Bonnie and Isaiah at the Elder’s Feast
Thursday 4: 40 pm.
Well, I knew it would finally happen. I was called to meet the elders today; community elders.
Similar to our youth feast last night, today the community sponsored an elder feast and 9 elders came to the medical centre for a dinner. They then played bingo and Santa gave them each gifts. Many elders in the community speak little or no english, only Ojibway. I was introduced as Brian’s cousin and many in the room went to work trying to think of the Ojibway word for cousin. They asked Maggie and she said, “It’s ‘cousin’ ” Then everyone understood.
People who are over 65 are considered elders and there aren’t many people here ( less than 12 ) in that demographic.
During summer festival they asked Brian how old he was. They were looking for men to participate in an egg toss game for the elders since the women outnumber men 4 to 1. Brian hammed it up about being asked to stand in as an elder. “How old do you think I am?”
When he lined up with the other men opposite the women he told his partner, “I don’t know about you but in my culture we don’t throw eggs at old ladies”. Everyone had a good laugh.
I have been warmly received as a guest in the community since I arrived and haven’t found too many people who are shy around me. This might be because of two factors:
1. One white person arriving in town is not too unusual, though worthy of a look. Not like 11 arriving at the same time.
2. Brian and Bonnie’s stock in the community has been on the rise since the summer, partially because of the summer program. It was very warmly recieved and has had a subtle influence on how they are viewed.
I met with Hilda Moonias who works with the Healthy Baby Healthy Children Program (A Provincial Initiative), she is also the FAS worker for the community and the Prenatal nutrition educator.
Each of these jobs comes with Provincial Funding but no one can make enough at any of these jobs to live. What they do them is combine them, two or three at a time to make a living. A real need is for facilities in which to do programs. The community administration building where she would work is considered unsafe and that means there is funding for kids programs but no where to run them.
I had an interesting conversation with one father of three today about the lack of money for kids sports up here. He candidly shared with me that his work with the Provincial government pays $1 100 every two weeks. His Grocery bill at the Northern Store is $500 a week. There is quite literally no money for things like hockey or broom ball equipment. Brian said later he had never heard a First Nations person speak so candidly like that. No one in town earns enough to eat extravagantly from the four food groups.
On a related note building two homes like these in the community last year cost $200 000 each. (Look familiar?)