Random Play by Graham Reid

Oh! Canada!

According to a statistic I heard last night -- admittedly in park not a monitored study -- 68 per cent of inbound visitors to Canada express a desire to have contact with Native Americans.

Hardly surprising really given that -- as with Maori in New Zealand -- if you don't see Canadian Native Americans in Canada then you are unlikely to encounter them or their culture anywhere else.

So like that majority, I too was keen to meet and talk with Native Americans -- aka First Nation, Aborigine or Indian depending on who is talking.

But it isn't as easy as you might think. First Nation people are largely invisible, and not just in the bigger cities. I also assumed I'd be talking photos of totem poles all over the place but that hasn't been the case either.

So last night's encounter with Robert and Lee from Calgary, in Kelowna for an arts conference, was a particularly happy one.

You didn't need to be too bright to spot they were First Nation people: Robert's dark complexion, long hair hanging in braids bound with twine was pretty much a giveaway.

So we chatted about this and that, why they were an invisible people and so on. You probably know the answers as well as I did.

But then something else came up: years ago Lee had been befriended by a New Zealand woman whose son had been in Canada skiing and had been paralysed in a downhill accident.

The mother had come over, Lee had made sure the son had met First Nation people who came to the hospital to see him (he'd been keen to meet them and they weren't going to let paralysis stop that) but when they went back to Auckland Lee lost contact.

She was keen to pick it up again, so I said I'd do my best. The son's name was Leon (I have the surname but won't give it here) but if anything in that sounds familiar then I'd love to know. I'll be looking them up when I get back.

So it was a wonderful chance encounter and a nice commonality of humanity was established. (I had a less friendly, more business-like one today in a shop selling Native American crafts, but it didn't stop me buying some gifts).

And the night got better with a beautiful wine tasting and meal at Frescoes restaurant here in town about which I intend to write in more detail when I have a chance. If you are coming here don't miss it -- or The Grateful Fed for brunch, a real 60s/70s hangout.

But now it is a day of wine tasting in the Okanaga vineyards. And to think I do this for a "job".