Here's the deal. There are a lot of great things Garden Hill has going for it. There's something special about my rez that you won't find anywhere else. Well, maybe on other First Nations, but mine is better.
This is my thumbs up to Garden Hill, the best of the best, the top five moments during my trip home:
1. The Gookums
Whether it's kookum, nookum, gookum or grannie, these ladies hold a special place in most everybody's heart. They have wrinkly hands that are super soft and a sense of calming quiet about them. It's customary that when you go anywhere where there is an elder present, you go directly to them and shake hands with them. "Wa-chay." I remember my parents always telling me that when I was little and visiting my grandparents.
Check this out: One of the events during Ministic Carnival was having all the gookums line up and square off against each other for a championship title in this contest. Keep an eye on their faces and listen to that laughter!Garden Hill grannies compete for the greatest noise maker title at the spring carnival. 1:04
2. Candy scramble
This was unbelievable!!!! I've been to candle scrambles before. There are kids screaming, they run for the candy, most of them go away happy. But this one? Wow! Inside with a low roof and the hall packed beyond capacity, my son and I were at the front throwing the candy. I tried SO hard not to hit anyone in the head but it was just unavoidable. There were even boxes of Kleenex and toilet paper getting tossed out. I hope I didn't poke anyone's eye out.
What I thought was really sweet was they also had a money scramble for the elders. They all sat in a circle and each elder had a "grandkid." Money was thrown into the centre of the circle and whatever the kids gathered was handed over to their gookum.Garden Hill's annual spring carnival takes time to honour their elders but also have a little fun. Local kids elbow out others to win spare change for their favourite gookum. 0:37
3. The parade
So here's something really rad. My mom has these slides from the '70s where they did up all their old skidoos like floats in a parade. Well, they still do it! With cars now but still just as awesome! I got to be the judge. All of the entrants did an amazing job considering there isn't a Walmart down the street to get supplies. The one that really blew me away was the girls who entered for the elementary school. Their camo van came with weapons they made on their own! Impressive! It's just one event in a weekend of fun for their spring carnival.
4. The kids
I can't say enough about them. We were in the hall when my son first said he wanted to go outside to play. I don't know why, but I was a little bit apprehensive about letting him go. Would the kids like him? Would they let him into their crowd? Five minutes later, I found out I had nothing to worry about. Fynn came inside saying, "Mom! I think they like me! I'm being chased by a bunch of girls!" He wasn't kidding. I went outside and no less than a dozen kids were following him. Wherever Fynn went, they went.
There's this great curiosity they have. The same thing happened when my camera guy and I went outside. Jaison was surrounded by a large group who wanted to know more about his camera. How does it work? What does this button do? Were we airing live to TV right now? He changed positions multiple times and no matter where he went, they were right there with him. It was the same for me. For kids who normally are shy, they weren't afraid to ask me a lot of questions — who was I? Who's your family? Was in fact that blond kid really mine? You got to see kids just being kids.Garden Hill First Nation kids play it up for the camera. 0:47
If you ever worked with me, whether in a large newsroom or a long time ago in a very large call centre, you knew when I was in the building. I have been told more than once, "I heard you before I saw you." I love to laugh. It's loud. It makes people smile. The BEST thing about Garden Hill is they all sound like me!
So picture a packed hall of amazing people, hundreds of them, there to honour my grandfather's 92nd birthday, telling jokes and playing games and all of them LAUGHING. Some of them are shy so they'll giggle, then cover their smile, then turn away if you point a camera in their direction. You have the other ones who throw their heads back and do the kind of silent laugh. But for the ladies when it's REALLY funny, you hear a high-pitched kind of wail that descends back into chortles. One of the camera dudes I work with once told me I sometimes sounds like a witch. Thanks buddy. But all together it's amazing. It's joy. It's refreshing. It's rehabilitating. It's healing. And when you're from the Rez, you do it SO well. You just have to get our jokes.This is what you will find pretty much anywhere you go in Garden Hill. 0:41