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You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

August 20, 2009
By Jamie Probst, MSW

Every now and again I get the opportunity to practice what I preach. And two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to do just that.

Every summer I spend a few weeks in the bush in Ontario on a sort of spiritual backpacking trip. I live out of my backpack and my canoe, and whatever I don’t absolutely need stays at home.

After leaving my vehicle in a dirt parking lot, its roughly 15 miles to the end of the Restoule River via canoe. Near the end of the river lies a one lane bridge over the Restoule River, that connects a number of dirt roads that cross through the Dokis First Nation Reservation. The Restoule River empties into the French River, but to gain access to the French it is fair easier to portage down several dirt roads across the reservation to a camp which will allow you access to the river.

Upon reaching the bridge crossing I told my dad, who accompanied me on my journey, to stay with our gear as I trekked down the road to the Cold Springs Camp that borders on the French River. There I would pay the camp owner to give me access, and take a portion of my gear with me on the first trip. I told my dad it would take me roughly 25 minutes to hike down and back.

As I went down the road I quickly approached an intersection of paths, and sitting in the center of the intersection was a young and rather well built native on a four wheeler.

I might add that he did not look the least bit friendly.

As I neared him I began to get nervous, as I had repeatedly been told in the past that outsiders are not welcome on the reservation, and this man looked quite intimidating. Walking closer I didn’t know whether to say hello, or just continue past without saying a word.

Suddenly the young man spoke: “Hey, how’s it going?”

Immediately I replied with a friendly, “Great, and yourself?”

And with that, his demeanor changed to that of a very friendly and welcoming person.

After inquiring about my destination and where I’m from, he offered to give me a ride to where I was going. Of course I took him up on it.

After dropping off my gear with Chris, my new friend’s name, he brought me back to the bridge. There my father gave me a quizzical look, wondering how I managed to obtain a 4 wheeler. As we stood in the road near the bridge he talked with us about your trip and our plans then suddenly asked us, “Do you guys want a beer?”.

Now, after five hours in a canoe and seven hours on the road a beer sounded fantastic.

My father and I looked at each other rather puzzled, as no beer was in sight, and we both gave a resounding “I’d love one if you have one.” Suddenly Chris yelled down the road and waved to someone or something out of our range of sight. Immediately six pickup trucks and two four wheelers came racing down the road, and natives poured out of all vehicles. Then popped out the coolers, and beers were immediately forced into our hands. We were immediately introduced to everyone, and we suddenly became family.

As it turned out this group was hosting a bachelor party this evening for one of their friends - a fish fry on the reservation - and we were invited.

Naturally we turned the offer down, as we figured they were just being polite. But the group repeatedly made the offer, telling us how much fun it would be if we came to their party. So, who were we to argue with them? They told us that whenever we’d had enough, they would drop us off exactly where we wanted to go. So with all our gear in the back of a truck, and our canoe strapped to an empty trailer, we were off on a guided tour of the reservation.

We ended up at the home of one of the men, where we were fed inordinate amounts of fried fish and other wonderful homemade foods. The following morning, back in our tent on the river, I had to ask my father : “Did that really happen?”

Had I stayed with my initial judgment of Chris, this experience never would have happened. You just never know what adventures await you when you open your mind and take a chance, and people can be quite hospitable when given the opportunity.


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