For most of us, Dad was the first man that we really get to know and love. He was often our childhood hero and the man we rushed home to every June with our homemade Father’s Day cards.
Whether or not this is an apt description of your relationship with your father, come Father’s Day just about everyone thinks about their fathers and grandfathers or the person that was most like a father to them. And, from these men, each of us has garnered different things.
In celebration of Father’s Day, the Nation sought out three Crees from different walks of life to discuss their most cherished memories of their fathers and what they will carry in their hearts from these men for the rest of their lives. On behalf of the Nation magazine, Happy Father’s Day.
My Baba is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it because he knows he can always hunt another and nature will provide. His faith in how life will always provide keeps things happy in tough surroundings where money is always scarce.
As a child I watched him distribute food to many, over and over again. Yet, we never went hungry. He is a respected hunter and wise speaker but he is also very humorous. I don’t recall ever seeing him sad, except when there was the loss of a departed one.
He also never comes up with a quick answer, unless he is poking fun at you, but you know he will think about the question you pose to him and it’s always so simple and makes tremendous sense. He reminds me to keep things simple and that overthinking causes more hurt than it brings solutions.
From him I have learned to pursue my own solutions by trusting that things will work out. He managed to instill a great confidence in me in trusting my own instincts and to trust what comes from my heart. He never ever told his daughters they were pretty but he had a way of doing things that let us know we are beautiful.
For example, he would say that his friend was asking if I was his girlfriend and that thought is so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. I like having moments like this with him because he is so playful.
Every time I spend a little time with him brings so much to my life. I always feel safer, grateful and wiser. I have always enjoyed listening to his views on life and how everyone is just like us. That we are one (people) no matter our colour or creed and this has always made so much sense to me.
I would have to say that the moment that stands out most of who my father is to me, is one of those times when he is distributing moose meat to Mistissini and Oujé-Bougoumou Eenouch.
Throughout the day people kept coming and we were sitting in the tent. I was beside him from a play break with other kids on that bright sunny and festive day at our camp. It was then that I noticed two men whom I had overheard speaking ill of my father previously during a school week. I was within earshot of their conversation at the time in Chibougamau.
As my Baba (always) notices my body language and so perhaps I gave them a silent, but dirty look that he may have seen as he has never been one to miss beat from me.
Later on, I asked him why he had given those men moose when they had been unkind to him.
Like always, he didn’t answer quickly but he took a moment, turned to me and said: “You know, all people have problems and we don’t always know what they are going through.” It was a simple answer but it hit home.
I understood that I was quick to judge and that I would have to a bigger person, that life was bigger than my thoughts, perhaps kinder than the thoughts I had entrained. He gets me, my Baba. I trust him.
The most important lesson that I have learned from him is that I can do whatever I want no matter how hard it seems and I will achieve it because life will provide.
I don’t often call him about a problem but when I do, just knowing that he has he heard me always it makes things better. I need him.
Something that he always said to me was “Suuk schooloo” ¬(work hard at school and keep going). He knew an education was what I would need to make it in the changing world around us. Later on, his words changed to “Suuk Apitse, miyosuu inn kaa do-timinn” (work hard, what you are doing is good). He compared my work as a manager to that of distributing food to the people. He knew I missed him all the time and those were his only words to me on that subject. He is wise.
As for my own children and how my father has impacted my parenting, they would know that answer to that better than I would, but I do try to impart the undying knowledge of letting them make their own mistakes and being their pillar in return.
When it came to raising my kids, he taught me to be kind towards their mistakes and that they would figure things out by learning and to let them learn. He also said never hit them. A hit child will only understand the hurt and forget the lesson.
Former Deputy Grand Chief
Whereas there are a lot of things that stand out in my history about my father, the time in my life that always comes to mind is when my family faced one of the most challenging times when my younger brother Matthew was hit by a garbage truck at the age seven.
In happened on May 8, 1987. I was about 11 at that time and we were living in Montreal. That first week after it had happened, we were so unsure of what was going to happen to Matthew. However, my father showed us that even though things may be hard in life, you could always find ways to help each other and keep abreast of what is going on around you.
My father is my role model in life. Despite how hard things were at that time, he went on and managed to exercise every day because this kept him healthy and kept him going and I am still doing this today because I learned it from him. I carry this.
My brother was in the ICU for 46 days, then in a regular hospital bed for another three months and then he went spent another six to eight months going through rehabilitation in another facility. He didn’t come home until the following March.
Through this however, my parents kept our family together despite how difficult it was to watch their little boy go through something like this and they really did their best to keep things as normal as possible for my other younger brother and myself.
Every morning my dad woke us up to go to school. As a young person back then I would be annoyed to have to get up at 5:30 am as it took me an hour and a half to get to my school but the things that my father would do (to make this better) made me appreciate him so much.
When I look back at this now I know that we wouldn’t be where we are today, speaking the way we do or living the way we do without them. My father kept our family together.
My parents also always gave a lot to others because my dad has always told me that when you give, good things will come back to you and he is living proof of that.
His life has resonated this and because of it, my brothers and I have always been able to do things to help others and hopefully the stuff that we have done has had an impact.
My dad was one of the first Crees to get a university degree (in the 1970s) and when we moved back to Montreal my mom was supposed to finish her degree in education. But one of the biggest reasons why my parents moved there was that when I was going to school in the communities I was being bullied. They sacrificed their careers here to move to Montreal for me.
What my father has taught me in life is that no matter how hard a challenge may be you must find ways to continue what you are meant to do in life, no matter what. My father taught me this and has continued to teach it to me over and over again, every day. He is a man that exemplifies love.
My father wasn’t around when I was very young. He left us when I was about three years old and so I hardly remember him from that time when I was very little and growing up in Fort George. For that matter I have no idea as to where he was at that time.
My father is actually originally from Scotland and so this makes me Métis but I was raised by my mother, my grandfather and other family.
My dad worked as agent for Austin Airways and later managed stationed himself in Pobungnituk, which is near the tip of Hudson Bay and so he was able to invite us up there to visit.
Prior to that I always felt strange around him when he used to come and visit us in Fort George when we were kids, but we would only see him for about a half an hour when he would be passing through and then move on.
When we started visiting him too it still felt strange until this one time when we went up, I guess it was because my parents were trying to patch things back together, but we went for a visit, my mom, my half-sister Natalie and I when I was between the ages of 9 and 11.
I had really wanted to go hunting and so when my dad finished work one day, he took us to a dead end of the road and went over a hill to a big lake. As we walked along the edge of the lake, we saw these ducks far away in the distance on the calm water.
He loaded the .22 and gave it to me and I shot and hit the duck with one shot. My dad sort of jumped and looked at me and said, “Good shot, my son!”
It was at that moment that it hit me that it was the very first time that I had every heard anything like that in my life. I felt his energy and his excitement as this was also the first I had ever felt anything like this from my father. This moment had a lasting impact on me and became the new foundation for our relationship that was to come.
While there may have been no quantity of our time together then, the quality of that moment made up for everything. What we do with that time that we have with our own children as fathers is so important.
In the years following that he moved to Whapmagoostui and then to Val-d’Or, situating himself so that we could have better access to him. We would stay with him when we could and when we would go down and do Christmas shopping and things like that.
He did what he could to make up for the lost time. This helped me a lot. I would always think about it that way, (time with him was) quality over quantity.