The hot days at the beach were always the best way to spend summer. Laying on the burning sand with the sun’s bright rays shining down. My mother always told me that I was lucky that I didn’t inherit her pale skin because I could be out in the sun all day and get a gorgeous deep brown tan instead of a bright pink sunburn like her and my younger sister. My family comes from German descent but, like my father, I was blessed with dark features. With my long dark brown hair and sun-kissed skin, my aunts would always call me Pocahontas. She was always one of my favorite princesses so I loved being called that. Whenever one of them would yell at me to come for lunch by saying “Oh Pocahontas you can paint with the colors of the wind later, come eat” I would immediately giggle and come prancing to the table with a huge grin on my face.
It wasn’t until I was around 12 that one of my friends told me that it was weird to be called Pocahontas. We were laughing and playing in the sand, trying to build intricate sandcastles. The tiny grains sticking together by the water from the waves that were washing upon shore, almost, but not quite reaching the place we were sitting. My aunt yelled down at us, “Ten more minutes miss Pocahontas, then lunch will be ready.” Kelly stopped what she was doing and let the excess sand run through her fingers, her face presented an unusual expression as if she was just beginning to get angry.
“You know Pocahontas was a Native and my dad says those are people we don’t want to be around,” Kelly said with her arms crossed and a disgusted look on her face. Her comment brought on feelings of confusion as I had only recognized that name with beauty and positivity, the person I wanted to be. I had heard things about Aboriginals but nothing making them bad. With such a sheltered life in rural Saskatchewan I didn’t know much different than the fifty people in my hometown. I was confused that she had such a negative opinion on someone I considered a role model. My feet shuffled around in the small grains of sand on the beach and my gaze shifted around to other things to focus on like the water or the rocks, a clear sign that I was uncomfortable (I’ve never been good at hiding that). I changed the topic quickly and extinguished any spark that would lead to the flame of a conversation that I so clearly wanted to avoid and went back to building sandcastles again.