The beginning for a fisherman’s daughter

It was probably the most exciting thing that could have happened to us as kids. We didn’t understand the purpose or the commitment it involved. To us, my brother, Billy and me, it meant spending summers camping, having fun and freedom. To my father it meant being self-employed, not having to punch a time card every day or answer to someone else. Something he really wanted. To my mother, however, it meant isolation, hard work and loneliness. At least that’s how I see it looking back. She got the sharp end of the stick.

Her life wasn’t easy. It never had been easy, from her birth on an island outside a small reservation to her life with her husband in a small urban northwestern Ontario town. Our house was situated at the end of our street and was not connected to the town water and sewer system. Mom had to carry water in buckets from a well down the street or use the awful well water from one of the wells that Dad had dug in our back yard. It took him three attempts before he found water. A large rain barrel sat near the front door where rain water was collected. That water was used for bathing and hair washing. We got to have a bath once a week. During the winter months, mom collected snow and melted it for our baths.

Dad, who had been born on a farm in Saskatchewan, worked at one of the gold mines in the area most of the time. He preferred the outdoors to the underground though, and so had many jobs during the course of his working years as prospector out in the middle of nowhere deep in the wilderness. He would sometimes be gone for months cutting lines or staking claims for himself or for others who hired him.

Then one day came the announcement, “I’ve bought the Fish Camp. I’m going to try fishing.”

“You don’t even know how to set a net,” mom said.

“I’ll learn. We’re going this weekend to see the island.”

And for the next six summers that’s where we spent our summers while Dad fished the lake.

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Sewing

Little girl wearing the dress that her mother made

too big for her, she tripped on it; it tore

Why does her mother dress her that way?

she heard an Auntie say to another

as soon as she was able she began to sew

to alter and fix the hand me down donations

fixed the clothes that her mom made

she sewed her own clothes

her stitches were good, she had talent

people asked her to sew for them

she married and moved to a new home

sewed for her own children, grandchildren

many others along the way

now fingers are bent with arthritis

and the needle is unknown

she thinks back to the day

she saw her little girl wearing a dress

that fit perfectly

Mom age 14 Parker Lake

Mom at age 14

Pulling up the ice

Large, very large and heavy and blue. It was a workhorse of a machine! Our Snow Cruiser was wonderful. You could easily fit two kids and an adult on it and it could pull a sled behind with no problem. It was fun when dad let you drive it. It didn’t go very fast but it was stable and didn’t tip over. The yellow ski-doo was smaller and more tippy.

Many times during the winters, our family (mom,dad, Billy and I) went by snow cruiser and ski-doo to the Fish Camp in the winters to check on things and of course for the yearly pulling up of the ice. The snow cruiser came in handy for that as well.

Ice had to be cut out of the lake in the winter and hauled from the lake into the “ice-house”. This took a bit of effort. Dad usually needed help with this job. He had a giant saw and a power saw which he used to cut large blocks of ice from the lake. The thickness was important. If the ice was too thick, it wasn’t good because he couldn’t cut all the way through. It had to be the right time of the year and the right depth.

When the large blocks of ice were cut from the ice they had to be dragged up a ramp from the lake at the end of the dock into the ice-house and then positioned in there. Sawdust was used to cover the ice. Believe it or not, it lasted all summer long. We would get ice from the ice-house, chip it up and throw it in the fish boxes that had to be transported to town.

The ice-house was an old, very large building. The walls did not reach the roof, which was made of tin. We kids loved to play in the ice-house, even though we were not allowed to. We would climb the walls and jump onto the sawdust covered ice below.

One ice block was always left on the dock and we would use that for our personal use. Of course we were not allowed to play in the ice-house, but…it was such a fun place! So we took the opportunity to play in there whenever we could. We would climb the walls and jump onto the sawdust covered ice below.  It was nice and cool in there on hot summer days! The fun changed one day for me when I jumped onto a nail that went into the bottom of my foot. I ran down to the lake and stuck my foot into the water, watching blood come out. Even though I knew we weren’t supposed to be in the ice-house and was afraid to tell  my mom, I was afraid of the blood and the pain so I sent Billy to go and get mom.  She fixed up my foot, soaked it in salt water and wrapped it and it was fine in a few days.  Just a lot of hopping around for awhile.

During one winter when dad was pulling up the ice, Billy and I were skating on the skating rink we had made on the lake which was near the spot dad was cutting. He had warned us not to go near him and we were aware that he was there. I guess it’s just being a kid that is the reason I totally forgot about the thin ice section.  I had taken off my skates and was wearing my boots and walked over to where dad was cutting ice and walked right over the spot where he had cut earlier and had frozen over an inch.  Down I went into the water. Dad turned around and pulled me out! I’m afraid of ice to this day! Or at least respect it!

My brother also remembers a time when he drove the Snow Cruiser into the dock during an ice pulling day. But I don’t remember that!

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Red Lake’s first Pride

It was an amazing day! That’s about all I can say about our first Pride day! I felt totally happy and free all day and I hope everyone else felt the same way , whatever you identify as.  It was like I was able to just be me for the day and to just love and be with other people who felt the same way I did. I’m trying to hold onto that feeling but it’s like trying to hold onto the feeling of Christmas.

Our mayor made us hug the person next to us. Wow.

 

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My Trip to Fort Severn, on Hudson Bay

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This week I was privileged to travel with a co-worker to Fort Severn First Nation which is at the mouth of Hudson Bay, way, way up north from Red Lake.  It is actually the most northern community in Ontario. Check it out on google maps!! It was a two and a half hour flight on a caravan (Superior Airways) from Sioux Lookout. This was another life changing, spiritual experience for me in my life journey.

I thought I was a northern girl. Ha! Not even! The people who live there are incredible! It was 7 degrees with a wicked icy wind when we landed. About 18 degrees in Red Lake when we left. Our guide, Sinclair, told us that it had been hot the day before, but the fog had come in and we were lucky because there were no mosquitos. Umm, Sinclair, isn’t that a mosquito by my head?

It is far enough north that it doesn’t get dark until midnight at this time of the year and they have the fantastic northern dancing lights. I would have loved to have seen them! But alas we were on a charter flight and had to return that same day before dark.

Why was I there? Well, the Red Lake women’s shelter and the Sioux Lookout shelter have received funding to travel to communities in the north that are in our catchment areas. We are able to connect with the people we serve. It is a fantastic opportunity! It allows us to see how the women we work with live and also for our two shelters to get together and support each other.  Fort Severn is not in our catchment area but we traveled with two staff from the Sioux Lookout shelter as it is in their area.

We met with the Chief and council and community, shared food and talked about the issue of violence against women. We were also able to visit with the two police officers who are there. The community consists of 400 people and have two officers who work for two weeks around the clock and then leave for two weeks while two other officers work.

The air was the purest air I have ever breathed down by the Severn River! It felt like it was pure oxygen that could heal all of your problems and give you good skin at the same time! The tundra was incredible! You are one with the creator when you stand there and behold the creation.

The people were quiet, friendly and so, so nice! I would go back in a heart beat. So on this Canada Day, it has made me feel more like a person of the planet.

We are all one. We are all spirit. There is no you or I. There is we. And the most important thing is love. Love each other. We’re all related.

Visiting the Ancestors

Exciting things are happening. I was recently invited to go with a friend, Kaaren Dannenmann, who is involved in the recording of local burial grounds and the history of the Anishinaape people who lived in this area as well as the Lac Seul area.  People moved between the two areas via the waterways. My Uncle and Great Aunt and possibly more relatives are buried on an island nearby with many others. There are also people buried in the Forestry Road area of Red Lake, Post Narrows, and other places yet to be marked.  At last, something will be done to preserve, save these sacred sites and keep people from building over top of them. It was thrilling to meet  Professor of Archeology, Scott and Professor of Anthropology, Frederico, from Lakehead University.

I also spent some time with an old friend, Roy Dahl, who has been contracted to write a book about the Lac Seul/Red Lake corridor history of the Anishinaape people and hope to be of some help to him.  He is interested in family stories of these areas. Roy grew up in Red Lake but he now lives in Yellowknife with his family and has had a life of journalism and broadcasting stuff.  We reminisced about the radio station that he ran here in Red Lake back when we were teens.  I don’t believe we’ve had one since.

The sun is a hot September sun

that purifies us with its heat

as the water takes us gently

to the place that we need to be

and then we’re there

among the tall pine trees

that shade us and cool our skin

while below us, the mossy carpet

allows for a soft place to rest

and amongst the pine’s cones and needles

we visit with those who sleep

but they are here with us

in the wind that whispers in the trees

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Life Changes

In the blink of an eye! As we know, life is precious and fragile and something we should cherish every day. Sometimes in the moment it doesn’t feel very cherishable, but it will again. And life does not stay the same, we grow older and we prepare for the next journey if we are lucky.

My dad had a stroke over a week ago now. He is still in the hospital and we do not know what the outcome will be. It will not be the same that is for sure. So we have to prepare for the future but still hold on to hope. Hope is such a strong tool to keep you going.

My mom has dementia and is unable to stay alone, so she will need to leave her home that my father built over fifty years ago for his family. I have hope that she will come to live with me but that is undecided at this time. Family members are arriving in Red Lake over the next while to visit and lend support to each other. That is what family is all about.

I am also hopeful that the weather here will warm up a bit and that I can go for a swim. I know that the water is healing.

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Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

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Dad tried fishing

Dad tried fishing

 

My Small Town, Red Lake, Ontario, Canada

I love my town. Yes, it has its frustrations, such as limited shopping, out-of-town medical trips, having to leave home for education, everyone knows everyone’s business and those who love to gossip. But, it has many more advantages than disadvantages!

It is beautiful!  During the summer, the lake is full of fish, the forest is full of animals, the sky is full of birds. There is a provincial park just down the road. It feels like I live in a park! I don’t have to go too far to be alone, sit on a rock, sit under a tree, sit by the water or sit in a field of daisies. I don’t have to go too far to swim in clean, clear water. It is heaven for boaters, kayakers, canoeists, wake boarders, bikers, joggers, four-wheelers and float planes.

During the winter, the lake is a frozen playground for snowmobilers, ice fishermen, skiers, snowshoers, and a short-cut winter road. I love to walk my dog on the frozen lake! There are trails in the forest to explore, hills to slide down and Christmas trees everywhere.

Everyone says hello, (even the Judge and your family doctor) and takes the time to stop and talk with each other. When someone is going through a difficult situation, there is support and caring and generosity. Red Lakers raise tonnes of money for charities.

Possibly our somewhat isolated location, breeds talent, because we have a lot of talented people: writers, singers, artists, musicians, athletes, a world-famous figure skater  and a Red Bull sponsored pilot.

Okay, enough bragging. You get it.  I love my town.  Sometimes I complain and plan to move away. But then who doesn’t? I am content right now. Focus on the beauty and the beautiful people. I think I’ll go outside and watch the airplanes land on the Bay.

Sun Rise

Sun Rise

loons and planes

loons and planes

My street

My street

A double rainbow

A double rainbow

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Recurrent Corneal Erosion

I have been visually impaired for a week now.  Happy that I am on the road to recovery.  Last Friday morning I awoke to excruciating pain in my left eye.  No big deal, this has been happening to me for the past year and I was on the list to see the Ophthalmologist.  I went to work and as the day went on, the pain became worse instead of better, so I went home.  I had a lot to do as the book launch for my new book, “This Land, These Waters”, was to be held the next day.  I sent my son to the store to do some shopping for me.  By 5:00 p.m., the pain was HORRIBLE!  When my sister and niece arrived in town and came to see me, they said, “okay, let’s go to the hospital”.

At emergency, I had to wait, as there was a patient ahead of me being treated for a pulled back muscle.  The doctor checked my eye and phoned the specialist in Winnipeg who said I should go out to Winnipeg for Saturday at 1:00 p.m.  Sure, I was all for it.  I was given high blood pressure medicine because my blood pressure was obscene.  I wonder why.  Then they sent me home.  No pain meds, just advil.

Arrangements were discussed.  The book launch was cancelled.  Rick was able to get a day off of work and we left at 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning to drive to Winnipeg for the 1:00 p.m. appointment.  It’s about a six hour trip.  I had my eyes closed most of the time.

In Winnipeg, we found the eye clinic and I was hopeful to get some relief from what was happening.  The specialist, Dr. Van Der Zweep, was my Knight in Shining Armour.  He explained things to me and then he froze my eye and scraped off the membrane surrounding the injured spot and put a contact bandage on it.  We had to spend a night in the city and return the next day to have it checked again.  He took off the bandaid the next day because we had to travel back to Red Lake and he put a pressure bandage over the eye.

I can honestly say that I now have been to the city and have not seen it!  The whole time we were there, I could barely open my eyes, and only to look down and try to follow Rick’s foot steps.  Once he went to far ahead of me and I was left on the sidewalk, looking around because I had no clue where he went.  Of course he came back for me!  He’s not the coddling type and I am not either.  I was still trying to look normal and walk on my own.  I probably looked like a drunk woman staggering around who had been punched in the eye by her husband (who was walking ahead of her).

Yes, it was an experience I will never forget and hope not to repeat.  But, this disorder that I have has no cure and I am told I will have future flare-ups.  At least I will be better prepared next time and know what is happening.

I have learned that I can function with minimal vision.  I was able to shower, wash dishes, vacuum, etc.  Cooking is more difficult, so we have eaten a lot of take-out.  The hardest part is dealing with the pain.  You can’t cry because it makes it worse.

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Sorry for the gross photos, but this is life eh?  I will post some pretty ones later.

And more on my new book next time!

Indigenous Games 2014

I took Andy for the tryouts for the North American Indigenous Games on the weekend for basketball.  The games will be held for a week in July in Regina, Saskatchewan.  There will be approximately 6000 athletes participating.  The boys’ basketball Team Ontario in Andy’s age category of 17-19 year olds will consist of 12 players from across Ontario.  It’s tough competition.  Andy did really well in the three-hour tryout.  Now we wait for announcements!

Check out this website for more information on all of the sports and events that will be happening  http://regina2014naig.com/home/

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My cousin Tom and wife Tania were also there watching their son, Daniel in the 14-year-old division.

Good luck everyone!