and begins to sing

a new song given to him from long ago.

Kwantlen

Joseph Dandurand

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