40 Seasons

This is an excerpt from a larger piece in the making!

Gunshots were heard first. The crackling sound ripped through the air, announcer of a beast; a white man adorn in silk and golds that sizzled beneath the early spring rays. This was the man who made giants disappear and gave the Menomini an infectious disease that fogged the hippocampus. Elders that resided further north of the Wolf River say that it spoke backwards in an unknown tongue, its skin turned from pink to red beneath the summer rays. Pink man. An elder once said, “Emeq ‘s īt akāmiah yōm maec -kaeqcekam, mōhkomān pes-yōh-akuaqtat, āsaw kaeqcekamyah — he’s over there, across the great sea, where the white man comes from, across the sea.” When the crew of French settler, Jean Nicolet, landed on the shores of Green Bay, all eyes were on the group.

Four boats filled with men arrived on the shores. Laughter roared from the bellies of these men and a bold, gut gurgling scent bled from the group – sweat, feet, and unwashed beards. Some of the villagers stopped halfway due to the overbearing smell of the voyagers. The first and biggest one moored the shores immediately. Jean Nicolet had a sour face with a concrete frown and black facial hair that was shaved to a sharp point on his chin. He stared into the green abyss as he fired his rifle into the air, watching as the Menomini began to surround the beach.

They stood tall against this new man, but with their eyes furrowed. Mothers stood beside the band leaders and stared with blank expressions at the men.

Menomini were neighbors to giants. They lived among the pines, hidden and safe in a fortress of green and brown hues that spliced and created a paradise that untrained eyes look over. Early settlers did not realize what beasts were here first and that they had entire societies that transcended beyond their understanding—- beings who were the first mentors and teachers for all purposes, good and bad. The day that Nicolet landed, Menomini ushered themselves towards the sound of that gunshot. Scouts were the first to report strange objects that were advancing towards the shore and then relayed them back to the band chiefs. Their ceremonial attire was the first insight to the importance of these men, and soon, nearly all of the people from the village were on the shores ready to greet the voyagers.

The ground was defrosting and the people were celebrating the life that was returning and the spawning of the sturgeon. The Menomini, with open arms, welcomed these settlers while the giants, only a few clicks back from the shoreline, watched on with disgust of their neighbors.

I watched as well. But I was not watching the giants who looked down at the Menomini who were intrigued by the mōhkomān, or the Menomini who were meeting a different type of human for the very first time, no. The people of the village ran towards the sound of that gunshot except a young woman. Kash. She carried on with her duties and remained uninterested in what the rest of her family and community were about to encounter. Rather, Kash fixated her energy on her basswood weaving. Her fingers wearied quick, and she only looked up every so often, checking to see if any of her relatives returned with something worthwhile. But it never happened. Even when Nicolet finally came back with the band leaders, and a welcoming celebration was held, Kash was uninterested.

I don’t regularly interact with humans, but the lack of interest this young woman expressed intrigued me. She furrowed her brows together; the tender features on her face hardened as she dug her fingers in-between the ropes and so in turn, I offered a warm breeze, made the leaves and dirt in front of her shoot upright into a dust devil. It made a smile crack on her face, and it made me feel better.

On the other side of the woodland fortress, there was a giant who, much like my human, did not seem phased by the interest that the Menomini expressed. They were not like their tribe either. Rather than scowling down and sharpening bone daggers, this one stayed back.  A gentle giant with trillium and otter pelt twined into their hair. Pike. The skin was not reflective of their other relatives, instead their skin was dark like the deep river waters — black with a copper undertone. Pike was the darkest giant in the clan.  Pike turned its back on the tribe and did not engage in the banter that was exchanged.

“Spoiled humans.”

“I knew they were going to soil our relations.” 

“And we’re supposed to sit idly as they deplete our homes?”

Their voices mixed with the rustling of the leaves, and it made the lonely girl in the village break her focus. She heard their call. Pike laid in their birchbark hammock. Back and forth they swayed, ignoring the rambling of the others behind him in the main artery of the village. A ring dragged out and low pitch started to hum inside of Pike’s ear. So, they lifted their head up from their swing and looked south towards the small village. From their spot, Pike narrowed their eyes and watched the faint plume of smoke billow.

Kash had her gaze fixed on the tips of the pines in the distance, curious about the odd formation that was evident even at grounds level; gaps and circles within the canopy like it had been cleared out. Modification of landscape was not something that she knew her people did. This was deliberately crafted. Her piqued interest in the far away land marker was the first thing thing she noticed. The second was the wind stream that carried the stench of burnt moose meat down to the village, and her relatives and the rest of the community were simply unbothered by the smell. Except her. One day, Kash smelled the meat and barfed in her parent’s lodge. The family stared at her while their grandmother tended to Kash and the mess.

“What did you eat that was spoiled?” Grandma asked.

Kash shook her head. “I only ate some berries and a maple cake today. Can’t you smell that kōhkōh?”

Grandma shook her head and Kash sighed.

She watched the tips of the pines move in the wind. The breeze caused the trees to circle counterclockwise. The girl frowned. Tips of the trees swayed to and fro, rocking and wobbling. But it was only a handful and not the entire lot. Kash stood up from her spot on the ground and began walking, her gaze fixed north. For a moment, and without knowing, Kash and Pike stared at each other from their respected villages. A glitch in the woodlands caused Kash and Pike to feel each other on a cosmic level.

I followed Kash until it was time to greet her at the great bridge and take her back to the beginning where the opening is. I know of her descendants;  they are a carbon copy of the young woman.

August 1999 was the first time I thought that Kash was perhaps, reborn again, or, brought back from the dead. Her relatives share a similar feature that has transcended past Kash’s time, some 650 years ago. The young girl I saw that day was Raya John — RJ. A dent on the upper left side of her eyebrow told me that she was Kash’s granddaughter without looking further into it. I have spent and will spend a lot of time Earth to know that human genetics are quite unique and present themselves in very particular ways. This was one instance.


A family of three arrived on a plot of land that was in the center of the reservation, among a row of tribal housing units; a perfect square yard with a black wooden fence encased the fading green grass, a little sanctuary that had neighbors on all sides of the property. A silver Ford Focus parked on the gravel driveway and three bodies popped out from the car. I forced a breeze down and made RJ’s curls bounce in the wind, just to get a better look. The warm wind did not seem to bother RJ; in fact, she inhaled sharply and let out a loud sigh the moment she felt it caress her skin. She stretched her arms and ran around towards the front of the house— her eyes tracing and marking unique blemishes on the house. It stood tall and gaudy against the rest of the tribal housing units. RJ turned away from the house and looked at the new landscape.

“I don’t remember the house like this.” RJ muttered to herself.

Just then, her two mothers came around from the corner, with their arms linked together.

“Welcome to your new/old home, Raya,” Jackie Moon said.

Raya stood across from her parents with her arms pulled into her rib cage. Her parents, Jackie Moon and Penny Lane stared back at their daughter for a moment. Jackie’s marker runs deeper; the left side of her face is caved in and I pity her.  It extends past her eyebrow, and down to her cheek. An entire left side bent inward has made Jackie Moon’s life a challenge. Penny Lane, her partner, ran her hand down the side of Jackie’s face and grinned.

“RJ, you used to love playing in them little holes down at the edge of the driveway,” said Penny Lane.

RJ shook her head at her parents and made a face of disgust that I thought I would never witness again. “I think that this place looks kinda gross now.”

Both mothers frowned and walked up to Raya and stood beside her, looking up at that house with her.

“To be fair, your mom and I haven’t been home since 87’ when your great Aunt passed away,” said Jackie.

Penny Lane  had left mid conversation and walked to the front door of the house and placed her hand around the rusted metal doorknob. The tips of her fingers stung when she applied the rest of her weight onto the knob, and it made her inhale quickly. The pain shot up from her fingers up to her shoulder. Penny Lane turned around and saw her partner and daughter staring back.

“RJ, c’mon now, you were so excited about moving here last week.”

RJ groaned again and kicked some dirt up. “That’s was before I thought the house wasn’t scumbag-like.”

Penny Lane shoved her on the shoulder, making RJ stumble from the push.


Penny Lane narrowed her eyes as Jackie waked back to her family. “Raya, you knew what we were leaving behind. You know that this is not the city like you’re used to.”

“I already hate it mom!” RJ yelled.

The two mothers sighed. Jackie pulled her daughter’s hand and walked up into the house. RJ obliged and followed her mother while Penny scoffed and shook her head.

“Our spoiled little girl.” Penny trailed behind shortly after.

The three entered the house. RJ held onto her mother’s hand. The inside was dark and dust covered every inch of the floor and windows. Four bay windows on the wall directly in the front was the back door, and it was covered in old newspaper. Brown and yellow paper was glued onto the glass, and it caused  the sunlight to change colors. RJ and her mother walked through out the single-floor household while Penny opened windows.. They stopped in the small room furthest down the hall. Jackie looked over at her daughter, who was the same height as her, and grinned.

“There are four bedrooms in this house, and this room is especially for you.”

RJ released her mother’s hand and walked into the study hall.

“I know that you wanted more space to paint and create, so I’m letting you have this room!” Jackie grinned at her daughter who was inside of the room, running her hands over the dust covered walls. She smiled and twirled once in the room with her hands to the ceiling.

“Dang, all for me? Just so I won’t be all mad, huh mom?” RJ laughed.


The front door swung open. RJ continued to gaze inside of her new room while her mother left her be. The room was small enough for her. The space was limited, but RJ had a clever mind. Maximizing the space inside the room was a challenge that she was ready to accept. RJ sat on the hardwood floor and crossed her legs in her lap. It was not the prettiest or perfect; it lacked a window and sat at the end of the hallway. She pushed herself up from the floor finally and began walking out the door until she could hear her parent’s voices mix.

“You said that was going to be our study room first?”

“That was until I saw how upset Raya was with the move.”

“She didn’t even start acting up until she saw the house exterior!”

“I want her to be comfortable while we’re here. We are not leaving back to the city any time soon!”

“So, your solution is to spoil this girl even more?”

RJ felt the anger bubble inside. Her chest began to rise and fall and there was a faint hue of red beginning to form inside the dent. RJ listened to the conversation going on.

“She is not spoiled. It is the smallest room in the house, I think we will be fine!”

“Jackie, that’s not what I’m talking about. I want to know why you gave her the room when you know that we have accommodated to every single one of her requests! We left on the 19th instead of the 1st so she wouldn’t miss her friend’s birthday party. We took the long way up north because she wanted to get some of the blueberries growing along the road in Duvet county. You even said that you’re not gonna tell her she has to help us unload our belongings in the moving truck tomorrow! You’re gonna let her go runaround!” Penny Lane sighed and shook her head at Jackie.

Jackie stood silently and glared at her partner. “I give her the greenlight on things that I know will help her in the long haul. We just uprooted my baby from everything that she knew! She’s coming back to live where we grew up, not her! She needs space and patience.”

Jackie scoffed and walked past Penny, shaking her head as she stomped out of the house. Silence fell again as Jackie spun around  to rest her back on the brown walls. RJ came from the back room, a smile cemented onto her face.

“Mom, can I take my bike out and go for a quick spin around the block?”

Jackie smiled and nodded once. “Let’s go unload some things first, okay?”

RJ groaned. Jackie narrowed her eyes, but her expression softened once RJ skipped past her and out the door.

“I’m only kidding, mama!”

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Charlene Tourtillott

Charlene Tourtillott is a 22-year-old member of the Menominee Nation. She is a Creative Writing student and enjoys writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Many themes that she writes about revolve around her experience growing up on the Menominee reservation and are inspired by Menominee stories. She is inspired by writers Louise Erdrich and Gwendolyn Brooks.