Oct 28, 2013 - Fight Club Rez by Sarah Scout
We had a bit of a town site going on in Lavern where the Indian houses were scattered like old newspapers on a windy day. There was a gospel church, small and white across the road from the school. If you wanted to get there and you didn’t have a car you had to walk into the ditch and climb over the fence. There were no paved roads on the reserve and most of the time it was terribly muddy. The older boys would lay out these flat wooden boards for the people to walk on and position them in a path that led to the church. The mud would suck your Sunday shoes right off if you weren’t mindful of where you were walking. Personally, I liked to day dream and was not always mindful, so, of course I lost my shoes more than once.
I don’t remember how it started or how it first got introduced to us. It was just something that was there I guess, kind of like all of us. Something to do when the grown-ups weren’t looking—which in our case was pretty often.
On weekends, we’d hold fights along the far side of Lavern elementary, the only elementary school that existed in that particular part of the reserve. It was the perfect place really. Along the side of the school building were these half structured cement cubicles that offered enough privacy from blanket covered living room windows and the highway, but also allowed for enough space to crowd and fill up the opening with a ton of screaming rez kids shouting like mad for their particular fighter to win.
The fighters were not experienced. Anybody could fight and often did. The older kids would organize the whole thing and have us fight each other in sets; sometimes three or four fights at a time. It didn’t matter if you were a curious spectator or just there at the wrong place and the wrong time. The next fight was always imminent, especially if an older kid singled two younger ones out with a point of their finger yelling, “You and You! You’re next!”
This is how I was introduced to some of my future foster brothers and sisters years before we’d end up in the same city “homes” together. The foster parent would introduce us like, “…this is so and so…” and we’d say our polite hellos like we were meeting for the first time, all the while secretly smiling to each other and narrowing our eyes with grit recognition and wild memory.
The best fight I ever saw took place in the downstairs of one of my reserve foster homes. It was between my sister Kara and my foster mother’s niece, Charlene. Boy, did that girl ever have a mouth on her! She cussed, teased, pushed and insulted my sister for what seemed like hours in that unfinished basement, while a curious spectated group of us looked on, positioning ourselves between steps, wooden pillars and matrices to get a good view of the fight. If we had been children of money, I’m sure bets would have been made on a potential winner.
Feelings weren’t supposed to get involved, but that night everyone knew the older kids were pitting arch enemy against arch enemy.
Hands down, Kara was not a fighter. She had this lanky thin body with skinny arms and long legs. But with big beautiful brown eyes, black shiny hair and dark brown skin she was prettier than Charlene and a lot of the other girls, which is probably why they hated her so much.
“You’re not tough! You’re just a scrub skinny bitch!” Charlene declared, circling Kara and shoving her repeatedly.
This went on forever and Kara didn’t do anything, she just stood there, alone, taking it like some ambivalent scared coward. My blood boiled as I watched Charlene continue to laugh, chant and throw every name in the book at my sister until, even I began to lose faith and think maybe Kara just didn’t have the fight in her. Maybe she really was just scared after all.
Charlene gloated, smugly convinced now that Kara was no physical threat to her whatsoever; she preoccupied herself with a victorious glance back to her cackling friends who busied themselves thinking up new and witty insults for her to humiliate my sister with.
That was when I saw Kara’s dainty hand slowly curl up into a brown fist as it hung down on her right side.
“Wait, wait – watch this,” the girl beside me whispered, zeroing in on the same thing I did as she grabbed on to my sleeve.
For a lot of us I think in the next moment all time stood still. I held my breath and watched in slow motion my sister deliver the best right hook I’ve ever seen and plant it right into the eye of an unexpected Charlene.
Charlene’s entourage stood in devastated shock as Charlene went down hard, crashing heavily on to the cemented floor as the rest of us rushed the basement stage laughing and cheering Kara on like loons.
The fight was over, but when Charlene came to, she vowed her vengeance and chased Kara all over the house screaming bloody murder. Kara eventually locked herself in the two door bathroom upstairs where my older sister Sheila stood curling her hair, oblivious to our wild and unsupervised antics.
I pressed my ear against one door while Charlene dramatically screamed and banged against the other, calling for Kara’s head. I could hear Sheila scold Kara for punching Charlene’s lights out and I felt betrayed. “You don’t understand!” I wanted to yell, “The bitch deserved it! It was the best fight of the century!!!”
Years later (and with a rather nostalgic grin) Sheila would confess to me that behind those closed doors she had additionally whispered her ‘Good Job’ congratulations to Kara on her fantastic win.
That was the day my sister Kara became my all-time rez hero. And to this day, in a lot of ways, that heavy weight title has remained untouched.
Sarah Scout is an active urban Aboriginal writer and Indigenous Artivist in the Calgary, Alberta community where she has lived for the past ten years. From 2000 – 2002 she attended Lethbridge Community College where she studied print journalism and communication arts under D’Arcy Kavanaugh. Her work has been published in print mediums such as The Endeavour, The Lethbridge Herald, Say and Beatroute Magazine. From November 2006 – February 2009 she was the managing editor of New Tribe Magazine: Calgary ‘s non-profit Urban Aboriginal Youth Monthly. Founding the Aboriginal Writers Circle in 2007, Sarah created this group for Aboriginal writers, authors and storytellers to come together in celebration and exploration of the written word and oral storytelling tradition. In her spare time, she also creates and distributes her own independent zines which document personal anecdote, stories, life writing experience and poetry in a mixed collage of black and white photography and experimental graphic design. Her zine titles include: Out Cast By Choice, Out Cast By Choice: Issue Two – A Choice of Futures Waiting To Happen, Jack Rubber, Assimilated Ego, Assimilated Ego 2 and Indian Grave Yard. Winner of the Royal Bank of Canada Aboriginal Student [two year] Scholarship in 2009, Sarah studied at the University of Calgary in pursuit of her BA in English. She currently is writing her first ‘life writing’ novel “Incomplete Indian: The Indigenous Life Writings of Sarah Scout.”