Friday, January 8, 2016

Poonenamook.... and a Memo from a Great Uncle

A First Nations man at time of Contact

Two items arrived in my e-mail In-basket this morning.  A relative, who is a geneology and history buff, shared these two glimpses of days gone by in Canada with our extended family...which is scattered across Canada and beyond our borders.  Here is the first:


 The message from Moosonee was crisp and to the point: ‘We are going across the river at 10….I can send an update then’.
 It was 8:15 am on Friday November 13th, 2015 when Mary Jo Wabano sent the text to me. When she crossed the Moose River to Moose Factory Island two hours later, and entered the Weeneebayko General Hospital, this would be her last visit with the person they affectionately called ‘Granny’.
 Granny Wabano was distinct for many special reasons and many long seasons. She was born Marguerite Kioke on January 28th, 1904, along the Ekwan River, in Treaty 9 territory, one of a family of six children. At age seven, she was sent to St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany, where she spent two years. Her family then moved further into the wilderness, determined to keep their children out of the hands of the authorities.
 Marguerite married Raphael Wabano, and together they had eight children. They moved from Attawapiskat to Moosonee, where Granny would remain the rest of her life.
 And what a life it would be. When Granny entered the House of Commons on June 11th, 2008, and sat beside the Prime Minister of Canada to hear him read out an historic formal apology, she was the oldest living survivor of the residential school system. And in the moments before she died in Moose Factory seven weeks ago, she was Canada’s oldest living person. In her lifetime, Gookum (Cree for grandmother) went on to have twenty-five grandchildren, (her grandson Michael married my friend Mary Jo Peltier from Wikwemikong), eighty-three great grandchildren and many great-great grandchildren.
 Nishnabi-Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, speaking after her passing stated: ‘Marguerite attributed her extraordinary long life to her ability to forgive others’.
 The key to her longevity? Granny was asked about this on her 110th birthday and put it best when she said: ‘No use carrying things around. Learn to forgive and it’ll help you to live a long life’.
  Words of wisdom from someone old enough to pass on a lesson or two.
  Poonenamook   -Forgive Others


The second item is a scan of a typewritten memo from my great uncle, Father Jim Mulligan, second son of my great grandfather, James Arthur Mulligan, who he is writing about here. Fr. Jim was the keeper of the family history for his generation. This memo describes the persecution that the Irish (or at least the Irish Catholics) faced in Canada during the early period of our history. Irish patriot William O'Brien is chased and stoned in the streets of Toronto ("the good"). My own great grandfather was forced to leave the country (for the US) with his family for a few years...for safety.

When there is so much in today's news about "migrants' and "refugees" it is important to examine and reference what has gone before:

Memo by Father Jim Mulligan circa 1930

So much of our history is unavailable to us, whether lost in the mists of time....or, deliberately erased from the public record by the "victors".  It's important to recall what really happened.  One of my favourite quotes is:

H.G. Wells

“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

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