Saturday Nov 15, 2008

Episode 22 - Waneta

Episode 22 of 24. A reading from the book Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health: Stories from the front. Compiled, with Introduction and Reports by Chrystal Ocean. Copyright 2005. This is the last of the 21 stories. At the beginning of the project, each of the women chose a random number to represent them. This was both to protect their identities and to make the stories themselves the central focus. When it came time to put the book together, I didn't want to refer to the women by their numbers. That would have been awkward and certainly impersonal. So I ordered the stories by the women's numbers, from lowest to highest, and then assigned a pseudonym to each, from 'a' through 'w'. In other words, while the alphabetical arrangement would suggest otherwise, the stories in the book were randomly sorted. This was to ensure no bias crept in, in terms of story placement. How fitting, then, that the random sortation would result in a native woman, Waneta, getting the last word.

When I was 5 years old, [my mother] committed suicide in a motel room. My younger brother and I were present and were the ones who actually found her. We remember that night like it was yesterday. We found her in the bathroom. There were no adults around. We remember playing with her rope.... I was about 13 when my biological sister reunited with me. She visited us off and on for about a year. She took her life when she was 18. She also hung herself in Victoria.... One of the uncles that lived in the home started sexually abusing me. I didn’t know that it was wrong. We would go fishing and then he would get on top of me and stuff. He’d make me lay there. I didn’t know. All of us slept in the same room as my grandfather and his partner. Seeing him on her, I thought it was something that you did. My uncle was doing that to me at the creek, when I was nine, and I thought it was what you had to do. I’ve never told any of the family members. He told me not to tell anybody, of course. I had all these secrets. All these adults in my life were telling me, ‘Don’t tell, Don’t tell’.

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