The True White Brother
Josh told him how the history books said Riel's son died
when he was about twenty-three years old of an accident but what they didn't
know was that his son's wife was three-month's pregnant.
he's really his great grandson or what-have-you. Regardless, he's a real
Riel. He's a cool guy, and one of the main peanuts in the package,
as it were." They both watched him order a beer, and then scan the bar. Josh
raised his hand and motioned for him to join them. Thomas wasn't in an overly
social mood but his curiosity to meet lineage of a true Canadian hero proved
greater than the gravity of his jetlag.
Riel. How the heck are you?" said Remy. He pronounced ‘Robert' in the French
Thunderbird! Haven't seen you since that night," he said, laughing.
They shook hands.
evening was nothing short of classic. I still have that girl's phone number."
Looking at Thomas, his moustache was identical to the moustache his grandfather
wore in his famous portrait, as was his dark wavy hair. Only pudgy cheeks
bespoke of a man who drank a lot of beer.
this your brother that you talked about that night?"
it is. Just in from the Far East." Robert Riel put out his hand.
a long flight isn't it," he offered in an attempt to acknowledge how worn out
is. Over half a day in the air is too long. No one can know how exhausting a
trans-Pacific flight is unless one has done it."
"Do you mind if I join you?"
happened to your forehead?" he asked Josh. "And yours too?" They both raised
their hands to feel the red welt.
Foolery," a wave of the hand. "Thomas just had his naming ceremony. His spirit
name is Red Phoenix." Bringing his chin towards the base of his neck, he
studied Thomas for a moment.
remember this from my mother," he said, placing his pint on the table:
Phoenix bird, dost thou not know him?
Bird of Paradise, the holy swan of song!
the car of Thespis he sat in the guise of a chattering raven,
flapped his black wings, smeared with the lees of wine;
the sounding harp of Iceland swept the swan's red beak;
Shakespeare's shoulder he sat in the guise of Odin's raven,
whispered in the poet's ear ‘Immortality'
at the minstrel's feast he fluttered through the halls
that from?" asked Josh, showing great respect.
mother loved the phoenix. She used to recite that to me because my grandfather
liked the phoenix too. I think it's from a Hans Christian Anderson poem."
say, I don't know too much about the phoenix," said Thomas, probing for any
insights he could offer him.
"The only thing I know about
the phoenix is that your spirit hails from Heliopolis - the ‘City of the
Sun' where the red egg is deposited on the altar of the Sun God, when you are
ready to burn to death and be reborn again every 550 years." He could tell he
had a good grasp of mythology.
"Um, there's something I'm a
little vague on. If a phoenix is a mythical bird, then how can it exist?"
spirit of the phoenix can embody crows, eagles, ravens, herons or peacocks," he
said, speaking to the table and looking shy. "The phoenix usually has gold and
I love that word," said Josh.
brother said that you are the grandson of the founder of Manitoba - the
homeland of the Métis people," he said, trusting his instincts. "And a
hero of Canada." Robert again sized him up for a moment.
never know whether people who make statements like that are pulling my leg or
not. But I dare say, knowing your brother's enthusiasm for all things Métis,
I'd say you were on the level." His eyebrows arched upwards as if he was
constantly begging for someone to listen to him.
twins Robert, and we're Métis. Doesn't that say it all?" He
looked at Josh and then back to Thomas, still deciding if they were joking
it this way," said Thomas. "As twins it's very difficult for us to lie.
Seriously Robert, we're big fans. I even have your grandfather on my computer
as a screensaver at my office in Tokyo because it reminds me of Josh." He
stroked his beard. "Though I like him better with his moustache than the
beard." The thought of shaving down to a real Louis Riel Métis moustache
crossed his mind. Josh too pulled at his moustache pensively.
the grandson of his first son," he volunteered. "The one who was killed in a
car accident. Historians don't know but his wife was pregnant when he died so I
never met my grandfather."
a way, that sort of makes you royalty among the Métis, doesn't it?"
Robert Riel had that protective look of impending irony on his face. He didn't
you in to the Métis movement? Or don't you care about it?"
Thomas, feeling a bit reckless and frustrated, wanted to determine whether he
was one of these prancing tits who never stood for anything, or if he did care
about his pedigree. At the sound of this question something changed in his
demeanor. Straightening his posture, he looked to the bar and then leaned
forward towards the brothers, pint in hand. Josh, also sensing a change, leaned
forward as if participating in a cabal known to only a few of the select. Josh
offered him a cigarette, and Thomas was there with his lighter.
I care," he replied, but there was a hell of a lot more said in his eyes; echoes
of sincerity. They raised their glasses and toasted those who looked white yet
couldn't fit into the system because they lived on Indian time and experienced
life with the heart of a Red Man.
spoke about the Métis Rebellions of 1869 and 1885 until the bar was
packed. Soon patrons gravitated towards their table because of Robert Riel.
Thomas knew it was just a question of time before he or Josh brought up the
much do you know about the True White Brother prophecy from the Hopi tribe?"
Josh eventually asked in a low voice.
Pahana prophecy? I know a lot about it," he said. "It's one of the
coolest beliefs in Native mythology. I like it because the Pahana will
be Métis - like us."
you know if your grandfather knew about it?" Thomas asked.
"Actually, it was one of his
most passionate areas of research. He believed that the Pahana would be
the next revolutionary leader in North America. He wrote a lot about the
prophecy and spent hours scouring documents to learn more about it. That's why
he spent so many years in America after the founding of Manitoba." He paused to
light a smoke, and offered Thomas one. "Historians say he was running away from
the law, but the truth of the matter was that he was doing everything within his
power to gather old parchments from among the Sioux and the Lakota tribes to
learn about the Second Coming. In fact he himself believed that he might be the
long-awaited Messiah." Suddenly, Robert put his elbow on the table and spoke
just above a whisper.
"Within the family and
written in his notebooks, it's believed he went to the asylum in Montreal to
think through his research and give himself an opportunity to discuss the
possibility that he was the Pahana. But the staff at the hospital
had never heard of the Hopi Prophecies so naturally they thought he was crazy.
But in actual fact it was quite conceivable that he was a descendent of the
Israelite Tribe of Manasseh and the Lammanites. But the thing is that he wasn't
a twin." The brothers looked at each other.
"Wait. Are you two identical twins?"
he asked, regarding them with a keener eye.
we're identical twins."
be told," said Josh, "it's one of the reasons why we'd like to find out more
mention that he kept notebooks about his Pahana research?" said Thomas.
"What ever happened to them?" Again Robert looked behind him and moved closer
to them, out of range from prying ears.
it providential that we should meet like this tonight?" he said, hiding his
expression in the foam of his pint.
I have my grandfather's notebooks at my place," His moustache dripped with beer
as he spoke. "In fact I've recently been going through them because we're in
the Seventh Phase, but there are things I simply cannot figure out."
Robert, I can tell you that we're keen to have a look at his research and to
share any knowledge we have about the coming of the Pahana," said Josh.
A grin crept across Robert's face.
don't we think about heading back to my place after we finish up here, to
discuss the coming of our fellow painted horse?"
horse?" Thomas was no longer willing to let anything pass him by.
"The painted horse is what the Indians
called the mustang because it was a mixed breed. It also happened to be one of
the best horses in the world. So for me the Métis are painted horses."
"And the meaning of mustang, I
believe, is untamed." The wind howled outside but could not compete with