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Brandon Pullan Column: Tiny shoes and bears

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Jessie Reyez won a Juno this week for her video to her song No One’s in the Room. The song starts with: “I’d go to church every Sunday, but teenage love still took my virgin skin, and the night after my first time I cried ’cause I thought heaven wouldn’t let me in. Meanwhile the priest has got a boyfriend, and lots of teachers smoke weed after school. When you’re young they try to keep you in the cages, but most of them don’t follow their own rules.”

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The priest has got a boyfriend – yeah, he does, the Pope. Tiny shoes were laid out front of government and religious buildings starting the day after 215 bodies were found in an unmarked grave in Kamloops. Pairs of shoes were placed on the steps of important local buildings as little monuments to those young lives lost. Some land owners left the shoes, but others removed them. Shame on you for erasing something laid to give homage, Mr. Church. We don’t take your crosses from your tax-free buildings, or your Vegas-illuminated crucifix built on stolen land.

Following Jacques Cartier’s arrival in 1534, British and French “explorers” upended populations that existed here for 10,000 years. They raped, murdered and put children in residential schools. Do you even know the history of the country that you brag about when overseas because of maple syrup and free healthcare?

I started this column to talk about rock and ice climbing, to brag about how great Bow Valley locals are – and they are. However, I forgot the places where we climb, the summits we call “mountain cathedrals” have untold stories. Mount Rundle, Cascade Mountain and Mount Robson are white people names given to geographical features that already had names. They are stupid names that we should erase.

Mount Rundle was Waskahigan Watchi, Cascade Mountain was Mini Hapa and Mount Robson was Yuh-hai-has-kun. I implore you to not only use these names but learn the old names of more mountains, rivers, valleys and places. European religions have set up shop here, and they have the opportunity to admit the wrongs of the past, and to be truthful and to reconcile. Instead, they’re stealing tiny shoes left to remember dead children. It’s completely disgusting.

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I saw a papa grizzly bear this weekend. A big boy with a moody stare walking with a salty stumble on a dusty shoulder of a road not far from Banff. It was hungry and horny and chomped on berries as it ambled north towards a patch of trees.

It reminded me of a quote in Sid Marty’s book Men for the Mountains: “It disturbed me that people would come to the mountains and regard the place as if it was somehow unreal, as if no action of theirs could have an affect on the landscape.”

We can’t wait for the shameless cowards in church and government to make the changes that we need, so let’s remember together, and listen better.

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