I arrived on the shore of Rupert’s River after four days of canoeing to protect Rupert’s River from further development, only to receive the sad news of my dear friend’s departure from this world. I cried when I heard the news, but I remembered her last words, “Don’t ever give up, no matter what, go all the way and I’ll be waiting for you on the shores in Waskaganish. I want to be the first one to greet you, and say, ‘You did it!’”

Ella was my rebel sister in residential school. She and I refused to be silenced in using our language. And it seems we always got into trouble for it. She was my inspiration in determination and perseverance. We went to high school together defending the right for Native students to take their places in society and in school.

Despite her trials and tribulation of life, she always had a humorous outlook on everything. She and I loved to go to feasts and to share time with people out on the land. She loved listening to storytelling of elders along with the history of our people. She loved to take pictures of community events as well as social and cultural activities. When she went back to school to take women’s studies, she realized she enjoyed research on the history of our people and that she wanted to gather stories from elders so that we could write a book one day.

Her greatest pride was her children she was able to raise despite all the difficulties she went through in life. She said that her outlook on life changed greatly when she had grandchildren and she knew that she had to prepare a time when she would be a true Grandmother and share storytelling and legends to them. She spoke often about her children and her grandchildren and how dear they were to her heart.

1 was torn between being at her funeral and continuing on the canoe trip, but I remembered her words: “Do not give up, no matter what!” I know, as I continue on the Rupert’s River I will remember the friendship, the laughter, the jokes, but most of all, the intimate sharing of our personal life, encouraging and supporting one another as women. She will remain in my heart as a true and loving friend. So it is in her memory that I will paddle the Rupert’s River all the way to Waskaganish. I know I will hear her voice full of laughter and humour, which were the greatest part of her personality. To all the family, children and grandchildren, brothers and sisters and her parents, Christine and Allen Saganash, I send my prayers and deepest sympathies to you all.

And to all her friends, we will share incredible fond memories of our time with her. Great journey to the spirit world my dear friend, Ella. I will miss you. I will miss our sunset rides together to talk about life. I will always have you in my heart, forever friends.

With all my love, your lifetime friend, Dianne Reid