When I was a boy, I was on the shore of one of the Great Lakes of Canada at my grandparents’ summer cottage. I was out looking for fossils in the sand and stone piles along the shores when I found a sea shell fossil right in the middle of a stone that broke open when I picked it up. To my surprise the fossil looked like a side-view of a chief’s head wearing an eagle-feathered bonnet that the Cree Indian chiefs wore long ago.
A moment later I was startled by a great shadow that flew over me. I looked up and saw my very first eagle. It was the largest eagle that I have ever seen. I watched as it spiralled up above me in front of the sun. It was blinding at times. The silhouette seemed to change to the figure of a woman off-and-on as it dived down towards me, then up again.
It seemed to have dropped something that came spiralling down. I ran to see what it was. I picked it up and ran down the beach with my great treasures to show my parents what I had found.
To my dismay, the first thing that happened was my mother grabbed my wrist and shook the object that had fallen from the sky and I was told never to touch them, because they were considered to be from animals and could be dirty.
I turned the fossil over so it looked like a plain stone and hid it in my towel.
Later that day on the cottage porch where my grandfather was sitting I asked him if he wanted to see this treasure that I had found. He said, “OK, sit with me.” I showed him. To my amazement he sat up and said that it was the finest one that he had ever seen. “Look,” he said, “a picture of a great chief. Your ancestors’ angels must be watching over you to bless you with such a great find.”
I told him what I had seen that day and what had happened with the thing from the sky.
Later that week we flew home and when I unpacked my suitcase, hidden in one of my shirts was that object that had fallen from the sky. I had it for years. I don’t know where they found their home, but I was compelled to carve this small story panel to share one of my great moments of my life; to put it in stone like the fossil.
Gary Olver was born in 1966 in The Pas, Manitoba of Woodlands Cree descent. His family moved to British Columbia in 1975. On a family vacation to visit his uncle, who was stationed at the air force base in Masset, Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), he met a number of the Haida artists, watched the artists working on various projects, and he was inspired by the quality of work in progress.
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