The Rock on the Hill
In interviews and in conversations, I am often asked how I deal with lateral violence. It’s a reality that Indigenous folks know too well: that the kind of pain we have experienced on Turtle Island for seven generations has left us with deep anger and hurt. As it’s said: hurt people hurt people. I never really had a good way to answer that question and, honestly, early on the toxicity and unkindness really got to me. But I’ve thought about it a lot over the past 2 years and now I understand how to keep myself grounded and protected. I hope that from my experience you can find some tools to navigate unkindness for yourself.
Growing up in Saddle Lake First Nation I found solace in this beautiful place on the top of the hill in our field. My dad put a small boulder right at the highest point and it became known, fittingly, as “the Rock on the Hill”. It was here at the ROTH that I would go to see everything, all of it. It was a vantage point from which I could survey my whole world.
My family lived just at the bottom of the hill in a trailer. But this land was also home to my grandparents for generations and home to our people for a very long time. It was here that my dad built a farm, and where we explored as free range children alongside my many cousins, aunties and uncles. It sits on about 100 acres on the north end of our reserve. From the ROTH you can see the whole reserve in all of its beauty.
I spent many days sitting atop the ROTH. Often dreaming and wondering what I would become one day; what the future would hold. It was the place that I believed was first to touch the light on our reserve and some days, before the sun rose, my sisters and I would run out into the darkness to check our snares and watch the sun rise. From the ROTH we would watch as the sunlight slowly covered the reserve with a warm blanket of light, witness to the beauty of our home as it awakened. This was my childhood. Growing up, my sisters and I knew, without a doubt, that we belonged to this land in all of its beauty.
Now that I am older, I understand that there were important lessons hidden in those quiet moments. Lessons about cycles, changes, and about having line-of-sight: Light and dark must interchange. The darkness fades and the light comes through, in a cycle that mirrors our human experience, where we find ourselves cycling through the darkness and light of life. So even in darkness, I always remember that we can rely on the light to come.
And I know this because I learned that if you climb up high enough and dream big enough, you can see the light coming, gradually blanketing the world in warmth. It is the sun's job to warm the earth after the cold of night.
I’ve faced many challenges and lessons in my life and as I emerge and heal I choose light. And I choose to share that light even with those who are in the darkness. A blanket for all and warmth for those who need it.
Because I’ve been in the darkness and I chose to climb the tallest hill I could find, so I could see what's coming. And in the darkness of night, I chose to be light.
By Mallory and Kham Yawnghwe