Jack enjoyed his new gig as an adult instructor at the Native Centre for Peace and Culture. He wasn’t the only white person employed there, although the manager, Lori, and most staff were indeed Indigenous. They treated him with an amused distanced kindness, they knew plenty of white people turning to Indigenous cultures, hoping to infuse some of colour and emotion into their own bland lives and they were well-tolerated.
After the toxic horrors of the public school, Jack found the Native Centre and his handful of adult students restful. He was interested the chatter about sweat lodges and powwows and became genuinely sympathetic to the poverty and struggles of his students.
In fairness to Jack, he had heard the sounds of whooping and drums from the office and thought there was something fun going on. And it looked like there was- Lori, with Mary-Ann and Sam were watching TV, showing Indigenous people doing traditional dances in full regalia in Parliament, members looking on gravely and silently. Jack was about to announce his presence when Lori said “Look at the motherfuckers- rolling us out, showing us dancing like savages. Why don’t they have their MPs dancing in tartans and kilts with their faces painted blue, huh?”
Jack remained silent. The news announced agreement on the construction of a pipeline which would go through Native territories- the dance in Parliament was celebrating that. There had been protests with reports of police brutality and violence disrupting construction for weeks, but now it would go ahead. Loris switched off the TV.
Mary-Ann said “Explosives will be here tomorrow”.
Jack felt his insides tighten. Every instinct told him to quietly walk away, but for no reason a mousey squeak emitted from him.
Lori, Mary-Ann and Sam turned to him. Their angry eyes seemed to burn him.
Then Lori and Sam spoke at the same time. “What the fuck are you doing here?” “What did you hear?”
Jack opened his mouth “Nothing, I swear!” Then again common sense deserted him “Why didn’t you tell me you were protesting – I would’ve helped! I hate the police and pipelines too!” His voice held the aggrieved tone of a child denied a birthday party. Sam took a step towards Jack, but Lori laid a hand on his arm “Let him be”.
She looked straight at Jack. “You need to leave. Never come back.”
Jack left the room. He heard Sam say “you can’t trust him” as he left. He couldn’t admit to himself whether it was fear of his own safety, or because he felt excluded, but he went straight to the police station.
The Peace Centre was raided that night. Sam was killed in the scuffle, Lori and Mary-Ann arrested.
Two days later, Jack was in a hit and run. He died on the way to the hospital.