This is the story of a girl who lost her shadow. She would spend most of her life searching for this shadow. She lost it as a small child while she was asleep. While she slept, the shadow stealer crept into her room and wrenched her shadow from her. Startled, the girl grabbed her shadow and hung on tight. Her dragged her and her shadow out of bed, across the floor. They went in circles. He even dragged her up the walls, across the ceiling. The little girl was not strong enough though and the shadow stealer flew off into the night. He glimpsed back at her and through the moonlight, she saw he had no face.
After that, her life became grim. She eventually forgot the shadow, but the feeling of deep loss never left her. It drove her to run from the ones who loved her; for she sensed that she was not complete enough to love them back. As she grew a bit older, this loss drove her to seek out dark places, not understanding why. She felt drawn to places most thought evil. She kept evil as her companion, with the feeling it had something she was missing.
She heard a giggle from her behind her. She turned around to see an old woman on her couch. “ Meechi, meechi, meechimoos. Are you really that slow girl? The way I remember it, nikohta only dropped you on your head once. Aye aye aye, I tried telling you so many times you were looking in all the wrong places. I whispered in your ear while you were so drunk you could not lift your head. I guided you when you had your children. And whose idea do you think it was for you to go back to school? But no, you insisted on going to all them parties, drowning your sorrows in liquor and in strange men’s beds. I’m sorry, but did you honestly think what you were looking for was in the pants of them young men?” The girl was confused and somewhat embarrassed. “Kokum. What do you mean? I don’t even know what I’ve been searching for.”
“My girl,” said Kokum. “You need to face your shadow stealer. Take what is yours. Enough of this silly bantering. Go back to that night he took your shadow and you tell him I sent you. Then you will be good my girl.” She gave the girl a leather pouch of tobacco, sage and a braid of sweetgrass. Before she left, she told the girl one last thing.
“Remember my girl. He’s not in any beds; he’s not in any bars. He’s not at the bottom of that bottle or even in that wacky tobaccy you been smoking. He’s in the only place you’ve never looked…your heart. Then go back to your education and show your children what you are made of and they will follow your example. And don’t worry if they make the same dumb..oops…I’m sorry…normal mistakes you made.”
With that said, the girl returned to her childhood on the night she lost her shadow. Only this time, the shadow stealer had a face.
She offered him the tobacco and forgave him. She took her shadow back, letting it go while the shadow stealer was scratching his head with confusion. He could not stand the weight of her love for her shadow and her forgiveness drove him deep into the earth’s core forever.
There, in the corner of the room was the shadow, shaking. The girl picked up the cold and torn shadow. She embraced it with all her energy until they became one. Her shadow now being returned, she was now whole. She could return to her children and teach them to protect themselves and how to remain whole. She could continue her education and she could now love with an energy that would radiate.
This is the end of my story of the shadow stealer, but the story of the girl still continues…e’kosi kinana skomotin.
About the author
Aimee Chalifoux, of Cree, Saulteaux, and Métis descent, is the newly appointed Executive Director of Literacy Central Vancouver Island (LCVI), where she has been working for years helping to advance education, support youth, and break down barriers to literacy access including:
- opening the door to literacy for those who are marginalized, creating safe learning environments, and offering workshops that gave people a space to be heard;
- advancing the Women’s Resistance Writers initiative, fostering a safe place for women to create;
- creating the Red Feather Podcast, a place for Indigenous Knowledge Keepers to share their stories;
- developing weather resistant language revitalization cards in 3 Indigenous languages; and
- providing a financial literacy program for women who are survivors of domestic violence.
- supporting Indigenous learners, including elders, to feel safe to work on their literacy goals.
Aimee believes that working with and for people that stand for literacy as a human right, is a blessing. This year, (2022) Ms. Chalifoux was awarded the British Columbia Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Award for Breaking Barriers from the BC government. This award is provided to an outstanding individual for their work in tackling systemic or institutional racism and reducing barriers for marginalized communities.