Indigenous Arts & Stories - Skytrails


2019 - Writing Winner

"The environment around her had turned into a maelstrom of emotion and sorrow to which Charlotte had been completely immune. She hadn't felt much of anything since that day, no sorrow, no joy, no pain, and no love."

Read Cecil Montour's Skytrails

Cecil Montour

Caledonia, ON
Six Nations of the Grand River Territory
Age 18

Author's Statement

My goal with this piece was to convey the nature of grief and loss, as well as the catharsis that is achieved when one is finally able to accept what happened and move forward. While this piece does take place on a reserve and is written from the perspective of a young native girl, the context in which it is written is not exclusively a native one. Rather it's purpose is to deliver an accurate portrayal of the human condition, something that we all share despite the immutable characteristics that seem to define us so heavily in today's society. This is what I believe to be the true essence of truth and reconciliation, a mutual understanding achieved by choosing to recognize our shared humanity instead of our superficial differences.



Charlotte sat on the bank and admired the shifting cracks in the grey clouds through which a bright blue sky fleetingly peeked.  The scene reminded her of an art class she had taken in grade 10, in which they had studied a group of famous Canadian painters.  What were they called again?  The Group of Four?  The Group of Five?  Charlotte couldn't remember, but through her mind's eye she could vividly picture the landscapes that they had masterfully weaved with nothing but paint and a brush.  The picture that had been painted in front of Charlotte however, hadn't sprung from the mind of Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer or Franklin Carmichael, but rather from arguably the greatest artist of all, Mother Nature herself.

She took a few more moments to admire the dark sky and then switched her focus to the equally drab landscape which surrounded her.  She had come to welcome the deep, pervasive sadness that gloomy days like this inspired in her.  While Charlotte didn't necessarily enjoy being sad, she didn't dislike it either.  She had stopped chasing happiness a while ago, choosing instead to let her emotions wane and wax like the tide that drifted in and out mere inches from her feet.  The misty air and dead silence cleared her head, turning her mind into a river of melancholy through which her hopes and fears could flow.  Ever since that day though, her mind had been anything but clear...

She quickly snapped back to reality and resolved to keep moving, she couldn't afford to let her mind drift into places that she still wasn't comfortable going.  She got up, dusted off her pants, and headed into the thick brush.  After about 5 minutes of heavy bushwhacking, she ended up back on the main trail.  After quickly contemplating staying on the trail or heading back to the reserve, she turned to her left and started off deeper into the forest.  She drifted along at a steady pace, deftly weaving between fallen trees and low branches.  Such was second nature for her, and it wasn't long before she slipped back into the confines of her mind.

It had been beautiful that day.  She had spent the morning finishing up her chores, so she was free to do whatever she wanted as long as she was "home before dusk," as her mother always reminded her.  She had no intention of going very far that day however, choosing instead to sit on her porch and appreciate the warmth which brought with it the promise of a coming summer.  The arrival of the sun had breathed life into a once barren landscape.  Birds pierced the air with their songs, the colours shifted from greyscale to vivid as quickly as a painter switches palettes, and Charlotte's nose was filled with the bittersweet smell of spring.  Huge white clouds sat on the horizon like a distant mountain range, and the bright afternoon sun cast shadows along which cold swathes of air fervently traveled.  She turned her focus upward and watched as planes drifted to and fro, the trails that they left splitting the sky and serving as a fading reminder of the big world that existed outside of her life on the reserve.

She sat there for hours, thinking and observing.  It was only when the birds had stopped chirping and the sunlight had begun to flay across the horizon in a million different colours that she had resolved to go back inside.  She had just begun taking off her shoes when alternating hues of blue and red began to dance off the window of their living room and the familiar sound of wheels crunching against a gravel driveway permeated the air.  An unmistakeable sense of dread settled over Charlotte as two police officers ascended the steps of their porch and her mother opened the front door to greet them.  They stood there silently, looking at her mother with eyes full of pity. Charlotte was out of earshot, but when one of them finally stepped forward and began to speak, the nature of their message became painfully clear.  With each word spoken Charlotte's mother seemed to sulk closer and closer to the floor, her eyes glazed and her skin pale.  Charlotte remained still, desperate to know what had happened but unable to move lest she make this nightmare a reality. When she finally gathered enough courage to approach her mother, all that could be heard was the endless repetition of one name, "Daniel", and she felt her world collapse as she realized that her brother was gone.  That was the last thing that she remembered from that horrible day.

The next few weeks had felt like a blur, the funeral and grieving period drifting by like the clouds that Charlotte had spent so many hours observing.  The environment around her had turned into a maelstrom of emotion and sorrow to which Charlotte had been completely immune.  She hadn't felt much of anything since that day, no sorrow, no joy, no pain, and no love.  She no longer felt like a part of the world around her, but rather an observer, unable to reach out and touch the things that she once held so dear.  And this feeling stayed, long after the casket had been lowered into the ground and her relatives had said their goodbyes and gone back to the places from which they had came.  Eventually the cool breezes of spring gave way to the hot, humid air of summer, and Charlotte spent the majority of her break holed up in her room, begging the tears to come, yet they were unwilling to give her the closure she yearned for so desperately.

And so here she was, 6 months later, still unable to truly empathise and connect with the people around her.  It was the realization of this fact that brought her back to the gloomy September day that was her current reality.  She glanced around at the destination that her feet had delivered her too while she had been lost in her head, and a wave of emotion passed over her for the first time since that day as she realized what she was looking at.  About 5 feet in front of Charlotte the sandy shore of the lake gave way to creaking boards of timber as an old wooden dock, severely discolored and rickety beyond repair, reached out towards the opposite shore.  This had been the dock at which Charlotte and her brother had spent many a summer afternoon and many a wintry morning, shedding their insecurities and dreaming of one day being able to escape the mundane existence that the reserve confined them to.  A secret place that only they shared.  A physical manifestation of the unconditional love that they had held for each other.  She stood there silently, appreciating the rush of memories that reminded her that her brother would always be with her, finding eternal life in the hearts and minds of those whom he loved so deeply.