How my grandfather changed my life by teaching me the ways of our ancestors
Together we are something greater than we can ever be alone
This First Person article is the experience of Tyrone Paul, a member of the Upper Nicola Band in B.C. and the conservation society manager with the Abegweit First Nation on P.E.I. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ.
My grandfather's teachings are a true guide to living my life as a man.
In his words, which he explained to me are not even his words but the words of our ancestors, "a man needs to live a life of balance, love, and honour in order to be whole." I will expand on exactly how this applies in more detail, but it is a necessary starting point to understanding the spirit that rests within me.
I grew up in B.C., on the Douglas Lake Indian Reserve #3 of the Upper Nicola Band, or Spaxomin in our language. To the government and much of society I am an "Indian." To me, I am simply a passionate and loving man that wants to see kindness, love, and balance restored to the place that makes me feel at home: the Indigenous community.
I am a part of a large family in the Okanagan Nation and, akin to so many of my beautiful Indigenous sisters and brothers in the world, I had a great deal of experiences growing up on a reserve.
Many of these experiences could be viewed as a direct result of the intergenerational trauma that plagues North American Indigenous societies following European contact, including residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and everything commonly associated with colonialism. I won't go into too much detail about the traumas of my life, for that is not the point of one's life, nor this particular story.
My point in stating what I have is that I have personally faced far too many of the sufferings wrought upon the Indigenous Peoples of North America, but my story is not special among an entire people who have endured similarly.
What my grandfather taught me
My life growing up was about developing my own perspectives through life on a reserve, while moving a lot and incorporating differing experiences off-reserve as well.
Then, when my voice began to change, my grandfather, who was always a truly special man in my life, saw fit to change my life from that point on. He did something that was extremely challenging and difficult for both of us. He decided to teach me how to become a true human being in the ways of our ancestors.
Over the course of an entire year together, my grandfather shared with me the teachings of my ancestors that make a boy into a man.
I seek to live a life that isn't just a life of balance, love, and honour for myself, but a life that is dedicated to bringing this into reality for all human beings.— Tyrone Paul
During this time I spent more time out on the land than anywhere else, with nothing but the shirt on my back, a heron-bone straw, and a knife. I was regularly alone in the elements for days and then weeks at a time, where I sought the guidance and knowledge of my ancestors to prepare my body, mind, and spirit for the rest of my life.
I was pushed, challenged, and taught in the ways of my people by a man who survived the wrath of residential schools, aimed at driving these teachings out of him.
As I became stronger, so did he.
He shared his heart and stories with me as he pushed through his own fears to teach me what he wanted me to know. We shared a great many things during that year, and much of it I cannot tell another soul unless I am to train them in the way that I was.
To summate this amazing experience, from beginning to end, I was taught that "a man needs to live a life of balance, love, and honour in order to be whole."
After that year, I was recognized in ceremony with my grandfather and from that day forward I was a man and could not turn back. I knew what my life was to be lived for. I learned that being a human being is much more than hunting, gathering, and survival. Being a human being, at its core, is simple. It is about helping other human beings.
My story, now that you know as much as I've shared, can further connect to a concept that my grandfather taught me through that year of trials, hardship and experiential learning.
Simply explained, the words "my story" are a loose translation of a larger ideal. That ideal, in the words of my grandfather, is known to our hearts as "our story."
Thus, as our story unfolds, it applies to me, my family, my community, my ancestors, and extends out to every living, breathing human being in this world — including you.
Beauty and balance
Having set that context, I can now state simply that my life, and our story, from my heart and spirit's perspective, is about beauty and balance.
I seek to live a life that isn't just a life of balance, love, and honour for myself, but a life that is dedicated to bringing this into reality for all human beings.
In short, this is who I am. This is what I stand for. This is what I believe in. I could write and expand on this story for the rest of my life, but I would never be able to finish it.
Now, we are connected
If you've read this, then I would feel better in saying that you now know more about me. I am a human being that cares for you as a human being. I am a man that wants for nothing more than lives of beauty, balance, and honour for you and all of the people that we, together, hold dear.
Now, I can express comfort in the fact that I have shared a small portion of me and that may allow you to see that there is more to this person than experiences, credentials, or achievements of the past written on paper. Now you have an idea of who I am, what I stand for, and what I believe in.
Now we are connected. Now, together, we are something greater than we can ever be alone.
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