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Michael on Finding His Heritage

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

“They say the Algonquian were the first people put on this world. Before China and Rome, there was us. The French wiped out most of the Algonquians in Canada, but many of them survived. My mother was one of them. She met my father, an American who worked for the U.S. Senate, and they had me. I never really knew him, though, and was raised by my mother on an Indian reservation in New Brunswick, Canada.

I still have a home on the reservation and I’d like to eventually go back and build another one. My life and culture is with the Algonquian.

“On the reservation, we lived on welfare. We didn’t have any job opportunities, and there wasn’t much to do. You know, people talk about cabin-fever. Well, living on a reservation is like having permanent cabin-fever. I just needed to leave, and that’s why I came to Washington two winters ago. I can’t really tell you why I chose Washington. I guess that I am just nosy and looking for answers. I thought Washington might have them.

“We all spend our lives searching for our heritage and our history. Now, a lot of it has been modernized and put in books and on computers. Sometimes I wish that I could bring yesterday back so we could learn the real history of our ancestors. I wish that I could go back to the days of hunting buffalo and living in a teepee. Those were days of purity and beauty and I am searching for ways to live that way again. While I search for that, I have had to learn how to take care of myself on the streets.

“When I first moved to Washington, I lived at the shelter on 14th and R St. I didn’t like it there because it was too claustrophobic. I decided that it was better to live out on the street, so I moved to other side of 14th Street and lived on the corner. The dope addicts there used to punch me while I was sleeping and steal my stuff, so I moved to the corner of 14th and Corcoran. It’s been quieter here and they don’t bother me no more.

“Now, I stay here and have learned how to wash my clothes at night with water from people’s hoses. I learned how to create a private space to change my clothes while I am in my sleeping bag. I found people who let me use their bathroom and give me coffee. I really don’t ask for or need a lot. I’m always wet and damp out here, but I never complain. I feel guilty because I should provide for myself. That is part of my heritage.

“I still have a home on the reservation and I’d like to eventually go back and build another one. My life and culture is with the Algonquian. I speak Maliseet, our language, and want to be around my people. But before going back, I want to travel more and learn a lot. I want to see this country, and maybe even travel to the moon, too. Until that happens, maybe I’ll just try scuba diving. I want to see what life has to teach me so that maybe I can change a little bit. People say that universities make you intelligent, but I feel like living my life the way that I do makes me intelligent, too.”

While Michael doesn’t like to ask for help, he appreciates fresh fruit, especially oranges and apples. If you walk past him on the NE corner of 14th and Corcoran, please consider stopping by to say hello and bringing him some fruit.

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15 Comments »

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Danny Harris and Danny Harris, Danny Harris. Danny Harris said: http://peoplesdistrict.com/michael-on-finding-his-heritage [...]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention People's District - Michael on Finding His Heritage -- Topsy.com — October 12, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  2. Michael is great. I sit with him whenever I can as I live on Corcorcan St. He is always kind and respectful and looks out for things in the neighborhood.

    Comment by Ross — October 12, 2010 @ 11:55 am

  3. Another interesting story! I love this site. And great redesign!!

    Comment by Melody — October 12, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

  4. Great story. I live close by – I look forward to talking to Michael one of these days and sharing fruit.

    Comment by A — October 12, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

  5. [...] District provides a striking first-person account of being homeless in D.C.: "Now, I stay here and have learned how [...]

    Pingback by Go Home Already: Potent Quotables - DCist — October 12, 2010 @ 7:30 pm

  6. I drive by Michael every morning and afternoon on my commute to and from work and have always found him interesting. I always wanted to stop and say hi, but was always unsure about it. Terrific piece on someone who has become a neighborhood fixture.

    Comment by Dave — October 12, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

  7. This site is so compelling. I just spent two hours reading about all of the fascinating people in this city.

    Comment by Walker — October 12, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

  8. I see Michael every day on my walk to and from Whole Foods. Nice to know a little more about him. Will stop by with a whole bag of fruit next time. Thanks for drawing attention to him.

    Comment by David — October 12, 2010 @ 11:22 pm

  9. He looks so sad in the photo. THis is so depressing.

    Comment by Lara — October 13, 2010 @ 12:08 am

  10. Reading these posts, I feel so blessed to have a family. home, and food to eat. I would encourage everyone to take a moment and appreciate what they have.

    Comment by Emma — October 13, 2010 @ 12:32 am

  11. He’s got a home back where he comes from (apparently paid for by the US government). He chooses to be ‘homeless’.

    Yet people feel sorry for him, talking about what an asset he is to the community, bringing him fruit and whatnot.

    As for those feeling sorry for him, who do they think will pay for his likely hospital ER visits? Who will pay when his charming trick of using people’s garden hoses to do his laundry ends up with him drunkenly leaving the water on, flooding some save-the-planet intern’s English basement?

    Who will pay for his lodging and food once winter hits?

    You aren’t doing this guy any favors by enabling him to be homeless.

    So many homeless start out like this guy. Before they know it they are hooked on drugs, enmeshed in a street lifestyle that is very destructive to them.

    You’d be doing him a much bigger favor if you could convince him to return to his home, or become an actual contributing member of society.

    Bringing him fruit may may you feel better, but you are just enabling a stunningly bad personal choice that will end up biting him in the butt pretty severely.

    Comment by Hillman — October 13, 2010 @ 7:02 am

  12. This guy needs to stop looking for heritage and start looking for a job. I’m tired of seeing homeless people all over these streets. Everyone has a tough situation at some point. You can’t wallow about it all of your life.

    Comment by Carlos — October 13, 2010 @ 10:23 am

  13. Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

    Comment by roclafamilia — October 21, 2010 @ 11:53 am

  14. Really nice information, thanks!

    Comment by GreenGoblin — October 21, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

  15. BurnsI burned by right foot when I accldentaily tripped into a campfire with bare feet. By that night I had massive blisters about the size of bd lemons all over my foot and could not step on it.My wife set up turquoise light to shine on my foot all night long and I stuck my foot out of the covers, under the light, for over a week. The blisters went down in size every day. Within a week the blisters had dried up and pealed off leaving fresh new skin underneath. I never had any scarring.Ruben James

    Comment by Aya — October 23, 2012 @ 1:51 am

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