By Rick Garrick
Curve Lake’s Carson Watson was honoured with an honour song after donating 17 inches of his hair to Pedal for Hope: Cops for Cancer at Ridpath School in Lakefield.
“Carson was the only boy who was getting his braids cut,” says Autumn Watson, Carson’s mother. “The school and Carson’s teacher Ms. Moriarty (brought) in the Ridpath Singers, the big drum group for the young men at the school. It was really nice that they were gifted with tobacco and did an honour song for Carson. And his teacher did an absolutely amazing speech.”
Watson says the teacher spoke about how residential schools students had their hair cut, which stripped them of their identity and heritage. The teacher also gifted the girls who donated their hair with sweetgrass braids and the police officers with tobacco.
“But she brought it full circle and talked about Carson and his strength in terms of being a young man in today’s society and being proud to wear his hair long,” Watson says. “She spoke about him going to ceremonies, and this is the best one yet.”
Before Carson’s hair was cut during the Pedal for Hope: Cops for Cancer fundraiser on May 10, Watson cut a small braid of his hair that she had braided for the event.
“That would be the last braid I would braid for him until his hair grows back,” Watson says. “But more importantly, that was the first cut.”
Carson raised $1,440.60 for the Pedal for Hope: Cops for Cancer campaign for the fight against childhood cancer.
“On the 13th, we had a sacred fire for Carson,” Watson says. “He laid the tobacco, lit his fire. We shared together among our family in terms of how proud we are of him.“
Watson says her son completed Perry McLeod-Shabogesic’s fire keeper training about a year ago and long hair teachings a couple of years ago.
“A flesh offering such as burning your hair is the highest honour one can offer to another,” McLeod-Shabogesic says. “And in doing this, Carson has shown himself to be beyond his years of knowing. He is truly a gifted, generous and kind human being.”
McLeod-Shabogesic says a person’s hair carries their history, including both traumas and joyous experiences.
“It carries your personal medicine and spirit,” McLeod-Shabogesic says. “It is such a deep part of your being that giving it away is one of the hardest things a person who understands this can do. You are giving away a part of who you are.”
Curve Lake Chief Phyllis Williams also congratulated Carson for donating his hair to charity.
“It was quite significant for him to do that,” Williams says. “It must have took a lot for him to come to that decision because of the way we are in our culture with long hair and the teachings that come with it.”
Williams says Carson received teachings on gifting and caring for those people who have passed on to the spirit world, noting that his great uncle passed on a few days before the Pedal for Hope: Cops for Cancer event.
“It was a very bold move that he has made,” Williams says. “But I am sure after he has done it he is very proud that he has accomplished that feat to remember his people who had passed on.”
Watson says Carson was “very emotional” when his great uncle passed on because he had planned to show him his hair after his braid was cut.
“We worked through it and I let him know that although he wasn’t there physically, he and all of his relatives were there in spirit and would see the great thing he was doing,” Watson says.
Watson and Carson are still adjusting to life without long hair.
“I miss braiding his hair every morning, and Carson still feels for his braid,” Watson says. “But he is bound and determined that he will grow it again and cut it in another couple of years.”