A Conversation: Communities and Cathedrals

An Excerpt


Since the focus of this first issue of Pimatziwin is research in its broadest sense, we invited three people to engage in a conversation on our theme. The following are the transcribed responses of Rose Martial, a community representative; Ann C. Macaulay, a family physician researching diabetes on the Kahnawake Territory in Quebec; and William Freeman, professor at North West Indian College and former Director of Research for the Indian Health Service in the United States. Their experiences are varied and their viewpoints often differ, presenting a cross-section of perspectives.


I was born in the Cold Lake First Nations Reserve. There were three reserves in total. When I was a child, there was lots of visiting back and forth. People made their livelihood on the trap lines. As a young child, I spent most of my time in the bush with my grandfather, grandmother, and parents. We took in sugar, tea and flour, baking powder, maybe cooking oil or lard, but otherwise we lived off the land. Winter we spent in the bush. In the spring, we came back to raise gardens and pick berries to dry for the next winter. We ate ducks, rabbits, deer and moose, fish — some we ate fresh and some we dried or smoked. There was no food from the store. It was a real treat to get oranges and fruit when we came out of the bush. I was taught how to sew and cook and I try to teach my grandchildren now. There was no welfare and people had pride and took pride in the way they lived, not from what they had. Family units were very strong then. Resources included a lot of respect for elders, who told us stories and legends by the campfire. History and story-telling doesn’t happen now. There was lots of laughter then.

I was sent away to school at six or seven. Institutionalized. I understood English quite a bit, but spoke Chipewyan at home. My father spoke Cree as well but taught his children Chipewyan. He felt it wasn’t right to teach too many languages at one time.

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