Quoted: From Bear Rock Mountain

In his memoir From Bear Rock Mountain (Brindle & Glass), Dene artist and social activist Antoine Mountain shares his moving and personal experience with colonial violence and his journey from residential school to art school—his path to healing and reclaiming his Dene identity. Below Antoine explains the epigraph that informs his memoir and shares a poem from his book. 


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“If you have a dream, you must do something each day to make it come true. Once this vision comes true no one can take it away from you, for you alone worked to make it come true.” —Peter Mountain Sr. What my grandfather meant by these words he put another way: “Grandson, everyone you come to is already doing something. So, the situation is already taking place. What you do or say will have some effect on what happens. These are very much traditional Dene Ways of Knowing, that you need to be a cheerful type of person, because you don’t know what kind of day the other person is having.”The meaning is also implicit, that we have to look as far ahead into our own future as we can, to know what to do. He also said that when you are involved with people who depend on you, give them one hundred percent—no less. Then, when a situation comes up, your name will be the first on their minds, for being a dependable person.Coming from very humble origins, with not much in the way of making the transition from a land-based way of life to one in town, he also noted that “you need to take very good care of what little you have. In the long run, it will grow and become all you need in life later on, and even more than you had hoped for.”It is with good reason that I often felt I was sitting at the feet of royalty when with this man. My grandfather had a very real way of making these complex thoughts understandable, even from the time when I was very young.Seeing me work so cheerfully each morning, he said that he and my paternal grandfather knew me to be “a good man to be” because I always made the extra effort to make my sister happy.
Antoine’s grandparents.A poem from From Bear Rock Mountain
One recurring dream…
The parrots of South America
can eat twenty-seven different poisons
toxic foods
and then clay
to digest the toxins
and still live
Like us Indians
in residential schools.
When I awaken…
from Bear Rock Mountain
both modern-day and ancient
to fend off
and defeat.
Day by day.
A gorgeous sketch by Antoine.*  *  * Thanks so much to Antoine for sharing the story behind the epigraph that leads to From Bear Rock Mountain and for the poem. A big thanks also to Tori at Brindle & Glass for making the connection! Click here for more Quoted.