George Did Not Make It To SpringThursday, December 07, 2017
Sometime in the 90s I met up with Tsleil-Waututh leader Leonard George at the North Vancouver aboriginal burial ground. It was a very cold early December afternoon.
Vancouver Magazine at the time had a last page feature where they answered readers’ questions. Someone had asked why so many of the tombstones in the North Vancouver cemetery (perhaps they were not aware that it was a First Nations one) had the surname George or John. I was dispatched to photograph a tombstone.
I could have easily answered that question as in my first Vancouver job in 1975 was at Tilden-Rent-a-Car. I was told never to rent a car to anybody with the surname John or George. Since I did not know what this was all about I persisted and asked why. The manager angrily answered, “Because they are Indians. Never rent to Indians!”
Within a week a gentleman by the name of Moving Rock came in and wanted to rent a station wagon. I looked at him and at that point I knew I was going to give him a car no matter what. The man and car disappeared weeks later. The station wagon was found somewhere in Arizona. I was almost fired.
Len George was there at the burial ground to make sure I took my pictures with respect to the buried. He explained as it began to snow that there was a belief that people lived winter with the anticipation of spring. If they were alive when spring came then they would survive another year.
I find it interesting that George died this past December 6 at age 71. I am 75 and I will keep in mind the gentle man’s belief.