I wonder whatever happened to Elle.
I met Elle in a coffee shop in Prince Albert back in early 1990. For some reason, she stood out, not only because she was an attractive woman, but also because of her infectious laugh.
Every time she would laugh, I joined in. One day she came and sat with me. She told me she had heard I was a writer and had a story to share. I had heard this many times. Most of the time, the story wasn’t very interesting at all.
Elle’s story was different.
She told me she had just arrived in Canada and had to made her way to Prince Albert. She was originally from Holland. She was married to a doctor and had no children.
“So I would spend most of my days reading,” she said.
She didn’t have to do housework because they had a person who did all the cooking and cleaning.
“Almost every day I would go to the library,” she said. “I was very interested in North American history.”
One day, as she was trolling down the aisles of the library, she noticed a section devoted to North American Indians. She started to read historical books, but soon got around to reading books that were written by the founders of this great continent.
Then, she read Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
“This totally changed my life,” she said.
She kept reading the book over and over.
“Every time I read the book, I would hear drums. Not hearing them like hearing a sound. But rather I felt the drums in my heart.”
Then she did something most people would find right out of the movies. She divorced her rich husband, sold what was legally hers and moved to Canada.
She landed in Toronto, flew to Saskatoon and then made her way to Prince Albert.
“I don’t know why, but I just knew this is where I had to be.”
She asked me questions about Cree traditions and ceremonies.
“I keep feeling this drum beating in my heart and the feeling is sometimes overwhelming,” she said.
I directed her to the people she would have to speak with, as I knew little about the ceremonies. After a while, I would run into her here and there. The last time we spoke she was learning to speak and understand the Cree language. She wasn’t fluent yet, but I bet she is by now.
I haven’t seen her in a few years. When I saw her the last time, she was then addicted to pills and alcohol. Well, she was the one who wanted to know how the Indians survived after more than 500 years of colonization.
Elle is not the only white person I’ve met who felt the power of the drums. I have attended many ceremonies where people from all over the world were present. They know the power of those drums because they can feel the power envelope their soul and heart.
I know this feeling. I was a part of it and a believer of the ways of my ancestors. Probably the most famous person who felt the power is a man named Archie Delany, better known as Grey Owl. He, too, was called to the Prince Albert area.
I’m sure Elle has recovered by now; she is too strong to be held back by addictions. I believe she is out there still following the beat of those drums.