Inside the box are student papers -- decades-worth of them, each obviously a magical copy of the student's original. Minerva finds it perfect evidence of Dumbledore's devotion to teaching that he would preserve what were, apparently, the best papers from his students down the years. She flips through them, recognizing some names, while others are from before her time. The very last paper in the stack, however, causes her to take a sharp breath. Setting aside the box, she settles into the chair behind the headmaster's desk (a chair which, she thinks, fits her badly) and begins to read . . .
Note to Professor Dumbledore: (attached to the top of the parchment on a separate slip)
I tried to write this paper four times before giving up on the usual essay style. I apologise in advance for the narrative approach, but realised after I was done that I had to do it in 'Indian Way.' --Cedric
Seeing versus Thinking
Autumn Term Paper: Magic Outside Europe
Magical Theory & Ethics
Professor Dumbledore, instructor
I was eight when I first met the man who taught me to listen to other voices.
The quadrennial Conference of Magical Leaders from English-speaking Countries was being held in London that year, and I remember my father talking a good deal about it beforehand because representatives from the indigenous peoples -- American First Nations, Maiori, Aborigines -- were coming for the first time ever.
"They never came before because they were never made welcome," my mother told my father.
"No, Lucy, they never wanted to come," my father replied.
"Well, given everything we've done to them, can you blame them?"
I slipped off upstairs to avoid hearing the rest. I love my mother, but she can be a bit strident sometimes, and she'd always harbored this peculiar fascination with Indians -- a rather dodgy mystical-magical view none too different, I've learned since, from that held by some Muggles, and not just in England. From her, I heard glamorised stories about how Indian medicine men had welcomed the first wizard colonists, and how they lived in oneness with the land . . . all kinds of romantic bunk. Not that there isn't some truth behind it, but the people I met that year were more complicated and contradictory -- and plain funny -- than my mother's romantic stereotypes. In any case, as a result of her fascination, I grew up with this image in my head of 'Native Americans' dressed in fringe and beads and Eagle feathers.
When I first met Leonard Whitecalf, he was sitting in a corner of the Ministry's main atrium, watching people pass, dressed in jeans and flannel and old trainers, nary a bead nor feather to be seen. Well, he had a bone-bead choker about his neck and a turquoise ring, but that was the extent of it. The most Indian thing on him, besides the choker, was the long braided tail of grey-black hair. And his silence.
It was his silence that intrigued me. I'd always been quiet. For a while, my father had feared I might turn out a bit of a nancy boy, but I liked sports very well -- brooms and Quidditch and being outdoors. I was just quiet. That afternoon, with the atrium full of people yattering, and me being there mostly 'for the excitement,' as my father had put it, I scuttled off to the side to find a chair out of the way . . . and that's how I wound up sitting next to Leonard.
For a long while, we just watched the people come and go. Then he asked my name and a few questions. He wanted to know about the fountain celebrating interspecies cooperation, the security desk, the lift, and whether I wanted a piece of gum. I answered as best I could and thanked him for the gum. When I asked him where he was from, he said, "Wabigoon Lake, Ontario." I called him "Mr. Whitecalf" when he introduced himself and he grinned and said I could call him Leonard, or Grandfather. As I already had a grandfather, I settled on Leonard.
I saw him quite a lot that week, mostly sitting off to the side at parties, a cane in one hand, watching. I joined him more often that not. He quizzed me sometimes about what I saw, then corrected any errors I made, but not in a way that made me feel stupid. He just taught me to see my surroundings better. My father didn't seem to mind that I'd become the Canadian Elder's shadow, nor did the other Indians. They called me little grey eyes and laughed, and told Leonard he had a wannabe.
But I didn't want to be an Indian.
I just found them interesting, and my mother's perceptions very wrong. They weren't that different from any other group of people. They had their delegation hothead, and the jokster, and their purists and traditionalists. And Leonard, who was the oldest of all, seemed to find the whole International Cooperation business amusing. "Don't you think we ought to get along?" I asked him once.
"Sure. But these things aren't about getting along, they're about unzipping and whipping it out there to measure."
And I'd broken up laughing because he was right -- but none of my father's generation would have said such a thing to an eight-year-old. Leonard was completely irreverent, and I wanted to be just like him when I turned 109. "The best way to get along with people," he told me, "is to listen to what they got to say -- and what they don't say. Listening is more important than talking all the time." Then he nodded at me. "You got a leg up on that, aaaay? You know how to keep your mouth shut."
All the Indians had that ease with silence, compared to us Brits, but he had it most of all. They'd get in a group with us, or the other Americans and Canadians, or the Aussies, and just . . . let us talk ourselves in circles. We don't like silence. If people aren't saying something, that silence has to get filled up. I asked Leonard about it once, why they (the Indians) let us do that. "I'm just being polite," he told me. "They talk, and when they stop, I wait to see if they got something else to say. But they just keep talking -- don't seem to know how to stop." He'd grinned at me. "Interrupting is rude."
"You do it on purpose," I told him, because sometimes I was honest enough to be cheeky, and he didn't seem to mind.
"Don't mean interrupting's not rude." Then he added, "Learn to say what you want to say, Ced -- then shut up."
So I did. Drove my mates nuts, and my parents, too, sometimes, but I found it very useful. People say all kinds of things when you let them.
I saw Leonard Whitecalf in the flesh only once more before he died. After he returned to Canada, I wrote to him sometimes. He wrote back less often. He didn't like to write. And he didn't like owls. I learned that in Anishinaabeg tradition, having owls hanging about in daylight hours is considered bad luck, a possible sign of death. So they weren't too keen on European owl post. But when I was twelve, after my first year at Hogwarts, I got a letter from Leonard, inviting me to Ontario that summer to visit.
Going overseas was no small thing. I'd been taken all over Europe, but never so far away, and my parents weren't at all sure I was old enough to go by myself, but they both agreed it was quite an opportunity -- especially as I had somewhere to stay and it wouldn't cost galleons and galleons. I had to go by the Atlantic Portkey, then two more keys before getting to Ottawa, Ontario. Wabigoon Lake was a good distance from it, but Leonard sent his grandson, Daniel, to pick me up there, and I rode back to the reserve in the cab of an 18-wheeler -- my first ever trip in a Muggle vehicle. (Daniel made his living as a trucker.)
I spent a month there, living like a Muggle because Anishinaabeg meda (wizards) don't live apart. No Indian medicine people do. And that, really, is the reason they hadn't bothered to get much involved in international Wizarding politics. It wasn't anger at whites -- although there's enough of that -- but simply a very different way of seeing the role of magic. The meda belong to the people, and Leonard's family are Ojibway first, meda second. They don't divide Muggle from Wizard, and their medicine people are the most protected members of their communities. Leonard wasn't just a medicine man, he was also a Tribal Elder, and everyone -- Muggle and meda alike -- treated him with enormous respect.
At first, I found all this rather off-putting -- and a little scary, truth be told. It was just so different from everything I'd ever known that it made me nervous. I was reluctant to perform any spells (even if I'd been allowed to) for fear that somebody would come after me to burn me at the stake for practicing black magic.
But that's not Indian Way. Power is power; it's how we use it that matters -- that makes us a medicine person, or a sorcerer. So they thought me a bit odd for flying on a broom instead of sweeping with one, and I kept having people ask me things that were really rather obvious. When I spoke to Leonard about that, he grinned. "They just wanna hear you talk with that funny accent."
Which, of course, meant I hardly spoke at all for the rest of that particular week.
But the one thing they didn't seem to care much about was me being a wizard. Leonard explained me to the tribe as, "Called by the spirits," and that was enough for everyone else. They regarded me as one of his apprentices.
After a month, I came to respect their way of life, and lighten up. I hadn't forgotten what Leonard had taught me -- that you can't really have cooperation with people until you learn to listen to what they're saying . . . and not just so you can frame a counterarguement. I wouldn't want to live without magic for daily things, like they do, but I found out I could. I began to see the world differently, and by the time I left, I startled myself every time I walked by a mirror and spotted pale skin and grey eyes there. Zhaagnaash. White man.
Yet ironically, it was that trip that taught me to be proud of being British -- and not because I thought we were so all-fired better than the Indians, or other Canadians, for that matter. I became proud of being British because I learned to respect the Ojibway. Every culture in the world has something useful to contribute, and no one has all the answers. They didn't try to turn me into an Indian -- would have been annoyed with me had I tried to become one. They even gave me a native name because I didn't ask. Misagakojiishag Ayaawag. It means "Bad-tempered Badger." Yes, it was a joke. The idea of Indians as these solemn, uber-serious wise men really needs to be drop-kicked. When they found out that Hufflepuff's house mascot was a badger -- but our House had a reputation for being loyal and sweet-natured -- they all cracked up laughing.
"Don't know much about badgers, do they?" was all Leonard's middle son, Ed, had to say.
And from then on, I was Misagakojiishag Ayaawag, or just Misakakojiish (Badger) for short. The day I left, they gave me a medicine bundle made of badger fur. I really don't think my Hogwarts Housemates have ever fully appreciated why I find our badger mascot so terribly funny. But I can do a pretty good badger imitation. Ed taught me.
The problem, of course, is that North American badgers aren't European ones. European badgers aren't loners, or necessarily nasty-tempered. They're pack animals. So are Hufflepuffs. The House comes first, the individual second.
And Indian values -- or at least Anishinaabeg values -- are Hufflepuffs values, which is probably how I ended up in Hufflepuff, because somehow, at eight, I imprinted Leonard Whitecalf and his native thinking. My mother was in Slytherin and my father in Grynffindor and when they learned I'd been sorted into Hufflepuff, they were a bit disappointed, but told me, "Your House doesn't matter, just what you do with your own abilities."
But see, House does matter. I am not an Indian, but I am tribal in viewpoint: communal, loyal. I share without resentment, and I understand the whole native idea of 'let everyone have a say before the decision is made . . . and so-the-hell-what if it takes a month to decide.' Consensus matters.
Those are all good Hufflepuff values, and maybe it's no surprise, then, if I fit right in at a First Nations' rez in Ontario -- British accent not withstanding. And I learned that as different as we are, we're still related -- not just Indians and Canadians and Brits, or even Muggles and magic folk. But everything. The whole bloody world. We're all relatives.
I learned a lot from Leonard Whitecalf, most of it by example, or roundabout. Indian teaching -- Indian Way -- isn't like a class at Hogwarts. There's not necessarily a right answer. Leonard taught me to think, and to use my common sense. If I gave an answer, I had to explain it. And he taught with stories. It took me a while to get the hang of that, but I did.
About a week before I left, they took me to a party at Ed's house, Leonard's son. Indians love parties. He lived near a field, and there were two bonfires there where the adults sat around drinking Coke and thick coffee and beer, and talking. There was also a Drum -- meaning a traditional singing group -- but native singing still sounds to me like cats being tortured. I spent most of the evening playing basketball in the street with Ed's two youngest grandsons, one older and one younger than me, then we came to sit with Leonard and the old men when we were tired.
Abruptly, right in the middle of a discussion about trout and the upcoming tribal election, Leonard reached down and pulled a stick out of the stack sitting off to the side, to feed the fire. He handed this to me and said, "What is that?"
I'd been around him long enough to know it wasn't an idle question, but I still had no idea what the point was. "A stick," I said. Then, just to show off, pulled out my wand and made it levitate, even if I wasn't supposed to. (I doubted anyone would catch me out in the back of nowhere.)
They snorted at me -- thoroughly unimpressed -- and Leonard leaned over to tap my knee. "Try again."
So I looked at it and said, "Fuel for the fire?"
"Something to walk with?"
By that point, I was getting frustrated and threw it down. Leonard grinned. "Misagakojiishag Ayaawag." Bad-tempered Badger.
"Well, bloody hell -- what do you want? It's a stick!"
The other boys were giggling, and I didn't take that as a good sign. The thick-witted Brit didn't get it, whatever the 'it' was supposed to be. "So what is this thing then, if it's not a stick?" I asked Leonard.
He didn't answer, just pointed off to the side. After a minute, I realised he was pointing at a tree, an old cedar with spiky needles. "It's part of that tree?" I asked.
"Ah," he replied. "Now you're seeing."
He never said 'thinking,' but 'seeing.' And he never said, "This is the truth . . ." but rather, "This is how I see it." When all you do is think, you're not really paying attention. So I stared down at the stick in my hand and saw it anew. "It's a branch from a cedar tree."
He nodded, then gave me a rare, straightforward bit of teaching: "When you can see the branch as part of the tree, then you can see the tree. When you can see the tree, then you can see the spirit that lives inside the tree. And when you can see the spirit that lives inside the tree -- and listen -- it just might tell you something useful. It's not all about spells, Ced."
Note to Mr. Diggory: (written on the bottom of the parchment)
Whilst, indeed, a non-traditional approach to your term paper, I believe the fact that you took this approach aptly demonstrates your grasp of a non-European magical system -- and way of thinking. You might consider a position with the Department of International Magical Cooperation (if you haven't already . . . and I rather suspect you have). --Professor Dumbledore
Minerva rolls up Cedric Diggory's old essay and drums it against her hand thoughtfully, then removes her wand to tap the parchment, creating a duplicate. This, she addresses as follows:
Mr. Edward Whitecalf
Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Indian Reserve
Dryden, Ontario, Canada
Dear Mr. Whitecalf,
I came across this essay while doing some cleaning. Rather than let the voices of the dead remain silent, I am sending it to you, so you might know how your father affected my former student. Be aware that Cedric, in turn, affected many here at Hogwarts -- perhaps as a direct result of some of the things he learned from your father. It is a great tragedy that he was taken from us so soon.
She sends it by owl within the hour. Three months later, she receives a reply, a single piece of Muggle paper addressed:
Ms. Minerva McGonagall
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
The dead never leave us, so long as we remember them. --Ed Whitecalf
It was said by later generations of students that the Headmistress had a most annoying tendency to preface her observations with, "The way I see it . . . "
Whys & Wherefores: Several things I've wanted to explore led me to write this little piece. First, I wished to look at how non-Western peoples might view magic. I think it rather Eurocentric to assume the "Wizarding World" is the same in all places. Writing visible minorities in fanfic also interests me. Why pick Indians? Well, the obvious: "Write what you know." It'd be rather ridiculous for me to try to write about magic in Papua New Guinea. IRL, I write what gets labeled 'ethnic literary mainstream'; e.g., I write about being Indian. It's fun to play with that occasionally in fanfic.
I also have a fondness for origin stories and coming-of-age stories; I was curious about Cedric's personality and how he might have become who he was. So I invented an encounter during his childhood that shaped him into a different person than his father, despite his father's clear devotion to him. Besides, if I wanted to explore non-Western magic/culture, I needed someone from the HP world to encounter that culture, and it seemed to me that Cedric would do the job nicely. Indulge me. :-)
Notes: A few matters of detail. Obviously, we've not heard of any such class as "Magical Theory and Ethics," but if there's not one, there should be (g), and Dumbledore would be the obvious person to teach it. While I realize the writing level in Cedric's 'essay' might exceed that of most seventeen-year-olds, Cedric isn't most seventeen-year-olds. He's a smart boy, but I did try to avoid having him sound as though he were thirty, not seventeen. He goes off on tangents, repeats himself, and can grow didactic. Minor note on spelling. I'm not British and do not typically use British spelling, but Cedric is, so I've employed British spelling in his essay, hoping I haven't missed anything.
Tribal Notes: When speaking of Leonard's own tribe, Cedric calls them Ojibway, but when speaking of the group/magical system as a whole, he refers to it as Anishinaabeg. The Ojibway are one of the largest of the Anishinaabeg-speaking (Great Lakes) Nations, but there are a number of other tribes more or less closely related to the Ojibway, ranging from the Canadian Cree to various tribes in the Great Lakes area ... including my own. Hence, my choice of Ojibway. I'm well aware that "Americans" showing up in HP fanfic can send people fleeing for the hills, so in a little nod to my northern cousins, I made Leonard Canadian, but was still able to keep his tribe close enough to my own that I wasn't out in left field, as I might be in writing about the Pueblo or Choctaw, for instance. A second reason for making him Canadian is that the First Nations have a much higher profile there. Also, in keeping with Jo Rowling's tendency to confer names that 'mean something,' the use of "Whitecalf" for Leonard is a reference to the appearance of a white buffalo as a sacred sign in native thought/myth.