The Mountain Money (Op-Ed)

Hannah’s a freelance writer who writes for First Nations Drum. The story you’re about to read is her perspective on a distribution of $3,500 she received as a member of the Siksika First Nation. On March 15, 2016, Siksika Nation members voted in favour of a $123 million deal that saw them give up claims to the Castle Mountain area in Banff National Park.

The distribution was for financial compensation for the Castle Mountain, located in the heart of the Banff Provincial National Park.The financial settlement was meant to compensate Siksika for illegal use of the 70-sq.-km land granted to them in 1892.

The Crown allowed timber sales and other transactions to continue on the land without compensation to the nation, and in 1908 the land was returned to the Canadian government without consent.

The Castle Mountain was granted to the Siksika Nation in 1892 by the federal government, then returned to the government without Siksika's consent in 1908

The Castle Mountain was granted to the Siksika Nation in 1892 by the federal government, then returned to the government without Siksika’s consent in 1908

I didn’t want the money, but the yes vote won. I voted no. I made a point to, too, because I knew most of the votes would be yes. They told us if we voted yes that we’d get 3500 bucks, and that this big, thick document would be approved. I didn’t read it. I went off of what I heard about it from my Dad, who read some of it. He didn’t like it, and he has a good mind about these kinda’ things. I mean, he grew up on the rez. So, with a blind trust in his thoughts, coupled with a suspicion as to why the government felt it necessary to make amendments to a document that gave Siksika rights to this spot of land with this super sweet mountain on it, I voted no. But, the yes vote won by a landslide – I think only 20 percent voted no. Or so I heard. So, I went to pick the money up. I biked cuz it was sunny out. When I got there, I was at the wrong building, so I hadta’ bike a dangerous route to the actual building, across Barlow trail (a busy road), up a grassy hill to 16th Avenue (another busy road), and then along its median strip. It was kinda’ elaborate, come to think of it, but I made it to the place on time,
and I got the damn cheque. It felt gross, picking it up, having it in my hands. I crumpled it up and stuffed it in my pocket, loosely. If it falls out, it falls out, I thought to myself. I got back to my bike, and, instead of going back the elaborate route, I just took the long way home. It rained most of the way – just poured. It was late in the summer, so it wasn’t cold or nothin’, but I thought it was weird, y’know, right after I picked up that damn cheque. Anyways, unfortunately the cheque didn’t fall outta’ my pocket, so I went to put the damn money in the bank. I wanted to get it done and over with. But the teller was suspicious of its authenticity, so he told me it would take a week to be approved. I ended up going in the next day to speak with the manager about it, and he said that that shouldn’t have happened and lifted the hold on the cheque. I mean, it was a government cheque in my name after all. I suspect the initial teller was being weary of my last name, but who knows. Anyways. I spent the money on a damage deposit and first months rent for an apartment that, after a year and a half of living in, I had to move out of abruptly after being unable to pay rent. I didn’t get that damage deposit back. A few months before that, I let a good friend of mine move in. We ended up not getting along all too well, and had some fights, and then a really big fight, and now we aren’t friends anymore. That place was a bad vibe place. Anyways, I also spent the money on some whiskey. The first and only time I drank it, I really made a fool of myself. I went to this party, sporting some heels I’d bought with the money, and mixing those with that whiskey, I slipped – hard – hit my head on a door, and woke up in the host of the parties bed. I was fine, but had a large goose bump, and had lost my cool. I haven’t talked to the girl that threw that party since. I kept that whiskey in my cupboard, which was a terrible idea. I should have just poured it down the sink then and there, but I didn’t. This had its consequence. One night, my sister stayed at my place so she could use my laptop to do some work. I wasn’t there, but she had the key, so it was all well and good. But, she found the whiskey, and, well, she drank some, n’ I reckon she got good and drunk, cuz she spilt a good sum of it on my laptop. It seeped into the cracks of the keyboard, frying my hard drive, instantly erasing my library of hundreds of films and thousands upon thousands of songs. It took years to compile that library, and that damn whiskey just wiped it all away. It was a major loss. The money also got me a pair of jeans, which ripped the first time I wore ‘em, and a bunch of other frivolous things. I was superstitious of having any of it, y’know, just real weary of it all. Anything I bought with that money was no good. It was blood money, I tell ya’. I remember my Dad saying that a lotta’ people on the rez died after getting that distribution, in strange ways, too. I mean, it may be superstitious to think the money had anything to do with it, but considering some of the things that happened to me, it really musta’. I can imagine that if I was in the state-of-mind to have bought more whiskey with that money, I’d have had some real bad luck. And I bet some people did have some real bad luck with that money. Be it the intentions they had when they used it, the things they bought with it, or the reason they voted the way they did, the bad luck came out of somewhere. It did for me, anyways, I just shouldn’t of spent that money on anything. I regret it. Around Christmas time of the same year, I dropped everything I bought off at a homeless shelter. It felt good – but… stale. I shoulda’ just donated the money to charity in the first place. But, that’s how it happened. The only thing I still have that I bought with the money is a record player, speakers, and some vinyl. I suspect something will happen to that stuff, but,
nothing so far.