The setting sun glinted off Semiahmoo Bay and a cool breeze took the edge off a scorching late August day. A newer model Ford F-150 Raptor pickup turned off 8th Avenue and into the driveway of a two-storey, split-level house that needed painting. Located on the Semiahmoo Reserve in South Surrey, it was an innocuous place to have such an important meeting. That was why it was chosen.
Simon parked beside Rita’s Toyota Rav, turned off the ignition and sat there. If he was smart, he wouldn’t go in. If he was smart, he wouldn’t be here. “I guess I’m not smart,” he said as he got out of his truck and walked up to the front porch. Eddie opened the door before he could knock.
“Hey, Simon.” He wrapped him in a bear hug. “How’s the new house coming?”
“Good. Just waiting on a couple of inspections and then I’ll start on the finishing.”
“I’ll bet Mattie will be excited to see it. When’s she back from Costa Rica?”
“A week or so.”
“You want to stay for dinner, Simon?” Rita called from upstairs. “Eddie’s barbecuing salmon steaks.”
“Thanks, Rita, but I’ve got a meeting with a tradesman about the house.” He didn’t, but he wanted this meeting over with and to be gone as soon as possible. He followed Eddie down the six stairs into the family room.
The Chief was sitting in a recliner watching the news on television.
“I’ll leave you two to talk. Want a soft drink or anything?”
Simon shook his head.
“How about you, Chief?”
The Chief held up a bottle of water. “I’m good, thanks, Eddie.”
Simon perched on the arm of the sofa and waited.
On the screen were images from Digby, Nova Scotia of a burned-out vehicle and a large shed in flames. Violence had erupted over the Mi’kmaq’s constitutional right to fish for lobster in what was considered out of season while white fishers couldn’t. Events were escalating, the local authorities seemed overwhelmed or reluctant to enforce the law. There were calls for the federal government to take action.
In the two years since Simon had last met with him, The Chief had aged. His hair was now snow white and worn straight back curling at the nape of his neck. He looked thin and weary and was wearing a Cowichan knit cardigan on a warm day.
The Chief clicked the remote and the screen went blank.
“How are you, Little Bear?” he said.
“You’re wearing glasses now.”
The Chief smiled. “I blame it on all the reading I’ve had to do. Whatever happened to our oral history?”
“Social media has replaced it,” Simon said. “Besides, you’re getting old.”
“So, it has, so I am.” The Chief took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “The Council is concerned about our brothers in Nova Scotia.”
Simon shook his head. “I thought we wouldn’t have to do this anymore once the Prime Minister was an Indigenous person.”
“I know, I know.” The Chief sighed. “She says she’s doing all she can.”
The Chief sipped from the bottle. “Be that as it may, we’d like you to go there and see if you can help negotiate a settlement before someone gets killed.”
“Why me?” Simon said. “Get another warrior to go, someone who can work in the background like I used to.”
“This time it’s different. We need someone with a profile. Someone powerful and famous,” the Chief smiled. “Like you Little Bear, to stand up in public for the Mi’kmaq.”
“You mean stand up to Wendy.” Simon shook his head. “I’m to do this presumably as an individual, not as The Council’s representative?”
“It’s still important to keep The Council of Warrior's secret. To publicly support you would compromise our members.”
“I don’t know, Chief. I need to think about it.” His involvement would bring on a storm of controversy, disrupt his and Mattie’s life for who knew how long.
The Chief put his hands on his knees, leaned forward and looked straight at Simon. “Are you familiar with the saying, power corrupts?”
Simon rubbed his forehead. Was he familiar with the saying? When he worked on Wendy’s campaign, he’d witnessed it manifesting before his eyes. “And you expect me to do what?”
“What you’ve always done, Little Bear. Speak on behalf of truth and justice for our people.”
“Go head-to-head with the Prime Minister.”
“Perhaps you can get her to listen to reason. I understand you and she were close.”
“That might be more of a liability than an asset.”
“Whatever way it goes, if you decide to take this on you have The Council’s blessing.”
“Your blessing? That might help if I was shaman, and she was a witch.”
“We may have limited resources, but our influence is significant,” The Chief said. He put on his glasses and sat up straight. “Remember Wet’suwet’en. We nearly brought Canada to a standstill.”
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