FTLComm - Prince Albert - February 5, 2001
As with everything, location is almost everything and this story begins here in Prince Albert on Thursday night. I was enroute to LaRonge to spend Friday there doing some work and stopped in Prince Albert around 8:30 at night to refuel and grab a drink for myself. I stopped at the 7-11 at the bottom of the hill. This is an unusual 7-11, the only one I have ever visited where you have to pay for the fuel before you refuel, it has a sign to that affect by the pumps that decrees the need to prepay during the night hours.

When I had finished filling the van I was making my way to the door with my cup in hand when a small "beater" type car pulled up in front of the main door of the 7-11. The driver was a large man who seemed to be stuffed inside the little car, his wife got out of the passenger side and was a well dressed woman in her forties, I opened the door into 7-11 for her and caught out of the corner of my eye the driver of the car reaching over and snapping the lock on the passenger side of the car.
I was struck by his deliberate and apparent routine action and it made me think how unfortunate it must be for people to live in a community where such behaviour is routine and normal. In fact, I felt pity for the folks in Prince Albert and wondered what would produce such desperation that a large person would feel the need to lock himself into his car while waiting for his wife to pick something up from a convenience store.
On Saturday after having returned from LaRonge Friday night, my wife and I drove into Prince Albert to do some business and shopping. I, like the man at the 7-11, waited in the van as my wife went about her business and noticed that there were some residents who seem to make their home or site of operations on or about the new Credit Union building. Three or four Ravens sat on the building, signs and generally fluttered about this street intersection, no doubt that this vantage point gave them a good view of the busy street with many food sources. From their perch they can see a tossed hamburger or fruit peel and swoop down to pick up their lunch or morning snack. These beings live a wing to mouth existence knowing full well that humans drop things and often discard food that is excellent for them but unneeded by the human.

It might be useful to understand that Ravens are at the very top of the intelligence pyramid of land based animals, only humans are believed to have greater and more extensive abilities that we humans call intelligence and anyone who has observed Ravens will tell you that living into their thirties these beings have a complex communication system and highly developed individual characteristics. They are capable of reproducing almost any sound they hear and delight in play, teasing and carrying on in such a manner that is far beyond the abilities of other animals. (I have seen Ravens taunt dogs, barking at them swooping over head landing just far enough away to get the dog to chase then as the dog charges lifting off and circling around to bark again and goad the dog into yet another fruitless charge.)
What then must these birds know about us that we are missing and what must they say to one another about the curious behaviour of these two legged, flightless creatures who rely so heavily on machines for all that they do.
Ravens all look pretty much alike, they wear the same uniform indigo colouration (they are actually not black at all just the nature of the dark coloured feathers does not permit the reflection of light thus making them appear black). There are variations in size, some places they are almost 30% larger than these urban dwellers but as far as we know they are all the same species and though they may have different cultures they are essentially remarkably similar throughout all of the Northern Hemisphere of this planet. Though my wife once observed a group in a circle watching two involved in a fight we normally consider them pretty peaceful. (My wife's instincts as a teacher and playground supervisor came into play in that incident and she verbally got after them and told them to break it up and stop picking on one another, she marched into the circle waved at them and broke up the fight, just a little example of some inter-species interaction)

Prince Albert is on the leading edge of Saskatchewan's cities where it is believed to be the first where the population will reach the critical 50% aboriginal majority first, closely followed by Saskatoon and Regina. When I told a friend about the door locking incident he told me that of his experiences as a young man driving cab in both Prince Albert and Regina he felt Prince Albert was the most critically dangerous place to work and as part of his work he saw a side of humanity that gradually wore him down.

He left the business and went into other work when after an incident occurred in his taxi. He picked up a father and what appeared to be about a thirteen year old daughter and over heard the father berating and verbally abusing the girl for her apparent failure to raise enough money that night from her role as a street prostitute. My friend discovered to his own disgust that this incident did at the time not bother him, he discovered that his work and the exposure to street life had so jaded him that this incident was been dismissed by him as "ordinary". That was it, if something like this was not moving him he knew he had to get out of such work, because he knew better, the incident should have bothered him and he should not accept such things.
As a raven what would you see of humanity and how would you rationalise the behaviour and the human condition. Prince Albert a place with some nine institutions that house a lot of people who are locked up and guarded in their prisons. More than 80% of those inmates are aboriginal people. How did they end up in this condition, what acts did they perform that lead them to be prisoners. Clearly this issue would tax the bird brain of a raven because we humans seem not to have a clue as to the cause or rational explanation for such a situation.
Then there is the poverty, Ravens see the waste, they live off it as humans discard stuff that keeps the Ravens in plenty of food. They can see the extreme differences between those who throw stuff away and those who compete with the Ravens for the refuse. People, human beings, are forced to go through the garbage of other humans trying to find something that will sustain their lives. One Regina resident explained to me that almost once every day he can hear the sound of someone rifling through his garbage cans in the back alley, this happens every day.
Were you living in Prince Albert, Regina or Saskatoon, you are perhaps from a reserve and because of lack of training, racial situations and your background you can not find work of any kind and must seek social assistance to feed, cloth and sustain yourself. Social assistance is the same rate it was nineteen years ago. Clearly it is not enough and you would have to rely upon charity, a food bank where you can get some food. Because of scarcity even that source will limit the number of visits and frequency you can get unwanted food that will keep you alive. While atop the PA Credit Union building the Ravens are doing just fine.
Timothy W. Shire