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Knowledge Keeper by Dennis Saddleman

Honouring Pastoral Elder Jimmy Toodlican

Reprinted with permission by the author

Dennis writes: I wrote a poem for our Pastoral Elder Jimmy Toodlican....I've known Jimmy for a long time, since we both have been young men.  His family and my family, we used to travel together with horses and buggy to Boston Bar trail way up in the mountains to hunt and pick huckleberries.  We stayed up in the mountains for 2-3 weeks. I sat down, thinking what to write about Jimmy. I closed my eyes & I whispered, "Hey Jimmy what you want me to say." Here’s what he gave me:

Follow them footprints,

it will lead to the Territory of the People:

Follow a voice to a world of Traditional Stories.


Them young people over there,

hanging out in a place called, “Yonder.”

They need a teacher,

they need guidance,

they need knowledge.

They need to know how to watch the world and learn.


It's easy to get distracted.

When you don't hear your own heart speak:

Listen to yourself.

Your thoughts are floating.

your dreams are waiting,

and your talents they're waving at you.


My grandparents they showed me love with a hug,

they showed me how to grow.

I am the seed of my ancestors,

I need water spirits to bless me with strength.

I need water spirits to bless me

with understanding that life is beautiful;

life is precious and I need awareness

to remind me that my road has led me

to beautiful destinations.


I love stories,

stories they got words, they got meaning.

Stories they approached me,

they entered me, they entered my life.

Stories they gave me history,

they gave me recognition.

Stories in a book:

I'm a book with a voice,

I'm a book of my childhood,

I'm a book that speaks Nlaka'pamux,

I'm a book with a title, with a beginning and an ending.


I know a prayer, a powerful prayer that came from the universe,

a prayer that helped me swim in the ocean of struggles.

I know a prayer from my heart,

a prayer that ate some bread, drank some wine . . .

that prayer it's name is Holy!


Some people called me Tumbleweed.

I'm a traveler:

I travelled in the wind,

I travelled all over the world

I travelled, I wore spiritual moccasins

I travelled Mother Earth,

because I need to understand who she was.


Oh my people, the ones I called my family,

the ones who are my friends,

I must go now:

Heaven needs an angel,

Heaven needs a story teller;

Heaven, it's waiting for me.


Remember my people,

it's never a goodbye . . .

someday we will meet again!!


My name is Dennis Saddleman. I was born 1951 in Merritt BC. I went to residential school in Kamloops for 11 years. I had a struggling life dealing with anger, shame and sexual abuse. I went into the dark world for many years, I was a very heavy drinker and a drug addict.

It was very hard changing my life, to become a sober man. It's been 38 years I've been clean and sober. I became a writer, writing, it's my healing tool.

I've been writing for many years. I write poetry, to share my life experiences and my residential school experiences. Writing Is my passion. I write to educate people, to heal people and entertain people.

I am the Word Warrior, with my bow, I shoot poems and stories.  

I am the word warrior tall and handsome.