I remember when I was very young. there were always ‘friends’ who would watch over me. They would also play and enjoy the day with me when I was alone. It seemed so normal and I was quite comfortable with them. They were very familiar spirits to say the least.
Then there was nature and all the friends that lived there as well. Fact was, all my cousins would enjoy the company of familiar spirits. There was no question that our friends were not imaginary because we knew they were real. Everything had a voice back then. The tree’s, the bird’s and everything around us had life and a voice. Just the way it was.
Life was good for us back then. We were surrounded by family members all the time, aunts, uncles, grand folks, mom’s and dad’s. There were no boundaries within the extended family. We did not know we lived in poverty fore we ate everyday and would play and sing all the time. Everyone pulled together. And for that period in my life, I was truly part of a family.
Can’t really explain why things changed, but they did. According to my ma, later in life, my father began to drink and get violent. Course I did not see to much of this or understand. But life for Natives was not so rosy back in the 50’s. Then, one day, my ma decided to move away from our family. Being just a little poop butt kid. I really did not have a concept of what was happening.
In any event, we moved to some place called Bunker Hill. It had a funny little street car called Angeles Flight. There was a tunnel and lots of concrete. Hmmmmm, this place was very far from anything I knew at the time. It seemed to take forever on the bus to get there. Took days to get there. And I believe it was in a village called Los Angeles.
Fortunately, we had a few relations there as well as other Natives. So it was not long before I was back to playing with kids, singing and dancing. Only sad part was, there were few trees and animals to talk to. But I still had my invisible friends to visit and chat with.
Then, one day a man and woman in a shiny car came to our little world. They told us we had to be relocated since the village of Los Angeles needed the land we lived on. Everyone got very sad, but the man promised us we would all be relocated and our lives would return to normal.
Well, to cut to the chase. No one came to help any of us move, but we were ordered to move anyway. It was very sad since everyone went separate directions. We lost our little village and had to move where we did not know anyone. People were angry with us for on reason.
It was in this time frame that my ma and I were spate upon by people we did not know. In this new community we lived, men would ask me if I wanted a new pa pa. They would say things to my ma and make her very mad. Sometimes she would slap the man or simply grab me and run, crying as she ran.
We moved from place to place in this village called Los Angeles till finally we ended up in an area called East Los Angeles. It was a place with lots of concrete to, but there were other brown people like us living there. And for the most part, very friendly. they came from many native cultures and I liked their food. Life was good once again.
My ma worked in a place called a laundry. Did not know what a laundry was, but I knew my ma had to go there everyday. So it was at this time frame, I met “Gabby”. She would stay with me when my ma was gone. I liked her allot since she would always tell me stories about when she was a kid.
She told me one day she was something called a “Jewish”. I did not really grasp what a Jewish was. All I knew for sure was she was a very nice lady and I loved her so, even though she was pink. I used to listen to her stories about when she was a kid. She did things I liked to do, sing, play and talk to the tree’s and animals. She was like me in a way.
Then one day, my ma, Gabby and I were at a park. I was eating some ice cream. It was very new to me, this thing called ice cream. And I liked it very much. Gabby and my ma would chat the afternoon away as I played in a park. I liked chasing the ducks and it seemed they liked it as well. I would chase them, then they would chase me.
When I came back to the bench where ma and Gabby were. I noticed something on Gabby’s arm. She got upset at first and I felt very sad that I might have hurt her feelings. It was a moment I will never forget. We all stared at one another, with no words.
Gabby had tears in her eye’s and I began to cry since I knew I hurt her somehow. But she grabbed me up into her arms, kissed me on my cheek and began to tell me a story about when she was a little girl. But it was not like the other stories.
She lived in a place far far away. It was the land where there was only pink people. She was a happy little girl. She would sing and play with friends and family. She also had friends in nature and talked to many animals and tree’s, like I did. She had extended family members who shared food, just like me.
I did not know why she had tears in her eyes because I thought it was nice she did the things I liked and talked to nature like me. But then, her story got sad.
One day, while she was playing with her cousins and friends. Men in fancy uniforms and big iron cars came to her village. They were angry at her and her family. They put up signs and hit people. These men would come over and break their windows and sometimes hurt the old people. Later, these men came and burned the houses, loaded everyone up and moved them to a big camp.
When Gabby and her family got to the camp. She was separated from her mommy and daddy. She was placed in a different camp for kids. All the kids were very sad since they missed their parents very much and all this was very confusing to them. They did nothing wrong or bad. They were just kids.
Eventually, the kids began to play once again. They missed their parents but they were still kids. They had no toys but they did have their friends and like me, some of their friends were not of this world.
As time went by, more kids came to this camp with stories about other families being taken away. Gabby missed her ma and pa very much. But there was no way she was going to where the adults were since there was a big fence all around them. The fence was very bad and the kids knew not to touch it since they saw a new kid run to it and die. Some thought it was a gun shot. The older kids said it was electric. In any event, the fence was bad.
Gabby told me about how all the kids used to play with their invisible friends to pass the time. There was not much nature around them in this camp, but the kids still had many friends to talk to. I understood what she was saying since I knew of these ‘friends’ as well. But I was sad that she did not have her ma and pa around. It made me cry to think about it since I loved Gabby very much and I would also miss my mommy if she was gone.
Then she told me about this thing on her arm called a tattoo. she showed it to me. But this time, she did not cry or hide it. It was numbers of some kind. She told me that all the kids got these numbers on their arms. After they got their numbers, their heads were shaved to. Some of the men in uniforms would take the older girls away, never to be seen again.
Eventually, all the kids got very hungry since there was not much food in them days. Seems there was a war and people were very mad at each other. Gabby used to lay on this hard bed and drift away with these friends who would come to her. They told her many things and they would play. Her friends were invisible so no one, especially the men in fancy uniforms, ever saw them. The friends would take her to grassy fields and they would eat sweet tasty foods.
She would still be hungry when she returned from her voyages with these friends. But for a moment in time, her belly was full and she could smell the grass in the field. She even saw her mom and dad. Gabby was so happy to see them to since she missed them so very much.
Many of her living friends had invisible friends also. But sadly, her living friends began to die of sickness and hunger. Her invisible friend told her that she would someday get out of this camp. And this gave Gabby hope for she believed her invisible friends.
Then one day, Gabby was feeling very sick. Her invisible friends were sad and worried about her. And for a moment, Gabby saw her mom and dad. They were standing over her. She could feel her mom’s loving kiss on her forehead and her daddy held her for a moment. They told her that she would be ok and that they had to go far away now.
Gabby cried for her mom and dad as they disappeared from view. The invisible friends told her she would see them again, someday. But she would be very old. Gabby tried to go back to the grassy field, but her pain was to great so she could not concentrate and escape.
As she lay on her hard bed, she could hear the sounds of people and machines. Many kids were screaming and crying. Gabby was to sick to move and lay there. Then a big man burst into the place she and other kids lived. He was something called a GI, one kid told her. He began to hand out candy to the kids.
Gabby was to weak to get up. But this giant man came to her and lifted her up into his arms and took her to a doctor. He sat by her and gave her candy, breaking it off in little pieces since she had few teeth. She told me that it was the best candy she had ever tasted since she almost forgot what the flavor of sweet was.
But sadly, Gabby learned that her parents were killed almost upon their arrival at this camp. But she made a promise to herself that she would never forget her parents and the story about her life in this camp. The camp was called Auschwitz.
As I reflect on Gabby’s story. I can’t help but find an eerie parallel with the history of my people. How we were moved from our world and placed in reserves across America and Canada. How we were left to die, fed rancid food and given colora infested blankets. Stories abound about wholesale murder and rape of our people, regardless of tribe. Our crime, being of different religion and race.
Remember the axion, “Knit’s make lice”? And how US Soldiers would cut out unborn babies from the wombs of Native woman? How US Troops would decorate their uniforms with Native body parts and parade through the streets while America cheered them on? Remember ALL the broken promises and out right lies that were told to our people in order to build a new country based on freedom and democracy?
When your family gathers to celebrate Saturnalia, aka Christmas, just be thankful your not living on one of may concentration camps across “This Land Of The Free” and living in squaller. Be glad your not living a personal hell trying to survive in a land of ambivalence as your brothers and sisters die at an astronomical rate from drugs, booze and sorrow.
In remembering the Holocaust, I can’t help but remember ours fore we are still living it.
In Loving Memory of Gabby, “The Jewish”
In Loving Memory of all our Red Brothers and Sisters who did not survive our Holocaust.