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Tania Carter, "When the trees have fallen for the last time"

In honour of National Aboriginal Day on June 21, we at Canada Writes are presenting our own contribution to the CBC's groundbreaking 8th Fire project: "The Way Forward," an original series by some of the country's leading and emerging Aboriginal writers.

Writer and performer Tania Carter and a tale of indifference to violence.


When the trees have fallen for the last time
By Tania Carter

Forty years from now, when I am old and gray and the trees have fallen for the last time, there will be birds sitting atop buildings waiting for the day the sun will spread across the sky and swallow the sickness below. Waiting for the day the melting snow will flow and warm hearts will fill the streets.

I emerge from shadows. Through pieces of hair hanging down in front of my eyes, I see filth.  A mob of people fights for a purse on the road. Coins drop in drains, pouring from reaching hands.  A body slams. Mouths rise and fall. Bodies jerk and blood rushes. Cars move past faster. A siren flares and stops 50 feet ahead.  

I sneak past the fury. No one sees me; my hands twitch. A woman with a purse screams “Stop!”

 “Give me that!” a man yells.  

A flying set of keys whips by; fist after fist wears her down, her body slumps, blood streaming from her hand cupping her cheek. He pulls the purse. 

“It’s MINE,” she pulls herself up. 

“Don’t…” I whisper. A fist punches her back down. 

Another man snatches the purse.  Running to the other side of the street, he shouts, “I have it!” Boots sink into her ribs again and again.  The cop half way down the block does nothing. 
I run to him; “look!” I beg. He sits and stares at his computer board.  I step back, watch him load the print-out into his chest flap, start the ignition and step on the gas. 

“I remember when men would help…” I whisper. In tatters and buttons, I swerve through the crowd, the cameras and computer-generated images.  Children touch computer screens, splashing a dying woman, up walls and down sidewalks. Five minutes and the blood sweepers will be here. 

The crowd waits. Parents are working in factories until dawn the next day. Unfolding layers of clothes, I unsheathe a feather and float to the massacre. Fanning blood, I sing. My eyes drift from body, to sunshine and back into stars. 

In the future I would bring my memory, intuition, a feather and my voice. 


Tania Carter is a writer and performer whose work springs from the tradition of Salish storytelling. She is based in Toronto.

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