I talk about reconciliation a lot. And think about it even more.
It can be a hard issue to understand. How do we fairly share the land, resources, and spaces in which we interact? Trust me, I know.
But what if we thought about reconciliation as a bike — your bike.
It’s a beautiful bicycle; one your family has protected and taken care of for generations. Stories are told about ancestors who rode it, handed it to your parents, and finally to you. Every single person in your history, it seems, has added, innovated and built a tiny part of this bike.
You ride it every day, and it never leaves your side. You love travelling through your community, with the wind flowing in your hair and the world zooming past your eyes.
It’s clear to everyone how much you love this bike. In fact, people don’t even call you by your name anymore: you’re known only as the "Biker."
One day, a new family moves next door. They seem nice. They have a son, about your age, who greets you.
"Hi there, I’m new here," he says.
"Hi," you respond.
"I see you have a bike," he says. "I’ve never seen one like that before."
"It’s everyone’s," you explain, proudly. "Now, it’s my turn."
"Can I ride it?" he asks.
"Sure," you reply.
Off the boy goes. He cries out in happiness as he drives up and down the hills, speeding past you several times. He rides it differently then you do, but doesn’t seem to be damaging it.
"That’s an amazing bike," the boy says, returning.
"Thanks," you say, smiling.
"Can I ride it again tomorrow?"
"Sure," you respond.
What could happen?
The next day, the boy is waiting and takes the bike as soon as you arrive. He speeds off, leaving for hours. This is annoying and not the trip you had in mind.
When the boy returns, the bike is covered in mud and has some scratches on it.
Irritated, you take the bike back. "I didn’t know you would be gone that long."
"Sorry, I just had an amazing time! I saw things I’ve never seen before and got carried away," he says.
"OK," you respond, recalling you have gone on a few adventures yourself.
"Can I use it again tomorrow?" he asks.
"Um, I don’t know. I’ve got things to do."
"C’mon, don’t be selfish," the boy says. "Something so incredible should be shared with everyone."
The next day, you wake up in time to see the boy drive away on the bike.
It’s gone all day. You had plans, but they had to be changed. Your parents ask, 'Where is your bike?' and you lie as you’re too embarrassed to explain what’s happened. As every hour passes, you grow more and more upset.
Finally, at night time, the sweaty and happy boy returns. "Sorry," he says, "I had the best time!"
"You will never ride this bike again!" you say, snatching it away.
The boy stares at you with hurt and betrayal in his eyes. You think you hear him call you some awful names under his breath as he walks away.
The next morning the bike is gone. You wait all day. It doesn’t return.
You wait a week. A month.
Then, one of your cousins comes over. She asks: "Have you heard about the new Biker in the neighbourhood? He’s amazing. He can even do tricks."
You know who she is talking about.
Furious, you walk over to the boy’s house. He’s out, but his parents are home.
"He took my bike," you tell them.
"That’s not what he told us," they say. "He says it’s his."
"No it isn’t," you explain, "it’s mine."
"Prove it," they say. "Show us your receipt."
"I don’t have a receipt," you say, explaining your family’s history with the bike.
"Those are just stories," they tell you. "We don’t believe you. We believe our son."
You go to the police, and they tell you the same thing: "We’ve heard about the Biker, we haven’t heard about you."
You return home, broken and devastated. How could this have happened? For weeks, you walk around your house, angry, and then ashamed, and then depressed.
You used to be the Biker. Now, you’re someone else.
Immobile, you watch the new Biker speed by your home every day. He has added new colours, new wheels, and even a horn. Some days, he notices you staring at him, but most he’s too preoccupied to care.
You tell everyone you meet about the theft of the bike. Some people call you obsessed. Others cry injustice and tell you how they have had their bikes stolen, too.
Years later, when you have children, you tell them to never, ever trust the Biker. They grow to fear and even hate him like you do.
One day, the Biker pulls up.
"Listen, I’ve heard the stories you have said about me," he says, "I think we have had a misunderstanding."
"There’s no misunderstanding," you say. "Give me the bike back."
"It’s my turn," he says. "I’m just doing what you did."
"No. You stole it."
"You said it’s for everyone."
"No I didn’t."
"Well, I’m sorry things have turned out this way," the Biker says. "I feel really bad. I’m sorry. I hope things can be different now."
"Give it back."
The boy, who is now a man, hops on the bike. "Tell you what," he says, pedalling away, "you can ride the bike one day next year. You pick the day and let me know."
You, meanwhile, are left wondering if the two of you, and your families, can ever reconcile — and what it would take if it could happen.
Niigaan Sinclair is Anishinaabe and is a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press.