[From my life writing novel “Incomplete Indian: The Indigenous Life Writings of Sarah Scout]
The foster homes are all mixed up in my mind, but I do remember my first move to Canada with my family, of hearing drums and seeing mountain-like tipis for the first time – of walking in a circle made of dirt and prairie grass and feeling completely safe. That was the second time I knew I was different. That was the second time I knew we were different.
I remember my mother – the moments that are worth remembering and the moments that aren’t. We were in a car accident in there somewhere – during Standoff Indians Days I think, because I could see the lights from the fairgrounds glittering and spinning from the distance.
The car was on its side. The driver (some guy she had been dating) said he would go for help; he never came back. Mom, I remember, reacted very little. She just sat there lopsided in that car, still buckled in and took another swig of wine. I remember the liquid in the bottle dancing and swaying the reflecting moonlight. I knew something was very wrong then. Thank god? Creator? I was OK – aside from hurting my ear a little bit when the car flipped into the ditch. I was a little girl. Don’t drink Sarah, I thought, don’t drink ever.
On the sober side I also remember going to school, mom cooking a huge pot of ichiban when we got home; to me, the smell of that meal was the most wonderful smell in the whole world. I can still see her smiling down at me as she stirred the yummy contents of the pot. Koby was my sister’s dog who oddly acted like a human being from time to time. Mom would set the table for dinner and always get mad at Koby in Blackfoot for sitting on one of the chairs, waiting for her to serve him. Koby later got shot by our neighbor, and yet miraculously and again rather oddly, he lived even when the bullet healed shut.
For childhood entertainment, my older sisters and I would race matrices down the unfinished basement steps. During this time, I remember believing in Santa Clause, of dragging Betty-Bye-Bunny with me everywhere and of being covered in mud from head to toe from my rez-misadventures; that day mom surprised Kara and me with these beautiful baptismal dresses for our first communion with the Catholic Church.
I remember playing with my little pony dolls and trying to raise baby pigeons from eggs and born infants we had stolen from abandoned rez shacks. My sisters were always with me. And they weren’t. My mother was always with me. And she wasn’t.
Jesus, I even remember the white social worker and the tiny blue car. Of mom just sitting at the kitchen table with her head down looking so sad – of me crying and futilely pulling at her arm pleading for her to do something, pleading for her to stop to what was happening.
I knew that she could do anything in the whole world; she was beautiful, strong and powerful. She was so much stronger than they ever were. But they took us away anyway. And she didn’t do anything – it wouldn’t be until years later I would finally understand that she couldn’t do anything. They had told her she was an unfit mother.
Where was your father in all of this? He was around. Just not with me.