Words from our Elders: Wanda Gladys Prettyshield, Carry the Kettle First Nation
- EFN Staff | March 30, 2021
These memories of Wanda Prettyshield are excerpts from the book Meskanawiyiniwak Volume II. The elders were recorded, photographed and published by Ted Whitecalf and a team, including Marilyn Poitras, Jacqueline Gabriel and the late Pamela Whitecalf, Sweetgrass Records. Check back monthly for words from our elders.
Wa Asinya Wiya “Woman Who Heals"
September 27, 1939-July 13, 2020
Words from our Elders: Wanda Gladys Prettyshield, Carry the Kettle First Nation
These memories of Wanda Prettyshield are from the book Je Na Iyu Tanga Bikt . The elders were recorded, photographed and published by Ted Whitecalf and a team, including Marilyn Poitras, Jacqueline Gabriel and the late Pamela Whitecalf, Sweetgrass Records. Check back monthly for words from our elders.
My maiden name was Wanda Thomson. Date of birth, September the 27th, 1939. My dad was Archie Thomson. My mother was Métis, her name was Clara, and her maiden name was Klyne. My dad was married twice. His first wife, her name was Clara too, Red Feather, I think.
And I don’t have wife’s name in this family tree, but I have his dad’s name. His dad’s name was Thomson, he was a Scottish North American Mountie, and his mother was Susan Red Lodge. It was her maiden name. That’s on my dad’s side, that’s as far as I know. My mother’s side, her father was Henry Klyne, was a Métis that lived down the valley near Lebret somewhere. And her mother was Vera Amyotte. That’s as far as I know. I knew my Great Grandmother too, she was still alive when I was little, but I don’t remember her name.
I was raised in a large family. I had older brother who was in the army, Irvin Thomson. He was in the army when I was little. And he was in the Second World War, I guess. I had a sister Marjorie from my dad’s first marriage. She used to sort of look after when we were kids, help one another. I had another half-brother too, on my mother’s side, George Pine.
My dad’s first wife was sick, she died with cancer, and my mother used to look after her, so she stayed with my dad after. It was kind of coincidental they both were named Clara. So, there’s one half-sister and two half-brothers, and then in our family, my mother, there was Bill Thomson, who is still down by the stone house there.
And then there was Gilbert, another brother, who passed away in Saskatoon. was found dead in his cell. That’s when we were in Saskatoon, that time, he was working there. He stayed with us, went down for work and was working. Was unemployed that day and went into the bar, I guess, and I don’t know, on the way out somebody beat him up. They found him, the police, they took him to the hospital, and he bled to death in his cell, I guess, nobody really knows to this day.
And then I came along, then my brother Duncan. And then my sister Irene. I’m trying to go downwards. And then my sister Violet, then Angus, and then Ivan was the youngest. There were five boys, I think there was nine of us all together, the immediate family, and then my half-brothers and my half-sister. There were twelve of them altogether, Robert is another one. It was a pretty big family.
What I remember about growing up is when was little, things that went on in the old stone house. I don’t remember the time when they handed out rations from there, or they handed out Red Cross, stuff like that, that before my time, but not too far before that, apparently. So what I remember, they used to have fiddle dances in the old stone house. We used to sit and watch from the stairway and they’d chase us off to bed, and we must have been two years old, a year old, I don’t know, pretty small that time, anyway.
Nothing much was too exciting around the house, and then we got shipped off to boarding school. I remember grade one, but I don’t know if I went to school when I was five years old, or six. I remember grade one and grade two in File Hills. And my brother Bill was there, and my brother Gilbert, they went to school there, too. But anyway, went there for two years, I guess.
From what I can remember, I didn’t like it very much, it was pretty lonely not being with parents. I always knew my brothers were out there on the other side, but being small, they kept us busy playing. We had play times during the day, going to school. I guess it wasn’t so bad because we got used to it after a while, but then when the school burnt down, I passed to grade three. After the school burnt down, we didn’t go back, so I went to Day School on Carry the Kettle for one year.
I used to ride horseback to school. I used to be late for school, too. We had a horse named Sandy and I had to ride that to school every day, and I’d ride it to school and tie it up. There was an old, old man, his name was Old Saulteaux, he spoke Assiniboine, he couldn’t speak English, or I never heard him speak English, anyway. But he’d always talk Assiniboine to us, and we tied our horse there. And my dad would walk, he’d come and get the horse there and we’d have to find our own way home, walk home, we had to. But going to school we rode horseback and tied the horse there.
I remember my lunches being taken away at the school. I was in grade three at that time, and we had to have our lunches at the old man’s place there, Old Saulteaux. His house used to be kind of dark and spooky. I remember that. And there I was, two of my siblings were there, too, but I can’t remember which ones, maybe Duncan, I’m not sure who they were. But I remember going in there, and we had our lunches in there so nobody would take our food away from us.
Went down to visit my cousin one time and I was late for school and my dad came looking for the horse, so I got a little switch on my legs that time. I didn’t miss school again after that, I tell you. So, we did get the switch once in a while, believe it or not. We did, not very often, but when we did something really bad. But anyway, went to school for one year and don’t remember too much of what we did around the house at that time, because the years seemed to go by so quickly when we were home. Then the rest of us all got sent to Brandon Residential School, that’s Brandon there. They all look the same, hey? Institution like.
What year did I go there? Oh, I did, I think, my grade four there. I did a whole biography of myself, but I can’t remember now, I’d have to find it. I know when I went to school out there, I had it all in there. I had to go backwards, so I’d be about eleven when I took my grade four over there. So, I passed through grade four, I’d be about eleven, I think, ten or eleven. So, took grades four, five, six and seven, all at the boarding school. And then grade eight and grade nine, and I repeated my grade nine, so three years of being driven into Brandon, [to get] to the school.
We lived at the school when we went to high school. There was no high school at the boarding school, just up to grade seven. We got bused into Brandon. I went to David Livingston, still remember that school and the other school. But that would be seven years in Brandon and two years in File Hills. It’s a long time, I thought I would never get out of there.
These are pictures of my little sisters and brothers there, boarding school, how they used to dress us, you know. (Shows pictures.) This was Irene, my sister, right now she’s called Grey. Just a few pictures that I have. I have a lot of pictures, but they’re all over the place, I’ve got to get them collected. My brother used to work, Duncan, used to drive the tractor in the later years. He went through a lot, he was actually tortured and sexually abused [at the school] and everything, on that side of the family. I didn’t know nothing about it while I was there.
Here’s four of us, look. Isn’t that an awful picture? Look at that, we all look sour, not even smiling or nothing, pathetic looking. I had some in the front, too, and stuff, but I don’t know where they are. And I used to worry all the time. That’s why I said, maybe I can never claim for sexual abuse or anything like that, but there was a lot of emotional and physical abuse, because we got strapped when people ran away, because they would try to find out who knew what, and we were hauled out of bed all hours of the morning and lined up in the hallways.
We need to tell our story yet, a lot of us, about the boarding school days. Some of us are doing it already. We used to get strapped up to here, we used to have big red arms right all the way up. I think that’s why I’ve got eczema, or why I had it in school. I don’t know where this rash came from. A lot of horrible stuff went on there, but some good stuff too, so you could balance it. It was home, so you had to make it home.
But I used to worry about my sister and my brothers all the time, especially the boys, because they were on the other side and we were allowed to visit a half an hour Friday night, that was about it. And there was a hallway going into the auditorium and that little hallway was right across the hall from where the principal and supervisor, girls’ supervisor’s office was, and so they watched us. I don’t know if they ever listened to us.
My parents would send a small little box of parcels of chocolate bars and a few apples and popcorn and things in there, and then we’d share that. When we were done sharing it, whatever was left we had to take back into the office, to the matron’s office. So, we’d do that every Friday and we’d try to eat as much as we could before they’d spoil, you know, things would go bad in there, so we’d eat the things that had to be eaten first. I’d look after all of that for little visits.
My brother Duncan used to run away a lot, so I would worry sick about him all the time. And all the time he was going to different places, so it wasn’t good years for me at all. I didn’t enjoy those years. Yeah, [he was a] runaway horse. But he was in cadets too, Duncan. [I have a] picture of him in air cadets. They had air cadets up there for the boys. There were good times and bad times. Like the worry times was when he ran away, of course he’d get picked up, he’d have to go to the farmers’ places and then they’d phone the school. They’d feed him and keep him in the house until the supervisor got there, then they’d take him back.
We tried to run away one time, too, but we didn’t try to run away from the school, we were trying to get out to go to a hockey game, and they took the boys, and they left the girls. So, we crossed the river that night, there was three of us or four of us, I can’t remember. First time I ever ran away from the school at night, and there were huge blocks of ice that were cut that time, and there were holes in the ice. And we were cutting across that. Crazy. But anyway, when we got into town, into Brandon, because we cut across the river, we were running across the tracks and I tripped and my friend caught me from behind and stood me up, and when I stood up my socks were all wet. It was almost melting time, so we went to the show, anyway.
This is funny, because we are sitting all in a row like this. went in the bathroom and wrung my jeans out, put them back on, and we’re sitting in there. And by now they’re kind of drying, they must have been thin or something, and guess who was sitting right in front of us? Our laundry matron was sitting in front with the maintenance guy – yeah, hanky-panky. And we were sitting right behind them, so we got a ride back to the school, and she tried to let us in by disconnecting the alarm for us. But she was more or less on our side. She was a short little woman. She used to teach music lessons to the girls there. But we were lucky to get back. Never did do that again, I tell you. That’s the only time I ever did that.
Another time I jumped out of a car and just about killed myself. A friend of mine, we were at school in Brandon and I think we were in grade nine at that time. We had to do a mural, her and I. The mural had to be so long, I think eight feet long, and I can’t remember how wide it was. We did football players for a local school. They were all in action on there, and we finally finished. We had to stay after school every night and we’d walk back.
And this one night, Mary and I, these guys stopped beside us, and we knew them, they were from Griswold. There were three of them in the car and they said, “You guys want a ride back?” And Mary said, no. And I said, “Where you are going?” He said, “We’re going to the school.” “Right now?”
“Yeah.” I said, “Come on, Mary, let’s get a ride.” “No,” she said, “you can go, I’m going to walk.” So, I got in. Well, we went all the way up to the school, and this one guy was asking me if I knew this one girl, he wanted to take her out. And I said, “Well, I’ll have to find her, see where she is and then I’ll tell her.” So, when he got the school gates, they took off up the hill, so I opened the door and I jumped out.
So, I jumped out and when I woke up, I thought I was coming home out here on the Res. Because I walked from, you see where that school is, that one I showed you here, that corner, I walked all the way down a quarter mile straight south. The gate was right here, I could walk in the gate and into the school. I walked all the way down there and another quarter mile that way and came all the way back down the front of the school. And when I remember walking back to the school, I must have come part way around, because I was heading for the school. There’re trees on both sides of the school, and I remember coming up and down the hill, and the school is right up on the hill, and you have to climb up like that to get to the school. So, I was walking along there, and I saw a couple smooching, right along the fence there. Then I knew where I was.
So, I walked up to the school and I had a wicked headache, oh, I had a wicked headache. Next day I had a temperature, so I was in bed all day, and I had to tell the supervisor what happened, that I jumped out of a vehicle, so they were watching me all day long, but I survived that. I told my brothers when I came back here one time, because that guy that was driving that car was from Griswold, he came to the Powwow. He just about got it that time. It was the first time he saw me since I left boarding school. I was kind of mad at the time. I could have killed myself, I guess. My glasses were broken, I had to go back and look for my glasses, when I jumped [they were] in my pocket. But they didn’t get me. They must have taken off and not come back for a long time. I never saw them around there.
So, I’ve learned a few lessons aside from school. I never told my parents ever about it, you know, those kinds of things you don’t like to worry your parents. We used to write letters back and forth to our parents. And that was one thing. They used to send me stamps inside so I could answer them. But all our letters were read – did you know that? We couldn’t seal our letters. All our letters were left open, and they sealed them. We put the stamp on, but we couldn’t seal the envelopes.
Then after that, we used to come home during summer to have holidays. We came home a few Christmases, I can’t remember, maybe one or two in all the time we were there. Couple of Christmases, anyway. I can’t really remember too much about what went on at home. And we had to go back, but when we used to go back and forth, they used to put us in an old truck, and come to the agency to look for us. We had to go there all dressed up to boarding school, and then they put us in the back of the big truck. You’ll hear that from the others that you are talking to, too. They had a canvas at the back they’d drop, so we were inside there. It was a long hard drive, boy. Then, after a while they got a bus, a regular school bus they used to transport us, and that was a lot better. We used to have to go as far as Sintaluta, in Sintaluta we’d get on the bus.
And I have some school pictures of my sisters and brothers when they were going back to school, too. Took them at the house before we used to go, because for a while there, I was there, like I said, up to grade nine. This is one of my pictures here. (Shows picture.) This is how we used to dress. Dresses all the time, and then we had slacks for when we were cleaning, cleaning up stuff. We all had chores, everybody had chores. We had to tuck our dresses inside the pants, jeans, whatever we were wearing. You got one set of clothes a week.
I repeated my grade nine, I don’t know what happened there. And when I passed to grade ten, they told us that year we wouldn’t be going back to Brandon anymore. So, they asked me what I wanted to do for the summer, if I wanted to work, because I had already worked before that, a few years before that. I started working when I was fourteen or fifteen. Just farm work, and I’d stay home and work for part of the summer because we didn’t have any money, and whatever we earned, I took it home and I gave it to my mom. We bought clothes out of it, and back to school. So, most of my summer holidays were gone.
The last year I was in Brandon, that summer, the matron came and asked me, “Wanda, what do you want to work at, what kind of a job do you want this year?” And I said, “Nurse’s aide,” and I got the job nurse’s aide. I’ve got pictures of the nursing home where I worked, it was called Duncan’s Nursing Home and there were about eight patients in the private home. I worked with an RN; she was just graduating from Brandon. We worked together; I have a picture of us working there. They had a cook, and Mr. and Mrs. Duncan, of course, because it was Duncan’s Nursing Home. I worked there all summer, June, July and August, to the end of August, because school was coming up.
They told me that I had to go home, so I bought myself a set of clothes and said goodbye to them and took the bus and came all the way home. I got to Broadview and I saw my brother sitting out there with this fancy car, that’s how I got out there, he brought me home. And when I got home, they told me I had to go to school in Indian Head. They placed all us kids that came out of boarding school into Ministers’ houses all over. One of my sisters, Aggie, I think, went to Reverend Park. Irene went to Wolseley and she was with another Reverend over there, I think. And then I was with Reverend Dickson in Indian Head, to do my grade ten and grade eleven there, and part way twelve.
I tried to finish my grade twelve by correspondence, but I never did finish it. I tried and it didn’t work, because I was working in Wolseley. That was my first job, I went and worked as a nurse’s aide in Wolseley. Boy, when was that – 1958, ’57, I don’t know – way back then? And, you know, I tried to do my grade twelve by correspondence. I started doing it and I was sitting at home doing bookwork after working, and sometimes I had to work shift work. It didn’t turn out, so it slowly drifted out, and I never finished it.
So, the matron, the director of nursing in Wolseley, she said to me one day, “Well, Wanda, you can do better. Why don’t you take the LPN training?” I said, “Well, help me,” because at that time you never got any direction from anybody. There was no counselling, there was nothing, nobody to help you. she mentioned it to me, and I said, “Help me get in and I’ll do it.” So, she applied for me to the LPN program in Saskatoon. I went in, I think it was 1960. At that time, I think we only trained one year, because it was full time. We didn’t take the course part-time. I took it full time.
I needed some money, and my dad gave me money and rode with me to Regina the bus to make sure I got on the bus okay, and I took it to Saskatoon. When I got there, I didn’t have a clue where the training was taking place, so I checked myself into Y.W.C.A. I took a cab; I had enough money to take a cab there. And the next day I phoned the school and they told me where they were, so I took a cab there with my suitcases and everything. That was on 33rd Street. I showed him where those little army barracks used to be. Now they have big Kelsey. At that time, it was little army barracks. Took my training there, part of it, and then they shipped us off to North Battleford for all our practicum. We took our practicum in the Hospital there.
We worked on all the wards there, and I’ve got pictures of my training yet, with our fancy blue uniforms and caps they trained us in. Those were fun times. The training was non-aboriginal people, there was hardly any Native people in there at all. When I went to school in Indian Head, I was the only one in that school that I could remember, there was only one Aboriginal and that was me, in grade eleven and part of grade twelve at that time. But you know, I had friends. I never had a problem making friends at all. That’s where I met this guy (Raymond Prettyshield, my husband). My dad used to hire him to . That’s where I met Raymond. Saw him for the first time because he had a car, and nobody had cars. My dad used to hire him all the time, I guess, here and there and wherever.
It wasn’t so bad in Indian Head. They had two reunions here not too long ago, and I missed them both. It was last summer when that one went on there, because most of them are gone, they’re dead, some of the men are gone already. And the girls too, there’s a few of them that are gone that I went to school with. I didn’t believe that they wanted to have a reunion with the ones that were left, so. Gail Muir, she was a teacher in Wolseley, I used to run into her a lot because I was working at the hospital. That’s what I did, that’s my life.
So, when I went into training, that was for one whole year, like I said, away from home, in North Battleford. From there, a friend of mine, we decided, well, we had to work somewhere so we applied in Dawson Creek, BC – you know where Dawson’s Creek is? They hadn’t even heard of LPN’s at that time. I don’t know why; I think they were training them. But I don’t know, they’re called differently in each province.
I’ve got pictures of when I worked in Dawson Creek, too. They used to make us work like RN’s. [The hospital] was run by Sisters. So was North Battleford when we were training there, it was all Sisters there. And our instructor was a little English nurse, she was strict, but she was fun. We learned stuff, boy, there was no fooling around. At one time we were overlapping like that, there was a lot of us training there. Worked in Dawson Creek for a while. My dad sold my calf and gave me money to go all the way up to Dawson Creek by bus that time. and I were writing letters. Still friends. Hanging out whenever I was at home. And then, when I took off over there, we were writing letters back and forth when I moved away.
I didn’t stay over there very long, stayed there for about a year. It was nice. It was real good pay, never had pay like that. The day we started, my friend and I, they were building a brand-new hospital, so it was rough. We had to help move patients that day, and then we started in. They put us in charge of floors. It was tough. We worked sixteen hours; nobody believes that to this day. I said, one of these days I’m going to see that nursing when we were working up there and go do some visits, because we did, we worked sixteen hours sometimes.
I remember going into little rooms and crying there, you’d be so tired if somebody was giving you a rough time, one of the patients, and that happened quite often. It was a tough place. You had people coming in from the bush, the lumber areas there, with cut- off fingers and stuff like that, accidents. Helicopter used to come land right in the back there, and we had to cover emergency because the medicine part of the ward and the children’s ward were downstairs. They had emergency and medicine and children’s ward. Upstairs was maternity, baby unit, and burn unit, surgery, all. But we did it. I don’t know how we did it, but we did.
They didn’t have enough nurses to cover, so we did as RN’s and when it came needle time, of course, we weren’t taught to give needles or medications. The Sisters would pour the meds, lay them all out and we distributed them. You have to double-weigh everything, and then, if anybody needed a hypo for surgery, they’d press the buzzer, they’d come from their unit, which was connected to the hospital. “What do you want?” “So and so needs a needle,” and so they would go give it and walk back to their unit. So that’s how we did stuff.
When I left there the Sister told me, “Wanda, you can take leave, go home and do what you have to do,” because my dad got sick. He was in Fort Qu’Appelle Hospital that time, double pneumonia, I think. They thought he might have had a touch of TB, but it turned out just double pneumonia, but he was really sick. He sent for me and that’s how come I came back.
Things change. Life directs you. My sister Irene was taking her RN in Prince Albert at that time and we used to write letters back and forth. I sent her money because she couldn’t get money from home. I sent for her to come down there with me when we got that phone call that dad was sick, and so we both had to come back. So that’s how I came back to Saskatoon. In 1962, I think, I came back to Saskatoon. I applied at the University Hospital for work, and I worked there for four years, on pediatrics. It wasn’t Royal then; it was just University Hospital.
I was working nights for two years. A friend of mine was an RN there, and I worked the night shift after my son Garth was born, so I could be home during the daytime. We had a neighbor from Carry the Kettle that lived down the hallway, so she used to help me out, look after Garth for a while there. They used to booze a lot, but she was pretty good, though, during the daytime, she was sober in the daytime. She used to do babysitting for me, so I took the night shift. I used to walk to work. No buses. Walk right to the university from Broad Street there. And then, after a couple of years, I think, well, we got married before Garth was born, because he was born in ’64. came out, missed me. Garth was born in ’64, so ‘62, ‘63, ’and he was born in ’64, I was still there in ’65. That was the four years that I worked there.
We moved after that to Davidson, because he got a job in construction. Then we moved back again after a year, back to Saskatoon. I went to work at St. Paul’s next. I worked there in medicine, intensive care, and that was tough, too, but it was all right. We had good staff on medicine. We used to go out for barbeques, and I’ve got pictures of all that, too.
Then I got pregnant with Kyle, and I had him there. I went home that morning and I told him, I said, “I got off duty. You better give me your phone number so I can get a hold of you.” Went home at seven-thirty, by eight o’clock I was calling him back. Went right into labour. They were teasing me that morning, telling me I was going to walk right into the case room and I almost did. It didn’t take long come. Had him right away and stayed home for a while.
We used to get maternity leave, got two weeks off, I think, and that was it. And when I looked back to see what I was earning at that time, oh, I said, we lived on that? Like three hundred and fifty every two weeks or something, I don’t know what it was. [We were] LPN’s at that time, or Licensed Practical Nurses. After we came back, when he got sick there, and I came back to the Reserve, I started to work part-time in Wolseley again. Just part time, and then the twins came along. I don’t remember when I went back to full time, when they started school, I think. When they started nursery school, I think, I went back full time, right up until ’82, I think.
I was talking to the nurse in charge there, about going back to school and stuff, and one of them mentioned to me, “Wanda, you should go back and get your RN.” Don’t ever think you’re not doing meds and stuff, because in a small-town hospital we used to, and we weren’t supposed to. We weren’t covered by insurance or anything like that, so there’s liability there. But when there’s emergencies downstairs and when you’re the nurse’s aide on, or LPN on, and there’s one nurse, you have to pass her meds to her so it would go really fast, so we did. So, I went back part-time and took my RN in three years. I took it part-time, so I didn’t get my degree, I just got my diploma.
When I went back to take my training, I had four kids. So, I was studying in the evening, put my kids to bed about eight thirty, around there. Start about nine o’clock and sit up until about two o’clock doing bookwork. He’d do the cooking most of the time. Hung in there. Had some rough times too, rough times, I almost quit, kept on going. I got my RN in ’84. And at the time, I’d already applied for community health work because I had gone out during my training with a public health nurse, out into the country and small town. I liked what she was doing, and I wanted to do the same.
And besides, Mrs. Freedwell, the director of nursing that sent me out for my LPN training, when I came back to Carry the Kettle, she was working as a Health Nurse with Community Health. She told me at that time, she said, “Wanda, you should be working as a Community Health Nurse.” I really didn’t know much about it at that time, and I had two little ones. I was pregnant with twins at the time when she passed away. She had a heart attack and died. She never did see my twins.
I phoned Health Care and they had my name in there, and they knew I was going to graduate in June. They asked me what my priorities were, working, the areas I particularly wanted to work in. I said, “Well, in the North but not too North,” meaning I didn’t want to go to Northwest Territories or Yellowknife. But if they placed me there, I probably would have had to go. My first choice would be Carry the Kettle, second choice, I didn’t really care, anywhere. I got a phone call in about March, saying that Mary Sergeant was retiring from Carry the Kettle and would I be interested. I said yes, of course. That’s how I got it. They had a meeting with the Chief at that time, Bill Grey, I think. And I took it, been here ever since. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!
[I didn’t learn my language] because we were never home. We were in boarding schools. But you know what, we learned some of the Cree language. My oldest brother Bill, apparently, he used to speak it a little bit when he was small. My mother was Métis, she was French Cree, so that’s all we ever heard. When my Grandmother came down, or my cousin Neena, she lives on the Reserve here, too, when they got together, and my aunt Irene, that’s all they spoke, was the Cree language. So, we picked up some words. I talk a little bit, I can understand a little bit, but not very much. Never really made any effort to learn the language. Just know some words: Api Sit down, eat. mitsow is to eat – just picking up words like that.
My dad talked Assiniboine all the time to his visitors that came to the house that spoke Assiniboine, like the Haywahe’s and all that. And he always spoke, he was well educated, not beyond grade ten I don’t believe, but they read a lot. He knew all about politics and everything in those days, who was running and all this kind of stuff. We used to sit and listen to him when he was talking to somebody, but apparently, he spoke full Assiniboine language. So, we didn’t pick up very much because I hardly saw my dad, he was away in the bush chopping wood all the time.
When we were home during the summer holidays, the only time we were all together was at the table. At that time, everybody came to the table. We didn’t have TV’s to watch. That’s why we used to miss kids, too. We had to get to the table, and Irene was missing one time. Pulled us all into the bush and we all had to look for her. When we were growing up, [my dad] talked to us about things, about my aunt, his sister, was a nurse, a registered nurse. She married a doctor, and she lived in Wolf Point, Montana. Aunt Agnes. And he used to talk about her a lot being a nurse. So, when I went in for training for nurse, he was really proud that I was going into nursing at that time.
[Young people need] to get educated, too. Stick with it, because I know a lot of them drop out. I’ve been a role model to a lot of the nursing students because I was visiting the university, training students, like PA (Prince Albert) and Saskatoon. We used to go in and do some model teaching at that university here, too. I was asked to go to SIAST a few times to do some talks with students, way back when. They need that support where I’m at right now, acting as a helper for nursing students, and a role model. There’s a few of us that are doing that, you know, helping them along, because it is a tough course but it’s not only nursing, but there’s also a whole broad area in health that they can go in to. So, I just encourage to stick with it, even though it’s hard, not to give up, you know, that kind of thing.
And thing I remember about growing up was the wagon days. We called them the wagon days, and my dad used to go and chop wood every day. He’d go chopping wood on one day and we couldn’t go with him, us kids. He’d say, “No, you stay home, you can’t come.” The next day he’d go for his load, and at that time they trusted people, they didn’t steal on each other, I don’t think. Maybe they did, I don’t know, but I know that he let us ride in the wagon and go and get the wood. Sometimes my brothers would be there too, sometimes just my dad. I don’t know how far he went from the house; I don’t remember directions at that time, but we’d ride along.
He’d load up his wood, they had a certain height, and we’d sit on top of the load and come home. Wintertime, it was a sleigh if we were home. And he’d go to town that same day and sell the wood for five bucks. Five dollars. And they had to get a permit to sell that wood, too. That was part of it. Those are times that we remember as kids, hard times, but we didn’t think it was hard times because it was just a part of life that they did this. He had money, we’d go to town and buy flour. At that time, you could buy flour, lard, piece of bacon, sugar, so we survived.
My mother did bake. Bread, every day almost, ten loaves at a time. As long as there was flour there and yeast, she’d make the bread, buns, pies, the berries they picked and everything. We used to watch her, that’s how come we learned this, from growing up. We learned by watching my mom. She never read, she only had grade five, never read a recipe in her life. She learned that all from just working out.
So that’s some of the history that I remember from being small, and what I learned from her. [She was] washing clothes by hand with a washboard, first, and hanging them out on the lines. And then my dad bought her a washing machine. It had a bearing thing at the bottom and when she’d pull it, it used to go around in the Centre. I remember that it was just like something great! And the wringer, you just put it through the wringer, and she’d turn it and wring out all the clothes instead of doing this from hand. And hang the clothes out. And of course, we got bigger, she still had a washing machine that was run by hand, but still we hung them out for her on the lines. We’d help her do that because we were getting bigger then.
I don’t remember going to Powwows and stuff like that. I remember going to one fiddle dance, only. I don’t know how old I was, small. They had a dance hall on Carry the Kettle. They had fiddle dances, so, they had fiddlers out here on Carry the Kettle. Then when the churches came in, I don’t remember who they were, but I know they had fiddle dances at our house, too, when we were little. I don’t know who played them, either.