Morley elder spread laughter and happiness
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
One of the happiest people I've ever known died on June 9 at the age of 100.
Paul Mark, Tatâga Chîjan ("Buffalo Calf"), was the oldest member of the Stoney Nakoda group of First Nations, Morley. He was blessed with nearly 200 direct descendants and an infectious sense of humor.
This week's column is a tribute to this man I'm proud to call Adeden (pronounced ah-day-DAYDN), "my uncle."
Throughout Stoney Country, Adeden Paul was sure to be found wherever people came together in community: coffee shops, sporting events, round dances, powwows, sundances and church services.
Visitors also from around the world looked forward to his friendly smile at the Calgary Stampede Indian Village where he camped for many years.
He was the kind of person who laughed with you, but never at you.
I remember the time years ago when I made one of my really dumb mistakes in understanding Stoney. My young sidekick Chidi (chee-DEE) had stopped over to our house one winter day while Mary Anna was outside hanging up the wash. Chidi came into the house and said:
"Warren, gichinîga awapach."
"What?" I said in astonishment. "Why did you hit her?"
"I didn't hit your wife," he answered. "I said, 'Gichinîga awapach,' it's snowing on your wife."
When I told Adeden Paul about this, he laughed and laughed with me about my confusion over the two very different sentences that just happened to sound the same in Stoney. But instead of ridiculing me, he encouraged me on in the joy of learning his language, and we sipped a cup of tea together.
Cochrane resident Heinz Unger gave me a phrase recently that fits Adeden Paul's outlook on life perfectly. Not too many years ago Heinz was advising the Royal Government of Bhutan on a rural roads project on behalf of the World Bank. Bhutan is that tiny Shangri-La Himalayan country just south of Tibet.
According to Heinz, the king of Bhutan, responding to increasing pressure to westernize his nation's economy, declared: "Gross national happiness is more important than gross national product."
I think Adeden's wisdom for the Stoney Nakoda people, for Canada as a whole, and for all the G-8 nations gathered in Kananaskis the end of this month, would be much the same: above all else, pursue gross national happiness.
There is a popular song that I always associate with Adeden Paul. It's the love song Stoney, written and recorded by Lobo (copyright 1973 Kaiser Music Inc.).
Adeden's grandson Rod Mark and I first heard the song soon after its release while we were breaking for coffee on a trip to Los Angeles. We immediately saw the delightful way the song also described the good life back home, and before long Lobo's love song almost became the national anthem of Stoney Country.
The chorus describes Adeden's experience of life to a T:
Now that Adeden Paul has crossed to the other side, I have a feeling that he's in the business there, too, of spreading lots of laughter and good cheer, just as he did on this side. Life indeed is summertime all the time for him now.
And so I've come up with my own take on the chorus to Stoney. I dedicate it to the memory of a man who helped all of us enjoy a little better the journey of n”bi pten‰ ne (NEEM-bee PTAY-nah nay), "this short life":
© 2002 Warren Harbeck