Travel well, Tom Charles

ikwâni mâni mâka î-nakasiyâhk niwîcîwâkan: mitho-pimôtîho
and so it’s come about that you leave us my friend: travel well.

“Tracker Tom” Charles leaves a lot of powerful memories, including these from Solomon Ratt, who had the honour more than once of being tracked. Sol writes:

I climbed my first mountain when I was sixteen. I had to scramble up Mount Sulphur because I had tried to take a short cut to the next switchback. I never found it. It was easier going up than going down so I scrambled up. I got to the top and saw Tom looking over the fence at the view point and when he saw me he hollered! “There you are! I was about to go looking for you.” He had taken the gondola up there and waited for me. R.I.P. my friend. Tom Charles, thanks for agreeing to go hitchhiking with me when we were teens so I could see the mountains.

Another summer Tom and I scored some money for high school students for summer works projects. Our project was to clean the graveyard in Stanley Mission. All went well the first week with us using grass whips to cut the tall grass in the graveyard. On the second week it started to get cloudy with a thunderstorm approaching but we worked on. So we’re yapping away as we swung our grass whips when I accidentally hit a gravestone. Just as I hit the gravestone thunder rolled and lightning flashed! We dropped our grass whips and ran for our canoe. We must’ve set a record for going across the river to my parents place that day. We never went back.

I went hunting with him once and I wandered off while he was doing number 2. I got lost and he spent the rest of the day tracking me. He found me in the evening, sitting on a hill, watching beavers down by the water.

A more recent memory is captured in this 2018 photo, where Tom worked for three hours to free Sol’s car from lake road slush as they left the Winter Cree Storytelling Camp.

R.I.P. Tom, we had some good times!

[Photos: Solomon Ratt: A view from Mount Sulphur, 2019; Sol’s car stuck in slush, 2018]

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3 Responses

  1. Thank you for your efforts to bring back the language…No history book and no novel or prayer can give life to the softness of a culture, forced under the boots to be forgotten, as much as recovering the words that are on the verge of disappearance…every single word is a prayer and a novel and a book, all in one…

  2. Our condolences, as you know he was very involved as well with families who were searching for their missing loved ones.
    I remember at this one family Camp gathering for MMIWG, I talked to him and said hey you are the tracker… he laughed and shook my hand and said “yup, see I found you!”.
    What a loss to language speakers, and to his entire family.

  3. What Sol posted of Tom was so nice! I knew Tom as well and he was a dear friend. I regret losing touch with him in recent years. We shared some adventures on the dog sledding trail. My first memory of Tom was helping him push his stock car across the road by Mistasinihk place one evening where I had been working late. He was living in the lonely house across the road. Another memory was of Tom getting me up one wintry snowstorm morning at six am to go tracking caribou on the Hives Lake Trail. All my children (adults now) will remember experiences we had with Tom, his humour and his genuine self. I’m sad that he has passed.

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