Alayne Patricia Harrison Awashish died from cancer on March 25, 2010.
Alayne was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec on May 9, 1943. Her parents were Allan and Josephine Harrison. She was a strong supporter of her family. As a mother, she was kind and benevolent, and singlehandedly raised her four children – Frank, Kelly, Allan, and Lawrence – successfully. She has nine grandchildren from her side of the family.
Alayne married Philip Awashish on July 17, 1999 and gained an extended family with three step-children and nine step-children.
In 1980, Alayne was hired by the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) as the office manager of its Montreal office. She served in that capacity for 27 years after retiring in 2007. She performed her duties and responsibilities in a manner beyond that of an office manager for she loved and cared for the Cree people. She often said she was working not for individuals or personalities but for the advancement and betterment of the Cree people. However, she also cared very much for the individual in need of help and support. An active member of the Anjou United Church, she served on more than one committee.
Upon hearing of Alayne’s passing, a Cree woman told Philip Awashish, “We were all so fortunate to have someone like her in our lives. I know my life is for the better because of her and I truly mean that. And I know there are countless of other people who feel the same way. What an incredible, selfless, compassionate, determine and loving woman Alayne was. She will be missed.”
A Cree man told Philip Awashish, “This morning I got up at four and began remembering Alayne since the early days of the Grand Council of the Crees here in Montreal. For it is here that I first met her as the secretary of the first GCCEI office on Notre Dame Street. She was special then as she was in her last days. I guess in those early days the Cree Nation never knew the good luck they came upon when they hired her. With her came many of God’s gifts that she possessed. She was blessed with gifts of caring, helping people in need, hard work, commitment and dedication, and most of all her love for the Cree people. Through these gifts she comforted many Cree people and encouraged many more to overcome their struggles and she made many friendships which remained strong to the last days.”
Husband Philip Awashish said, “The Great Spirit has, indeed, given Alayne and I many wonderful blessings and gifts such as our loving children, grandchildren, relatives and friends. The 30 years of life with Alayne have been the most wonderful and best part of my life. People have often said to me that I was lucky to have Alayne. I consider myself far more than lucky for I was indeed blessed to have known Alayne and spent a good part of my life with her. Alayne is a loving, unique and special soul who enriched and changed my life. I thank the Great Spirit for the wonderful gift of my wife Alayne.”
When a person like Alayne departs from this world, Cree Elders say, “Saash chiis-dow outahbudsiiwun.” This statement literally means “She has finished her work.” Yes, Alayne has indeed accomplished, in a successful and exceptional manner, the purposes for which the Creator has given her life. “Saash chiis-dow outahbudsiiwun.”
Alayne had a long and productive career with the Cree Regional Authority, which she joined over 30 years ago. She managed the Montreal office, which sounds deceptively simple. In practice, she was a valued source of advice and counsel for a great many Cree individuals and Cree families who came through Montreal in the course of their work but also in times of hardship and illness.
Cheerful and always interested in the well-being of staff and visitors alike, Alayne was a warm and sympathetic person with a strong sense of values. Her co-workers always knew where Alayne stood. She was looking forward to retirement, and the opportunities this would bring both her and Philip. Sadly, these hopes and aspirations have been cut short. But she will leave behind her a legacy of thoughtfulness, enthusiasm and caring which her coworkers hope will continue to influence the way they work.
The Nation would like to take this time to offer our condolences to the families affected by this loss. Losing someone who you have worked with and consider as a sister or best friend isn’t easy but we must give support to those who need it at their most difficult times.
Thanks to all the people who gave their time in making this article possible.