The Indians who live on the reserve at Patricia Bay call themselves the “Zeechuma,” meaning those who live on the Land of Clay, In days gone by they were a powerful band, no less than 150 of them signed the contract made when the Indians of Vancouver Island deeded over all lands except their villages to the Hudson’s Bay Company. But now there are but a handful left, they grow fewer every year.
It was still dark when Martha Morris of the Zeechuma got up to light the store fire one winter morning. When it had warmed the room a bit she roused the children. “Hurry and get dressed.” she said, “Today you are going to school, and you must start very soon to be there by 9 o’clock.”
SLEEP ON FLOOR
Edward, who was 10, and Emil, who was eight, scramble out from under their pile of bedding on the floor and put such extra clothes as they had. Emily had no stockings, but she had a thin coat. Edward had stockings but no coat at all. They were so excited, however, at the idea of going to school that nothing else mattered. Sam Morris was not so pleased, “It is too far for them to walk,” he told his wife. “It is nine miles to Brentwood; they are too little to walk all that way twice in one day. Let them wait till there is room at the Mission School,”
But the Mission School was full up and could take no more children this year. The only government school for Indian children in Sannich is the one room school at Brentwood, nine miles from Patricia Bay.
“How can they get ahead if they don’t learn to read white man’s writing?” she asked. “How can they expect to get along and make money to buy their food if they can’t figure so the white people can’t cheat them? Look at you and me, we have forgotten what they taught us in the Mission School so long ago, and now we can’t even write a letter to the agent to ask him to help us build a new house now this one lets the rain in.”
Even as she spoke the rain began to drip through the shingles in the corner of the room and Martha hastily set a pail to catch the drips. The rain was half sleet and the wind howled round the house and lashed the grey sea into waves that flung themselves angrily up the beach. It was an unfortunate day to begin school.
Martha warmed up the milk she had saved from yesterday, soaked slices of bread in clam soup and gave it to the children for breakfast. Then there was the problem of food for their lunch. She spread two thick slices of bread with lard, not having any butter, wrapped them in newspaper and gave them each the little package to carry. “Don’t eat til midday when school comes out” she told them “And when you come home you shall have jam on your bread and maybe clam soup if we can get any.”
They set off in good spirits. School was a great adventure, rain or no rain. Once before they had walked all the way to the Tsartlip Reserve (Land of the Maples at Brentwood), but that time they’d stayed the night with cousins so they didn’t need to walk back till next day. But nine miles is a long way for little legs, with each hill seeming to be steeper than the last and the endless windings of West Saanich Road brought [END OF ARTICLE]