"I write the news. I don't make it."














1. "Tiddely Boo Boo" Pat from all of us


2. The Girl With The Magnetic Smile


3. Josephine Beaucage - An Elders Story


4. Deborah Richardson Stepping Down


5. Fran Longboat retires


6. The Ab-original Bingo Boys


7. James and Judy: Love Story Brought Spark of Joy to Many


8. The Millennium Hitchhiker


9. 'Dr Grandma' Gets Honorary Degree


10. The Penny Dropped


11. Jerry's World


12. Holding On To A Chain of Love


13. Yes, Erica, There Is A Santa


14. Native Elder


15. She Helps Them Make It Through The Night


16. Julia Valencia's Hockey Career Forged In Steel


17. A Little Native Youth Club in the Urban Jungle


18. Rural Protesters take to the streets of Toronto


19.Youth from across the Nation gather together for inspiration


20. UOI kids score big with Raptors


21. Police give up the goods on Toronto’s street gangs


22 The Stork Report and other milestones:


23 The teenage sky pilot


24 Gord Studor




Gord Studor 1937-2004:
Respected community member passes away

by Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-Gord Studor did get his last wish. He always wanted a grandson and two months before he passed away his eldest daughter Alana gave birth to a boy she named Manito. On May 14 Gord died peacefully in the loving arms of his wife, Marci Studor. He was 67. A service was held for him at the Native Centre of Toronto (NCCT) on May 18 and it was attended by family and friends of the well-liked man-a Sacred fire flickered away throughout the emotional ceremony.

"Gordon was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather," said his wife of over 40 years. The couple met at a downtown Toronto club called the Thunderbird in 1963 and Marci said it was love at first sight. "I didn’t see him in the crowd," she said. "It seems like he fell from the sky."
The two soon started dating and soon after exchanged wedding vows.

In the early stages of their marriage Marci was no Martha Stewart when it came to preparing meals or grocery shopping. In fact, she remembers her three children, Alana, Gord Jr. and Robin running to hide whenever she cooked a meal and called them to the table for supper, but when Gord cooked the kids would scramble for the tasty meal. Marci recalls once while grocery shopping she bought four-dozen eggs for $2 and when she got home she told Gord about the ‘sweet deal.’ Turned out they were poulet eggs-about the size of a marble. I guess you can say Gord cracked up. "He told me not to do anymore shopping or cooking and he’d prepare meals when he got home, said Marci.

The young couple bought an eight-bedroom house in Toronto and rented out some of the rooms to Native university students. At least 140 students went through their home and many said it made them feel comfortable to be in a Native home. A lot of the students still fondly remember the friendly landlords with the kind words and wisdom they shared with each and every one of them. But as their own children started to get older they both wanted to end the restrictions of sharing their home, so they sold the house and moved to a smaller family home where they’ve lived ever since.

Marci was a practical nurse and Gord fixed elevators for a living. "We always had a two-income family," said Marci up until 1990, when Gord retired.
Gord is best remembered for the love he had for his children. If they did their homework to the ‘best of their ability’ he took them out on Friday’s for a family dinner or roller- skating, movies and family functions. In the last 10 years of Gord’s life his health slowly deteriorated.
He had three heart attacks and during his last one a pacemaker was inserted into his frail body. His kidneys shut down about seven years ago. He also battled diabetes for forty years.

Gord was cremated and his ashes are going at the foot of his mother’s grave. There are also plans to put some of his ashes between the graves of his grandparents who raised him as a child. "We remained a family to the end," said. Marci. "Gord was proud of that." One day after his funeral Marci discovered just how much she missed him. "I got up this morning and was going to cook his breakfast," she said.

Besides his wife, three children and grandson Gord is survived by three sisters, June, Rosemary and Debbie, brothers, Gerald, John and Allan, three granddaughters, Chantel, 17, Catrina 14, and Andrea 15 and many nieces and nephews. Gord was predeceased by his mother Helen Walker (Paibomsia) and his father Hubert Russel. His family and all those who got to know the wonderful man will sadly miss him.



The teenage sky pilot

by Gordon Atkinson

If dreams can fly then Sabrina Manitiwabi is surely going to earn her wings.

The eighteen-year-old Odawa teen has been accepted in an aviation program at the First Nation Technical Institute (FNTI) this coming September
Ever since she was a child she dreamt about flying the friendly skies."I am not going to let anything stop me," she said. "I am going to chase my dream."

The program is the only one in North America designed to prepare Aboriginal students as professional pilots.Students graduate as commercial pilots.
Certified instructors, some of which are graduates of the program, provide flight training.

The future sky-rider is already preparing herself for the three-year diploma program so she can have a grip on it once it starts. She has been studying up on it and some of the things make her a tad nervous.The first year is divided between academics and flight training, but the second year she will go up in the air and fly a plane and that’s when she’ll feel the butterflies in her stomach.

Sabrina will learn how to nosedive a plane and will also be taught how to shut off the engine in mid-flight and restart. "It’s pretty scary, but I want to get my diploma and license, "she said.She eventually wants to work for a big airline in Canada or the United States or as a bush pilot.

Both of Sabrina’s parent’s have been very supportive of her career choice. "My mom encouraged me to take the aviation course," she said. She knew that’s what I wanted to do."

Besides having an interest in flying she also plays the guitar, saxophone and piano. This summer the energetic young teen is going to work for the Young Canada Works program in beautiful Jasper, Alberta. She is from Manitoulin Island and has eight brothers and three little sisters who are nine-month old triplets. Sabrina is currently in grade 12 at Danforth College and Technical Institute and graduates in June.

"I am so happy I got accepted for aviation school," she said.
Sabrina is happy she moved to Toronto from her reserve where alcohol was holding her back.



The Stork Report and other milestones:
One precious little Native infant arrives on Mother’s day

by Gordon Atkinson

Native Canadian Centre of Toronto volunteer receptionist Stephanie Tonney held out until Mother’s Day to deliver her bouncing bundle of over-due joy-all ten pounds and four ounces of him.

Although she has two other children she named her third child Unique.
"I don’t know why I chose that name,’ she said. It just kept popping up in my head."

Little Unique experienced breathing difficulties and spent the first days of his life in the Intensive Care Unit at Women’s College Hospital. But the unit could be renamed the Intensive Loving Care Unit. The staff really looked after the little boy and Stephanie was overwhelmed by their kindness.

When Unique returned to he maternity ward he cried every time he was taken away from his mom and to make him stop the nursing staff had to bring him back to her loving arms.

The adorable little guy must have known something was up the day he was to be photographed. The camera shy infant turned his face, almost like he was saying: please no photos.

Congratulations to 10-year-old Axel Enoose who was a straight A student throughout the school year. Leanne is the proud mother of the young genius.
A large crowd gathered at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto in the middle of May to help Dennis Stark celebrate the 2nd anniversary of his publication known as Tansi.

Tansi is the Native version of ‘the little paper that grew.’

Congratulations Dennis on your second year and on the splendid news coverage you’ve been providing to the community.



Police give up the goods on Toronto’s street gangs

by Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-The streets of Toronto have become a battleground for gun-toting street youth gangs, Detective Constable Doug Minor told a March 17 gathering at a Toronto Native youth shelter. "It’s organized crime," said Minor.

The 13-year veteran and member of the Guns and Gangs Task Force here in Toronto told a group of Native and non-Native teens at the new Tumivut youth shelter on Vaughan Rd. that ‘there are 200 to 300 actual gangs in Toronto. Minor disputes recently released reports that say there are 57 gangs currently active in the Greater Toronto area with 1,132 members. "I hate stats," he said. "Half of it is crap," he continued. "The numbers change all the time."
Gangs here in Canada have been operating for many decades and it comes as no surprise to the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force. "Humans like to fight," he

said. "Gangs have been established since the beginning of Toronto."
The court system is dealing with gang members on a daily basis and it is not to lenient on known gang members who go through the system. . "The sentence is usually doubled," he said. Gang influences are also found in lines of clothing," he told the teens. It’s called ‘opportunistic sales."

The drugs gang members deal are very deadly and in many cases you are near death when becoming stoned on drugs like ecstasy Minor reported. "You might as well go out and buy a bottle of rat killer and chug it down cause that is what you’re doing," he warned.

Unlike western Canada Native street -gangs are not flourishing in Toronto. "Attempts have been made to start them up here," said P.C. Monica Rutledge of the Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit. She doesn’t know of any Aboriginal youth gang operating on the streets of Toronto at this time.

For more information about the guns and gangs task force call Detective Constable Doug Minor at (416) 808-4493.



UOI kids score big with Raptors

by Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-At 6’ foot 8’ Toronto Raptors forward Mike Bradley towered over the tiny Native youngsters who were lined up for his autograph during a recent ‘meet and greet’ with the basketball superstar.

March 5 was hailed as First Nations Day at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) and over 300 Aboriginal students and parents were in attendance as guests of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Toronto Raptors. First Nations Day is a stay-in-school initiative of the Anishinabek Education Institute (AEI) that celebrates the educational accomplishments of First Nation youth across Ontario.

Shortly afterwards those same dozen ‘tunnel kids’ slapped high fives to the Raptors just before the pre-game warm up and made their way to their seats. It’s been called a once and a life time opportunity that the children will never forget."First Nations Day is for the kids in our communities," said Dave Shawanda, Youth Development Officer with the Union of Ontario Indians. "It rewards them for their success and accomplishments they have achieved throughout the school year," he continued. "This night out in Toronto and the NBA basketball game is something that our youth are not accustomed to and is a very specialevening for them."

"It was great to see the kid’s excitement to have such an opportunity to get on court to see the players up close," said Michele Baptiste, National Manager of Aboriginal Relations for Scotia Bank. "I am proud that the bank is able to get the kids down for that."

The initiative provides Aboriginal youth with an experience that truly demonstrates that with a little hard work and perseverance, success can be achieved and dreams do come true. The Aboriginal students who are chosen to participate in the ‘tunnel kids’ activity are nominated by their First Nation community teachers, and educational counselors, based on the students dedication and educational accomplishments in school.

First Nation Day is now in its fourth year and is an annual event that has seen close to 1,400 students, parents and teachers take part in the trip to the ACC.
For 10-year-old Kassanda McKeown it was ‘awesome’ just being able to come to the game and watch Vince Carter play. Kassanda who stands 4’foot 7’ predicted the Raptors would emerge victorious over New York.

It was the first time Kassanda’s mother Melisa stepped foot into the gigantic ACC. "The biggest building on my reserve is the bingo hall," she laughed. "This place is huge," she said as she looked up towards the nose-bleed section where her and her young daughter would soon be sitting.

For little Kassanda it’s the third year in a row she has come to the ACC for First Nations Day. "She a straight A student," Melisa said proudly of her daughter
The Raptors lost the contest 103 to 98, but bus loads of Native kids and their parents had a night to remember. "It was fun to watch the game live," said Kassanda who enjoyed every minute of being in the Big City. Even seeing the scalpers outside the ACC was an eye opening experience for the kids and parents.

After the game the little Kassanda boarded a bus with 50 other people from the Aldervile First Nation and left this city of four million people to return home. Aldervile has a population of 500.

For more information contact Bob Goulais at (705) 497-9127 or email info@anishinabek.ca


Youth from across the Nation gather together for inspiration

By Gordon Atkinson, Cherie Dimaline

TORONTO-Evelyn Huntjens didn’t mind her own business while she was here in Toronto. In fact, the 28-year-old Victoria B.C. woman got a friend of hers to keep an eye on the thriving yard care store (Fraser Vista Yard Care) so she could join 400 other youth from across the country to attend a educational five day Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneur’s Symposium.

Huntjens who is from the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation in British Columbia got the entrepreneurial spirit as a teenager growing up in Victoria. Her business has reached the critical one year mark and its keeping her busy. The idea behind Fraser Vista Yard Care is to keep the client’s yard looking great by offering helpful tips on trimming the hedges, planting a flower garden, and anything connected with lawn care maintenance.

She was pleased to see so many Aboriginal youth who are interested in starting their own business and offers words of encouragement for them. "All of the youth at this gathering have dreams of being successful," she said. "I wish these guys all the luck in the world."

Michael Gariepy was also at the gathering. Gariepy, the President and CEO of South Island Technologies in Saskatoon chased his dreams while a youngster on the Beardy’s First Nation in Saskatchewan. The Cree man has always been interested in the wonders of technology.

Santee Smith was the Master of Ceremonies when delegates from the gathering paid a visit to the Native Canadian Centre for the Cultural Gala dinner and social which included presentations by the NCCT Cultural Department and Visiting Schools Program accompanied by the Eagleheart Singers.
The Mohawk woman is a choreography, dancer, singer and pottery designer.

She was in the National Ballet School in Toronto from 1982-1988. "I am starting to have the entrepreneurship spirit," she told the gathering which consisted of delegates from St.John’s, NFLD to Victoria, B.C. "We all live in a competitive world and we can see into the future," she said about the many programs available for Native people. "We are making things happen."

CBC’s Carla Robinson was another role model invited to perk up the spirits and ignite hope and drive in the young entrepreneurs at the gathering. Carla began her journalism career for BCTV and hosting a weekly current affairs show for Rogers’s television in B.C. She is best-known for her current job as main evening news anchor for CBC Newsworld, and host of the afternoon editions of Newsworld Today and Newsworld Live. Organizers hailed the event a success and look forward to continuing on in the spirit of entrepreneurialism for tomorrow’s Aboriginal business professionals.


Rural Protesters take to the streets of Toronto

Grassy Narrows group descends on the Ministry of Natural Resources
by Gordon Atkinson, Cherie Dimaline

TORONTO- While the chainsaws continue to chew their way through traditional territory, a group of determined Native youth vow to stop the clear-cutting of Grassy Narrows First Nation.

"Our people are sick because of the poisons in the water," Ashley Loon, a 19 year old Ojibway girl old told a group of protesters outside the Ministry of Natural Resources Office at 90 Wellesley Street in Toronto. As she spoke, a dozen police officers and six security guards were on hand to keep an eye out throughout

the chilly March afternoon protest. "It has destroyed our traditional lifestyle."
And although the congregation blocked traffic for some commuters, passing motorists honked their horns as a way of showing support to the gathering estimated at about seventy-five people. "Save our trees so we can breath," was one of the many sings carried by the protesters.
The Grassy Narrows band is struggling to save the last few patches of old growth forest as well as trying to protect the trap line areas that are slated for clear cutting. The remaining forest holds pieces of Native history, culture, spirituality, and medicines that can never be replaced. "Nothing is being done, said Loon, who has been at the blockade since day one.

In December 1992, members of the Grassy Narrows band started a blockade to protest the clear cutting by Abitibi Consolidated Inc. which continues to have a devastating impact to their land.

"We don’t want negotiation or consultation," said a girl who identified herself as Chrissie. "Not one level of government has responded,’ she continued. "We just want them (Abitibi) off our territory."

"The community of Grassy Narrows has lived through many traumatic events, relocation, mercury contamination of their waterways, flooding of their sacred grounds, residential schooling, and the clearcutting that is taken place now. It has caused serious social, economic and environmental problems. These violations have had and continue to have a devastating impact on the Ojibway culture," said a letter that was hand delivered by a member of the Grassy Narrows band to the Minister of Natural Resources.

Later, the protesters marched to the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) at 16 Spadina Rd. where a video called ‘The Story of the Grassy Narrows Blockade’ was shown. The one-hour production will soon be available to the public.

The blockaders back home have five binders full of support letters from people throughout North America and the world. But the peaceful group is being threatened by a group of non-Native thugs who call themselves the ‘Kenora Indian Beaters.’

"They go around beating up Native people,’ said Chrissie. The youth are willing to remain at the blockade through the humid summer heat and the bone-chilling temperatures of winter until their pleas are taken seriously.




A little Native youth club in the urban jungle

by Gordon Atkinson

There were no Native youth clubs when I was a teenager growing up in the city of Edmonton-so we started our own.
It was a guy named Fred and another friend of mine Thomas who started our small Native youth group in the basement of Thomas’ parent’s place.
I don’t remember the name of the club, but if you were an Aboriginal youth you were welcome to take part in whatever you wanted to do-meaning we didn’t have a program.

Most of the guys brought along their guitars and that’s when I discovered our boys had talent in those fingers and in a few cases their voices. I brought a pen and some paper hoping to write songs, but it never happened.
It was not a cultural based club, although there was endless story telling going on, but the stories had a lot to do with our accomplishments in hockey and other team sports. Okay, also about girls.

Mostly, the guys just got together. We talked but always in English. We had no where to go so we could learn our language or our cultural and traditional foods like bannock or wild meat was only found in our homes.
I still remember the day Fred became a student at the east end school I attended. Poor Fred always had to prove himself at every school. He was a born scrapper who was bounced in and out of foster homes since birth. At my school it didn’t take him long to sort things out after two white bullies called him a wagon burner. He grabbed both of them by the scruff of the neck and put them up against a window and smashed them with his meaty fist. I recall one of the guys doing a mid-air dance-he was so scared his legs were trembling. Fred sure fixed his wagon. The only thing burning on Fred that day were his hands after emerging from the principals office.

The Edmonton Jr. high school had about 10 Native students among an enrolment of 600 students. Sometimes when the racial darts were coming my way thick and heavy I felt like Custer with all those arrows flying. So it’s probably no surprise that Native traditional practices were not welcomed in the Big City. I was a Native teenager who had been white washed and hung to dry in my own country.
But I learned a bit about the Native way whenever I visited my Kookum on her reserve where she would speak Cree to us hoping we would pick up on it. I memorized other words by listening to my mother speaking Cree to my dad.
I grew up in the Cromdale area of Edmonton and it has always had a reputation for being one of the toughest areas in that city. We used to call it the ‘Crimedale’ because of all the criminal activity that took place.

Meanwhile, the club thrived for a little better than a year and we grew from about five members to about twenty. That was quite a feat back in those days when most Natives my age were attending those dreaded residential schools where any hint of traditional ways was branded sinful.
It became a club of dreams. These guys really wanted to make it in the world when they hit their adult years. Some had aspirations of being lawyers, singers, police officers, actors or even politicians. I touched my dream. I always wanted to be a songwriter, but instead I am a writer with 15 years experience under my belt. I penned my first story one night at the youth club, which I called ‘The Land of Plenty.’ It was about a far away oasis where huts sloped gently to the tree-lined shore of the lake, its dark stillness was disturbed irregularly by the evening feed of large bass. Everything for miles around grew in abundance. It was probably written back in 1966.

We started going to movies and John Wayne became our instant hero. Hollywood always made the Natives look bad in everyone of their motion pictures. I didn’t realize at the time, but those people who were getting slaughtered on screen were North American Indians. Let me tell ya pilgrim, I wish I would have cheered for the Indians.

We were not familiar with the term ‘Urban Indian’, but that’s exactly what we were –Native teenagers experiencing life in the Big City. I knew most of my relations on my mother’s side came from a reserve called Onion Lake in Saskatchewan. That’s where I began.
I’m not saying we were perfect every one of us got into trouble with the law or our parents. I recall inhaling my first cigarette and getting dizzy. "Don’t lay or you’ll die," one of my buddies warned me in the school where we lit up. My smoking caused a conflict with my parents. My dad was totally against me picking up the addictive habit, but mom let me smoke right in front of her. Today, when I wake up in the morning I am coughing and gagging from years of smoking. I am now planning to go on the patch so I can hopefully kick the habit. That’s how it was in those days we all copied each other because there was no one to tell us better.

Through our fledgling club we gained in numbers. We weren’t a gang or anything, but other teenagers started to fear us mainly because of Fred and another Native named Victor. We started getting respect from the other teens in the neighbourhood, but a new problem developed-the cops were keeping an eye on our activities. Yep, we were known and getting tough in the urban jungle. But my marks were low at school and the teachers always embarrassed me by having my parents come to the school to talk about my marks and behaviour.
I met a girl named Loretta and she chummed around with me for a while. She was the first member of the opposite sex to ever take an interest in me. Loretta told me one day that there was Native blood in her family back a few generations. She looked white to me and all the other guys, but we all accepted that wonderful girl with the red hair, freckles, and the never-ending laughter.

Back in the classroom a new girl started school; and I soon took a liking to her. I sat right beside her in class and let me tell you she was the girl every guy in the school liked. I was experiencing puppy love. One Valentine’s Day I got Fred to accompany me to a store so I could buy her a box of chocolates. I got Fred to double me on his handlebars of his red mustang bike and we rode by her place and waited until she got home. Finally the big moment came and my heart was pounding a million beats a minute. I feared nothing in those says, but when it came down to expressing affection for a girl that was a whole different story. Anyways, I called her name as we were riding passed her and I threw the chocolates toward her. Irene just kept walking by and never did stop to pick up her gift. That beautiful Polish teenager with the short blonde hair wasn’t interested in this Indian. My heart was broken.

I was now interested in doing the things other kids my age were doing. Soon as the bell rang we were out discovering a new way of life. Sometimes I would stand outside the liquor store on 118th avenue and coax older people to go in and buy a bottle of Canadian Club from the money I made mowing lawns.
It was now payback time. I was going to get all those other kids who used to tease my little sisters and me. I challenged them to after school scraps and sometimes I’d win. I remember one Italian kid named Tony who used to get me to tie up his shoelaces. Like a fool I did. I will never the day I walked on up to him and asked if he needed his shoelaces tied. There were a bunch of girls standing around him and most of them started to giggle when he said ‘yea, Indian.’ I knelt down took his shoelaces and tied then both together then I let him have it with a flurry of punches and kicks that had him begging for mercy. After the Cree beating I inflicted on him I warned him never to bully anyone again. Tony is now a cab driver in Edmonton, but he denies ever bullying me when we were teenagers. About 10 years ago he picked me up as a fare and I asked him about our long ago battle. I was going clear across the city and when we reached my destination he didn’t charge me. "Take care," was all he said as I opened the door to get out of his taxi.

We always looked forward to the summer holidays and the new adventures it would bring. During one of those breaks I hitchhiked to Calgary with a Native girl I had met in a downtown Edmonton pool hall. A well-known rounder named Charlie Ford picked us up-back then his younger brother Allan was an Alberta boxing champ. Charlie got us drunk along the way but delivered us safely to my older brother’s apartment building. We partied for the full two weeks we were there. At the time, I thought that was the life I wanted to live.
Back in Edmonton once more, I heard Fred had been placed in a juvenile detention centre for a series of break and enters. That spelled the demise of our Native youth club. He was the main attraction and now he was gone.

I vividly remember the events following on of my drunken teenage sprees in Edmonton. I was drinking cheap red wine with some new buddies of mine and I became so intoxicated I passed out on a street corner. The next thing I remember, I woke up in the drunk tank with a cop slapping a dirty mop across my face. "Clean up that mess," he commanded, pointing to a pile of puke on the cold concrete floor. A few hours later another police officer drove me home in his cruiser and mom and dad were waiting for me with a plate full of pancakes and a heavy coating of syrup, which I was forced to eat, hangover be dammed. "You’re going to give us a bad name," I remember my mother saying to me. I was grounded for a few weeks and assigned to do endless chores around the house.
When I turned eighteen I went to work as a labourer in Fort McMurray, Alberta with good pay and free room and board. Needless to say my drinking ways continued. I was found nightly drinking at the Oil Sands hotel and having a grand time with a new girl I met named Linda. The federal government had just given the okay for provinces to lower the drinking age to eighteen and Alberta did just that. That made me happy, but today I fully understand it was foolish happiness,

During the holiday season the spirit of Christmas always came to me in a bottle. Even today the pattern continues. I just can’t seem to control the urge to drink my self –silly.A while back I went on another heavy drinking spree. I almost lost the best friend I ever had. She is the girl who I adopted as my daughter and we have always gotten along well. I will never forget that hot summer day when we were both having a smoke on the side steps of the Native centre and she told me she sometimes wished I were her real dad. Her words brought tears to my eyes because no one has ever thought that highly of me. From that day on she became the closet thing I have to a daughter.

That little Native youth club we had going was good for us Native teens back in the 60s, it kept us strong.
Sometimes I wonder what might have happened had it flourished in other directions. I would like to know whatever became of all those guys who belonged to the club; maybe I’ll hunt them up and have some kind of reunion.
I am a newspaper reporter by trade and my life has been a series of ups and downs. It’s time I brought stability back into my life.
I recently got myself off the streets and moved into a $400.00 a month room in the west end of Toronto. I plan to save up enough money to buy a computer so I can write in the comfort of my own pad.

But first I want to check my self into a Native treatment centre somewhere in Ontario or Alberta.
These days there are many places where Native youth can learn about their own culture. The centres are scattered all over Toronto and other cities right across Canada. In some cases, the Aboriginal teenagers of today even have their own newspapers.
Amid all the turmoil in my life I managed to travel the country coast to coast to write about my people and I experienced the cultural and traditions that make us who we are today-a proud people. Looking back, I didn’t become an Indian until I grew up because in my younger days I was robbed of my Cree language and culture.

Would I have resorted to a lifetime of seeking joy in a bottle if I had been raised with the strong support of my own people and my own culture and the availability of Native organizations to teach me traditional ways. I don’t know. You still have to walk in your own moccasins.

(Gordon Atkinson is a Toronto based freelance reporter who writes for the Native Canadian. He is registered with the Onion Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan/Alberta.)


"Tiddely Boo Boo" Pat from all of us

by Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-Mary Fox was just riding the old Dantforth/Bloor streetcar, minding her own business and reading a newspaper way back in the '50s when this striking young woman nudged her elbow. "Wanna join the North American Indian Club," she heard from the stranger. Well, she did wanna, and soon Fox was signed and attended meetings at the fledlging North American Indian Club, now known as the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT).

The person she had met on the streetcar that day was Pat Turner who has been involved in the Native community here in Toronto for well over 50 years. Pat has been employed at the NCCT for about 20 years and is currently the volunteer, fundraising coordinator. In those days Turner chased down anyone who looked Native to tell them of "the club." It was a place to have fun, meet people and socialize. It didn't take long for Natives right across Canada to become familiar with the place.

Back in 1955 Turner remembers being crowned Indian Princess at one of the clubs early functions, but she attributes her victory to being the only girl that ran. Fixing herself up in front of a mirror that day she gave her hair an extra pat and a few minutes later the NCCT was officially opened. "Pat Turner is a charter member," said Fox. "She has been involved in the Native community for as long as I've known her. Many many people come to the Native center because of her. She's a magnet to the center." "She cares deeply for people," said Corinne Mount-Pleasant, assistant professor for Engineering and Computer Science at Concordia University. "For almost 50 years, she has been constantly involved, taking an active part in the lives of thousands of people who come into contact with her. She gives freely, expecting little in return and knows everyone's name."

Turner was raised in the Bloor Spadina area where she became good friends with Shirley Lovett-King the NCCT's new office resource manager. "She has never, in all the years I've known her, taken any of the glory for her successes and attributes them to her volunteers or anyone who works for her," said Lovett-King. "Patricia is the perfect example of an Aboriginal person who everyday invests her time and energy into her community and always is working toward a better place for the Urban Aboriginal person and all of its visitors."

Turner graduated from Central Technical High School and went on to work for Bell Canada. After marrying her husband Jim whom she meet at the Indian club she was employed by Cara, a gift shop at Square One Mall. But she never forgot her people and when she retires next month to her home on the Six Nations on the Grand River First Nation her legacy will surely be the countless fundraising events she held, the Pow Wow trips she organized and the many people in Ontario and across the country who got to know the cheerful lady.

Turner has been a director of many Aboriginal organizations. Currently she is a member of the Community Council of Aboriginal Legal Services. She is also director of Nishnabia Homes-a provider of social housing for low income Aboriginal people. When her husband passed away in 1980 Pat carried on raising her three children, Steve, John and Melissa. Pat now has four grandchildren. One of her sons says his mother "knows all the Indians in Canada." Anywhere he has gone in Canada as soon as he says his last name people ask him about Pat.

One sterling example of her fundraising skills brought a smile to the face of a child when a nurse from Hospital for Sick Children called Pat to tell her of a young Cree girl who was not doing very well. The youngster had a real desire to see the Lion King and her parents could not afford to buy the tickets. A few phone calls later Pat had made arrangements for the sick child to see the popular play.

From the cozy offices of the NCCT to the Pow Wow trail her cheerful sign off "Tiddley boo boo" will be missed as it has closed meetings and brought lots of smiles and fundraising dollars to improve programs here at the NCCT.

Pat, you are also going to be missed. "Tiddley boo boo" from all of us at the NCCT.



The Girl With The Magnetic Smile

by Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-That morning smile that greets visitors to the Native Canadian Centre Of Toronto (NCCT) is Shawna Ackabee's way of saying thanks for a future.
The 19 year-old Ojibwa teen and mother of one is the new part-time receptionist at the NCCT. She is getting her life back together after a rough start to life in the Big City.

A story about her titled "Holding on to a chain of Love" was featured in the November 2000 issue of the Native Canadian. It was about Shawna's arrival in Toronto and how she made the streets her home. She now lives in a cozy apartment in the west-end of the city.

"We are pleased to give an opportunity to a young Aboriginal woman who has a lot of potential", said out-going executive director of the NCCT, Deborah Richardson. "We are pleased to be able to do that for Shawna." "She's a quick learner," added full-time receptionist Barb Kearns. With any luck Ackabee's magnetic smile will be here for years to come.


An Elders Story: Josephine Beaucage: a remarkable life of beadwork

by Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-When Josephine Beaucage died at the age of 99, Chief Dan George was probably waiting for her at the gates of heaven. In 1972, Beaucage proposed marriage to the actor after being introduced to him at a function in Sudbury. "Chief, you are a widower, and I am a widow, this being a leap year, I've come to ask you to marry me," she jokingly told the much younger celebrity.

Dan George smiled and said he'd be happy to marry her. She presented him with a beaded glass that she made herself as a souvenir.
About eight years after that meeting Beaucage learned she was selected to go to Rome for the Beautification of Kateri Tekakwitha-the Native Saint. Two hundred Aboriginal people attended the function hosted by Pope John Paul 11. She was thankful to have been able to take part in the service. "That was the biggest surprise in her life," said her daughter Yvonne Beaucage.

She was born Josephine Commanda, born in 1904 in a place called Beaucage Village and lived there until the age of seven.
In 1912, the same year the Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland, Beaucage's dad was hired by as a guide by the Carnegie Museum Company. He traveled with the company up around the Labrador Coast and Baffin Bay to see how far the smallest birds migrated north.

A few years later Beaucage was placed in an Industrial Convent in Spanish, Ont. She grew lonely there at the outset, but as time went on she found that this was the best thing that ever happened to her. It was there that she finished her education.

In 1923, she married Angus Beaucage and moved to Temagami, Ont., where they raised a family of four girls and one son.
After her daughters left home Beaucage decided to take up bead and leatherwork as a hobby. Shortly afterwards, she found employment with a Commercial camp as a cabin girl and second cook. She kept the job for 12 years.

In 1950, the Ontario Northland Boat Lines as a shipping and receiving clerk hired her. Her husband was the Captain of the boats that delivered groceries and express parcels to private cottages. In the fall couple worked the trap lines. She learned how to handle a gun and run an outboard motor. She skinned beaver, mink and other fur bearing animals and became an expert and stretching and cleaning raw pelts.

In 1955, her dad died following an operation. In 1959 she was hired by the owner of an Indian Village to demonstrate beadwork.
It was there she met many crafts people and through that experience she started teaching at Native organizations in Toronto. In 1966, she arrived at Elliot Lake, to counsel 20 families coming from Sioux Lookout.

When they arrive and settled each was given a house with all the facilities for a home. For many it was their first experience with electrical appliances. The men were given skilled training while the wives stayed home with the children and Beaucage went to visit to help them with their chores.

In 1968 she opened a house at 106 Spadina. She received 15 gals from up north who ranged in age 16-22. The girls didn't believe in rules and regulations. This proved so bad for her nerves a doctor advised her to quit.

In 1970 she flew to Thunder Bay and traveled by boat to Gull Bay and Huron Bay to instruct young adults improve their beading and leatherwork.
One month later her husband died, but Beaucage continued to work, this time with the Indian Crafts of Ontario. In 1974, she made a deer skin shirt, a beaded shawl and change purse-all sewn by hand, which she entered at the CNE- the talented crafts person won the first three prizes.

Her long and productive teaching career ended at the age of 91 because her eyes were failing, but like her grandfather who died at the age of 111, her strong constitution kept her active until she passed away September 2 at the North Bay General Hospital



Deborah Richardson Stepping Down

By Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-Deborah Richardson addressed the community's needs during her three years as executive director at the Native Centre of Toronto (NCCT).
When she first started the only meal provided at the Centre was the Thursday evening feast.
Today there are now one-dollar noon meals for the unemployed, free meals for seniors and two-dollars for the employed. The meals prepared are like dishes you find in restaurants.

She got into things quickly and started the Homeless Arts Initiative Program. It got homeless Native artists out of the cold into the NCCT where they could do their artwork.

She enhanced many of the programs and the Cedar Basket Craft shop has also improved in the way of sales and looks.
"There's a lot of work that has to be done," she said. One of the hardest decisions she ever had to make was to close off the back steps to the Centre where the homeless laid out their sleeping bags for a nights sleep. "That was a hard thing to do, but it was for safety," she said. She was afraid of someone dying under those steps.

"I think a lot of my caring for people comes from my dad's side of the family,"she said. I am very much aboriginal in terms of our values. The Eagle and the morning smudge are part of the culture. "It's a real eye-opener," she said about her three years at the NCCT. "There are so many people from different reserves and cities from all over Canada. You have to develop thick skin to be in a leadership role."

Deborah's father is Mi'kmag from the Pabineau First Nation in New Brunswick. Her mother is from German/ Scottish decent from Saskatchewan.
She has two younger brothers and is married with two girls. As a child her father was in the military. She lived in many cities across Canada because of her dad's military experience.

Deborah attended a University in Ottawa and obtained a law degree. She practiced law for a short period and moved to Toronto five years ago.
Her first job in the Aboriginal community was at Council Fire Culture Centre, a Native centre on Parliament and Dundas Sts.
She then moved on to the Royal Bank of Canada. She became involved in Aboriginal banking, financing business and homes on the reserves. The bank gave her a great experience.

She always wanted to work for the Aboriginal community on a full-time basis. "I feel like I accomplished what I like to do," she said. "It's time to move on and pursue new opportunities," she continued. "I am probably going to work at an Aboriginal business."

She's learned a lot about Aboriginal people who live in Toronto. "It seems that all people are bonded," she said.
"I've lost sleep over certain individuals whom I've met. I care about people."



Native Centre office manager Fran Longboat retires, after 14 years

By Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-Fran Longboat said her 14 years as office manager at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) was a real cultural learning experience.
"I found my roots here," she said in a recent interview at the NCCT. "My mother and father never made us proud to be Native," she continued. "I learned so much about my culture."

She responded by taking a hands on approach to her work and being kind-hearted to the members of the community.
She was especially concerned about the ones who slept on the streets. She was known to arrive at work bright and early on chilly winter mornings to open the doors and make a pot of hot coffee for the shivering homeless. "Street people need to be recognized," she said. "You have to have some kind of caring for them."

But her job was much more than getting to know the homeless who slept on the sidewalks of Toronto. "I've seen her scrub toilets and clean rooms," said long time receptionist at the NCCT, Barb Kearns. "She's always been 100 percent for the community. I'm going to miss her."

But it was also her job to make the building safe, secure and clean. She was the purchasing agent who ordered stationary and cleaning supplies and everything else the Centre needed to keep it operational.
Longboat said it was always hard for her when one of the seniors died. "The Elders loved her," said Kearns
Many staff members have described longboat as a very fair person who would yell at you if you done wrong and pat you on the back for doing some good.
Longboat said the saddest day for her during her employment there was when Native historian, Rodney Bobbiwash, passed away. "It was such a loss to the community," she said.

The most memorable event for her was when the NCCT hosted its first Eagle Staff Raising ceremony. Over 300 people attended the colorful function. "It was beautiful," she said. "It's something I'll never forget."

When she first started at the NCCT her grandson Skylar was just a young boy and today he is one of the maintenance men there. There was a retirement party for her at the NCCT where family, staff friends and community members attended the function. "It's a nice way to end my working days with my people," she said about the event. "I'll miss the people, but I can always come back and volunteer."

She first came to Toronto in the 60s, but is now going home to spend more time with family.
The Mohawk woman who retired earlier last month grew up on the Six Nation Reserve where she met and married her husband Rudy,

"It's been a blast," she said, about her 14 years working, learning about her culture and getting a chance to have a chat with the many people who walked through the doors of the NCCT.


"The Ab-original Bingo Boys"

by Gordon Atkinson

(This story is dedicated to the memory of the late Ian Lee -
the first of the 'Ab-original bingo boys).'

TORONTO---There was always something about seeing a child win the coveted "special" at the independent bingo tent where I've worked for 15 years.
The winner of that game earned a coupon for a prize and got to play free bingo for a whole hour. For 60 minutes Kiddie Land, carnival thrills, the raucous midway confusion ceased to exist. The card became the youngster’s playground as his or her busy fingers darted up and down its surface in pursuit of a straight line or four corners. Sometimes, just one number away from a win, divine intervention was called for. "Please, God, let me win again," I’d hear the whisper. "I promise to be good." That was the kind of magic a carnival bingo tent had on generations of children in the fairs and exhibitions I worked in across North America.

That particular traditation bit the dust earlier this summer when Bill Jones of Orlando, Florida sold the carnival tent to Roch Bourbonnais, a French-Canadian from Alfred, Ontario. The bingo is now Canadian owned after being in the Jones family hands for decades. Bourbonnais has replaced the daily "special" with a free game of bingo every hour on the hour.

He must be doing something right. At this year"s annual Conklin Awards Party the bingo won "best game presentation" - something that has never happened before.

It came as no surprise to us bingo boys. The Bingo Bigtop has always been the class of the rough and tumble carnie world, a quiet, orderly oasis amid the shrill storm of midway attractions. It's a meeting place (“Toronto” in Ojibwa) here the tired and the hot, young and old, can settle into a chair, chuckle at the caller’s banter, and study the numbers like a classroom of attentive students. Maybe that’s why bingo is the only gamble approved by the Catholic Church.
I am the last of the "Ab-original bingo boys" - a batch of men and women from reserves and cities across western Canada who over the years worked at the bingo tent. It all started about two decades when a young Ian Lee, a Native Cree, walked into the tent in Edmonton and scored a job. For a long time afterwards, everyone who worked on the traveling crew was Native. Lee immediately demonstrated his prowess by being unafraid to climb the steel structure to put up the tent and bring it down.

With Lee as "topman" we could do the teardown in a single sweating 12- hour grind. It took three tractor-trailers to haul the mammoth steel carcass from site to site. (Another reason carnival bosses have a yen for Natives is that our status cards get us across the border with no questions asked).
I went looking for a job there in 1986 during Edmonton’s Klondike Days and was hired to collect money and give back correct change to bingo customers. I remember one of the Native regulars asking me later that evening if I had ever worked the carnival before.

"My first job in the carnival I was used as a human cannonball," I told him. "I was hired and fired the same day."

That was my way of breaking the ice with my new co-workers. You"ve got to get on with the guys. We'd travel down the Trans Canada Highway in an orange colored van dubbed "the Pumpkin". It was in that old jalopy but we really got to know a lot about each other. We'd talk about the things we never talked of at work - things like our dreams, families, our accomplishments and our failures to accomplish. We were like one big family. We slept in the "possum belly" of the steel load. For the last three years, since the steel load was replaced by a wooden frame, we spread our sleeping bags under the "flash" prize table with a cardboard mattress and a foamy.

In western Canada, the bingo became known as the "traveling teepee" because of all the Natives working in it. When it reached Toronto it became the United Nations tent because of the multi-cultural locals who were hired on. We all got along with each other.
When the unwieldy steel structure was sold to a Florida theme park operator for use as an outdoor cafe, a much lighter wooden form took its place. Maybe my Native co-workers sensed the end of the big steel. Anyway, the year before the sale they failed to show up for work one day and were fired en mass. Except for me.

But the game is the same as ever, and the tent retains its gentle humor and civility.
I remember once in Edmonton during a heat wave an enormous woman wearing shorts sat down and played bingo for three hours straight. Just as Carmen, our bingo caller, was saying over the mike "Come on in take a seat," the woman stood up and the seat came up with her, stuck to her butt.
Once during "suicide run" from Edmonton to Regina the bingo boys saved the life of a female schoolteacher by pulling her from her burning vehicle. The ladswere recognized at that year’s Regina Roundup Party with a standing ovation.

We once had a cranky white foreman I know as Paul, who was always in a foul mood. His temper would peak just before opening. He was cheap with his smokes, and hell froze over before you got one from him. One year at the CNE , a new guy from Newfoundland asked one of the Natives for a smoke.
"I don"t have one," the guy from the Rock heard. "Just go and ask Paul for a draw."

As the Newfoundler approached Paul it just happened that the irascible foremen had lit up a smoke of his own. The newcomer asked for a draw, and Paul placed his smoke in an ashtray and said "okay" while he turned away to get the draw - a daily cash advance for smokes and food. Turning back, Paul set his eyes on the Newfie puffing away on his cigarette. "What the f---," Paul screeched.
Turns out a "draw" in Newfoundland lingo is a "drag" of a smoke.
Like I said, the United Nations tent.

For the last four years I have been calling the first game of the day which is always free. I'll likely return for my sixteenth time when the carnival season opens next year. But this time I plan to go bilingual. I'd like to say over the mike: "La premiere partie de la journee toujours gratuite au dessous de la grosse tente." The first game of the day is always free under the big top.

James and Judy: Love Story Brought Spark of Joy to Many

By Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-Most days for the last 14 years, through summer heat and winter snow, James Wesley and Judy Solomon could be seen holding hands on Bedford Rd. and Bloor St. W.

For the last five years Judy weathered the elements in her wheelchair, immobilized by misfortunes that led to solvent abuse.
Judy died May 23 in her 45th year and so ended a love story witnessed daily by countless passersbys and fellow street people. Rain or shine, there was James sitting on a park bench with Judy by his side in her wheelchair.

It brought a spark of joy into the lives of many to see two people who were so much in love despite their dismal circumstances.
Ann Brittan of Walmer St. was of those people who got to know the homeless couple and often chatted with them and on many a cold winter nights phoned the Street Help line so they could be taken into a warm shelter. “I was afraid of her being in danger,” said Brittan.

Brittan hopes to organize a memorial in the park where Judy died. “We feel like we lost one of our own,” said Brittan. “We miss her.”
One of ten siblings Judy grew up in Sudbury and spent most of her early childhood time living with her grandparents. At the age of ten she was placed in a foster home. As a young Ojibwa girl growing up in Sudbury Judy was “quick on her feet and was good at baseball,” said her father, Alex Jacobs.
Judy adored cats and was “good at math and reading” said Jacobs. She used to enjoy playing hide and go seek or skip a rope with her many childhood friends, Jacobs recalled.

In her early 20’s, Judy got a job doing clerical work for a downtown bindery company. It was a job she’d keep for ten years.
But when Judy left her abusive husband, she took to the streets with its sometimes lethal attractions. But she had a lot of protection out there. “She had a lot of friends,” said Jacobs.

In later years, Judy stayed at many Native treatment centres, but always ended up back on the streets. Judy reportedly caught pneumonia a few weeks beforeshe died.

Three weeks after her death, James sat red-eyed in the same park where he and Judy spent so much time together. There he sat perusing memories of the only woman he ever loved. Then his voice cracked as he talked about the day she died.
“I thought she was sleeping,” he said. “I tried to wake her up,” he continued with his eyes clouding over. “I miss her.”
“Judy probably has tears in her eyes as she’s watching James from heaven,” said Vern Ross, a street outreach caseworker for Street Patrol.
“She’s probably saying James quit your drinking because I love you.”

And maybe James hears her words. The Cree man recently committed himself to a detox centre leading to an alcohol treatment centre.
Judy is survived by two daughterís Susan, 18, Melissa, 15, one son, Jesse, 13 and numerous nieces and nephews.


The Millennium Hitchhiker

By Gordon Atkinson

Strapped into a 18-wheeler jackknifing across the Trans Canada Highway I fought my hand that clutched the door handle. Don’t panic, I thought as I felt the giant rig sliding across the slippery highway into a ditch. Beside me the man I call Kamikaze was fighting too against a truck imitating a 60-foot snake on the slushy roadway. Even then I couldn’t restrain a grudging gratitude to Kamikaze from mingling with my terror.

He had plucked me and my questing thumb from the freezing rain on the roadside just outside of Winnipeg. Me, shivering, a stranger dripping cold sweat on the front seat three days before the end of the millennium. I would make it from Edmonton to Toronto in just two-and-a-half days. The bus doesn’t do it faster. The day before I had gotten a ride with a Nebraska bound trucker named Melvin. He picked me up on Edmonton’s outskirts and dropped me off where Kamikaze found me.

It was 17 Celsius when I left the Alberta capital. Melvin had photos of his two little girls taped to the glove compartment of his rig. “Those are my two angels,” he said proudly. “My wife and those two kids are what keep me going.” Melvin then asked if I had any children. “You don’t know what you’re missing,” he said upon hearing my answer.

He had one more payment to make on his truck before it officially belonged to him. So his dream of owning his own rig was about to come true. My dream of getting to Toronto before the New Year had just begun. I climbed into Kamikaze’s truck on legs of ice. “No drinking, no drugs,” were his first words. Y2K disaster be dammed. A millennium fear couldn’t drown the kindness of a new Canadian trucker on lonely stretch of highway bound somewhere into the next century.

Kamikaze is from Iran. He said he’s been driving truck for about three years. “But not in these conditions.” He asked me a lot of questions about my Native heritage. “I have a lot of Native friends in Montreal,” he said. I told him I was Plains Cree from the Onion Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan. I think he expected me to know the answer to every question he asked about Native people.

But that was before our conversation exploded into a terrifying crash of metal against metal. After an eternity in just a few seconds the giant truck jerked to a resounding halt on a cockeyed angle. I looked up and saw Kamikaze shaking and swearing. He had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a car that had slowed in front of him. I had seen my life flash in front of me as soon as he applied the brakes. The first person who rushed over to the truck was a young motorist named Tom Waterhouse. “Is anybody in there with you,” he said. “Just the Kamikaze trucker and me,” I said.

They say there’s never a cop around when you need one, but two Ontario Provincial officers from the Sioux Lookout Detachment arrived at the scene just minutes after the accident. Kamikaze, whose real name is Ebrahbrin Kharag had a long two-hour wait for help to arrive form Kenora. The young driver who was the first to arrive at the scene hesitated when I asked if he could take me into Dryden. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of stuff in the car. He made room only after the police said I had no warrants. That must of made the computer whiz feel more comfortable. Waterhouse told me later he passed me earlier on the highway. “I never pick up hitchhikers,” he said. “I made an exception with you.”

As we drove away I caught a glimpse of Kamikaze swearing and kicking at the snow. Waterhouse, a student at the University of Waterloo, said he is studying computer technology. I don’t think he wanted me to meet my Waterloo, so the Kid as I called him, decided to take me to Thunder bay. He said he was heading for Montreal. With Y2K looming up, we talked about the strengths and weaknesses of technology. By the time we got to Thunderbay the Kid got kind of use to my company and decided to carry me on to Sudbury. He was a good driver, but I found myself clutching the door handle every time an 18-wheeler came barreling by us on the sloppy highway.

We stayed overnight at a place called the Chalet Rest and Wilderness Trails near Terrace Bay, Ont., a bed and breakfast facility. The proprietor of the establishment told us of another truck that had jackknifed near Terrace Bay earlier in the day. A car carrying two teenagers slammed into the truck. Both were killed instantly. The truck driver escaped without injury. The early morning road conditions were much improved as we continued our journey down the Trans Canada Highway. We talked until day turned into night. I told him about my family in Edmonton and how happy I was to have spent Christmas with them. It was my first Christmas at home in about 12 years. I talked about my career as a freelance writer and about my parents both deceased. I even read him a short poem I wrote for my mom and dad. “That’s a good one,” he said. “You must of really loved them.”

The Kid told me about the parties he’s been to. “We had some good one’s, he laughed. We listened to CD’s and shared a lot of laughs throughout the trip. The Beatles were blaring away on the car’s CD player as he dropped me off at a 24-hour truck stop on the outskirts of Sudbury and he continued on his way to Montreal. I spent about two hours drinking coffee and struck up a conversation with Danielle, one of the waitresses. “There hasn’t been a hitchhiker in these parts since September,” she said. “It’s minus 27 out there,” she continued. “You must be the last hitchhiker of the millennium.” “Or the last fool,” I told her.

A trucker named Cameron spotted me sitting in the cafe and sipping on coffee. The three bags I had beside me were his clue I needed a lift the rest of the way into Toronto. Cameron said he has picked up hitchhikers in his life. “But I don’t make it a habit.” He dropped me off at 5 a.m. New Years Eve on the Queensway near a Country Style Donuts shop. Four strange men whom I have never met before and will probably never see again shared their time and space with the millennium hitchhiker, four men under no obligation sprinkled me with post-Christmas kindness.
So here’s to you Melvin, Kamikaze, the Kid and Cameron. I want you to know I bought a mickey of C.C. soon as the doors to the LLCBO cracked open on the last morning of the century. I guess you can say I got Rye 2 Kayed.


'Dr Grandma' Gets Honorary Degree

by Gordon Atkinson

TORONTO-Shortly after Lillian McGregor received her honorary Doctorate Degree Nicholas, her three-year-old grandson referred to her as ‘Dr. Grandma.’
But the future ‘train driver’ wasn’t overly impressed by the June 19 ceremony, which took place at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto (U of T). All the youngster wanted was to get his tiny hands on a chocolate bar. “But I want one,” he told his dad, Ken, shortly after McGregor was hooded by Rebecca Nagy of the Faculty of Nursing.

Ken, 35, of Newmarket, who also brought along his wife Cindy and seven-month daughter Lauren said he was ‘very proud of my mom.’ “She’s done a lot of work in the Native Community.”

McGregor, 66, a member of the White Fish River First Nation has been “striving to preserve Native culture since she was a youngster growing up on Birch Island”, said Heather-Howard Bobbiwash, a PH.d caudate from the Department of Anthology at the U of T.
Her distinguished career in nursing and public was ‘inspired by her grandmother ’ Howard-Bobbiwash, told the gathering. She was the first Elder in residence at the U of T First Nation House and a visiting elder at other institutions.

She has used language, storytelling, study and traditional healing to encourage Native students to stay in the academic course while appreciating the wisdom inherent in their own culture. Besides receiving accolades for her contributions to Native youth the Ojibwa woman participated in Toronto’s Olympic bid as an Aboriginal Elder.

Her many honors include the City of Toronto’s Civic Award, and the Provincial Government’s Outstanding Achievement Award for volunteerism. The Ontario Insitute for Studies in Education (OISE) recognized her achievements with its Distinguished Educator of the Year Award in 1995.
“I would like to thank the U of T for bestowing on me this great honor,” McGregor said to rousing applause.

The U of T touted the afternoon event as ‘175 years of great minds’ and Dr. McGregor is certainly one of those. The celebration shifted to a community barbecue hosted by the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto where young Nick was seen sleeping in his dad’s arms probably waiting to go to the apartment complex next door to be tucked in by ‘Dr. Grandma.’


"The Penny Dropped"

By Gord Atkinson

“How much do you got in your cup, Mister?” I was sitting cross-legged on my duffel bag at my usual spot in front of the Korean United Church atHuron and Bloor streets - 3000 kms away from a family Christmas.

She was all of five years old. Her face was just about my level. Two brown eyes looking straight into mine. I knew she really wanted to know. It was early December. The Christmas ‘gold rush’ hadn’t started yet. I glanced down at the paper cup at my feet. “About fifteen Cents.”

The pedestrian horde was on the move. The light changed and the roar of accelerating traffic enclosed the small girl and myself. She reached into her blue windbreaker. Her small fist emerged and hovered over the cup for a moment. Her tiny fingers Unclenched and I heard a faint thud. A penny rolled unsettled on the dry coffeestain. For a split second more she held my gaze. Then she wheeled around two quick legs in blue jeans, blond curls flaring. She rejoined about half a dozen other playmates and an adult and they made their way down the busy Bloor st. pavement.

It wasn’t Santa with his sack of presents and his galloping reindeer. But it was Christmas wrapped up in a moment for me. I still have that penny, an American one, 1970.

Profile: Jerry’s World

By Gord Atkinson

What’s in a name? For Jerry Koostachin it’s the beginning of the end of chaos,the last call for alcohol and a lost daughter’s embrace. “I think of my Indian name whenever I get into a problem,” said the tall Cree man. “it helps me be strong.” He got his name during graduation Ceremonies at a Native treatment center in Ontario about seven months ago.

That marked the end of a life long binge. Since then he has been Employed as a maintenance assistance at the Native Canadian Center of Toronto (NCCT). Koostachin is one of many Native people who declines to reveal his Spiritual name, and he only uses it during ceremonies. Koostachin also picked up a street name here in Toronto about five years ago. Someone saw him striding down a busy city sidewalk his long Trench coat swaying in the breeze and said, “Hey, you look like a walking Tree.” The name stuck. Recently, his two long time drinking companions, Little rain and dark cloud have also taken shelter with the walking Tree. They, too have renounced the bottle.

The chaos in Koostachin’s life began at age five when he was placed In St.Ann’s Residential School in James Bay, Ontario. The Place was typical of residential schools throughout the country. Many of the people who worked at the school often sexually and physically abused young Native children. That was a far cry from the fun he had at home scampering across the dry reserve grass and playing innocent childhood games with his brothers and sisters. Koostachin had no idea what was in Store for him the day he walked in St. Ann’s, his tiny trembling hands Clinging tightly to his mother’s side. His life was about to become a living nightmare. Punishment for him came for him swift. “A nun put a black cloth over me just as my mom started walking away,” he recalled. “It wasn’t my mom’s idea to put me there,” he continued. “ it was my dad’s.”

Life after residential school didn’t get any better. He returned home to a house filled with alcohol and violence. “Alcohol was a big thing in our house,” he said “My dad drank lot’s.” He talks fondly of his mother who was always sick, but still managed to provide for the growing family. Shortly after getting out of residential school his mother ended up in the hospital for three years with tuberculosis. While his mom was in the hospital his dad continued with his drinking ways.

“I used to like being locked out of the house because of what went on inside,” he said. “I felt safer outside then I did in my own home.” In later years he picked up on his dad’s alcohol addition. In recent months, Jerry has tried to embrace his father role with the two people he loves More than anything else in the world, his boy Reno, 10 and his daughter, Jackie,16. He sees Reno on weekends, but while he wants to visit his daughter, he has not seen her for awhile. “I want her to know I will always be their for her, “he said. Koostachin visualizes a tearful reunion if the two ever meet again. Maybe then she’ll call him by another name – Dad.

Native Canadian Newsletter Feb, 2002


Holding onto a Chain of Love

By Gord Atkinson

When Shawna Ackabee was a little girl her auntie's gift to her was a silver necklace with a picture of Jesus attached to it. It also showed a beautiful sunrise coming over the horizon. But more than the gift she was unwrapping, it was the words that her aunt used that helped carry her through the troubled,"She told me that she cared for me, "said shawna, now 17. "I've never forgotten that moment."

Those three words "I love you" were seldom heard on the Grassy Narrows Ojibwa First Nation where Shawn grew up. “I will always love my auntie,” she says. In later years, Shawna volunteered at various functions for her researve, but also found herself drinking and partying with many of her friends. She felt her teen years slipping way from her. Longing to get away from all the alcohol and drugs, she left her mother, stepdad, two brothers, two sisters and her beloved aunt Emily and boarded a Greyhound destined for Toronto.

The culminating moment came for her following a minor scuffle outside a Kenora shopping mall in which she emerged having lost her auntie’s gift.
“I felt like I lost my auntie,” she said. She was unskilled and uneducated for the street life when she arrived in the big city, but it seemed like that squalid existence was her only option. For a period of about eight months she lived out of her knapsack and slept on hard sidewalks receiving comfort from the hot soups, blankets and kind words handed out by Street Patrol and Street Help volunteers.

As a young girl her nights were fraught with paranoia, until she met her boyfriend Robert, another Native youth who made his home on the streets. “I never slept very well while I was living on the street,” she said. “I was always afraid of getting roughed up by a stranger.” Last December Shawna went home for Christmas. When her step dad picked her up at the bus depot in Kenora, she gave him an early Christmas Present “I hugged him and told him that I missed everybody in the family,” she said.

Shawna does soapstone carvings and knows how to play a guitar. She plans to save her money so she can buy her very own guitar. She believes her future is in Toronto where she now lives in an apartment and plans to return to high school in September. While other girl’s her age dream of modeling or acting careers, Shawna wants to go to university to become a forensic scientist. “It interests me,” she said about her career choice. “I will be tracing clues and connecting them to the truth.”

When Shawna graduates from high school in 2003 she would like to see her entire family at her graduation ceremonies. And, who knows, maybe her aunt Emily will give Shawna another chain of love as a graduation gift. She always remembers her aunt Emily telling her to be strong and never give up. “That’s what I’m doing now,’ smiles the talented Ojibwa girl.

© Native Canadian Newsletter Feb 2002


Yes, Erica, there is a Santa!

By Gord Atkinson

Three-year-old Erica Philips- Cada wasn’t fooled for one cold polar minute. She looked the man in the red suit straight in the eyes, above his big white beard and knew it wasn’t Santa. “He’s not Santa.” She said knowledgeably. “He’s Santa’s helper,” she continued. “Santa is in the North Pole with his reindeer,” she explained.

Phillips-Cada was one of about 350 children who came to the Native Canadian Center Of Toronto on December 2, to frolic and receive a gift from Santa.
Native Child and Family Services sponsors the popular event each year. “I told him to tell Santa I wanted a Christmas tree,” said Erica. “I’ve been a super good girl,” She said sweetly. “She has been good,” confirmed her grandmother, Kim Philips, an administrative assistant at Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment and Training. Philips, 42 said all she wanted for Christmas was for all the children to be happy.

All of the who attended the function listened to and sang Christmas carols; Played games and each enjoyed a hearty turkey dinner with all the trimmings. “I told him I wanted a drum,” said Erica’s six-year-old brother Dakota. “Because they make a lot of noise,” he said, while smiling mischievously at his mom who was sitting right across from him. For Dennis Phillips-Cada, he had his mind set on getting a scooter for Christmas. The three-year-old was also one of many Children who asked for lots of snow.

“A lot of the kids are asking for scooters and computers,” Santa said after the gathering. “I tell them my elves are making them.” However, he would not confirm or deny if he was Santa when asked by a reporter. “Santa is real,” he said before dashing off to feed his reindeer that were resting in a secret location north of the mega city. It was too mild to bring the reindeer into the city,” he said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson in the North Pole said during a Phone interview said Santa’s century old snowmaking machine has been malfunctioning in recent years, but technicians are working around the clock to have it repaired before the big day. “A lot of kids ask for snow,” he said. “We are hoping to give them a white Christmas.” The NCCT will be hosting its annual Christmas Dinner on December 16,2000. For more information
About the events call the NCCT at (416) 964-9087.

Native Canadian Newsletter Feb 2002


Native Elder Denied Birth Certificate

By Gord Atkinson

Toronto – So this is what it has come down to… oblivion. Mohawk Elder James Mason, 82,says that officially he doesn’t even
exist. “Three hundred years ago the whole continent belonged to us”he said, after his latest attempt to obtain a Canadian birth certificate
and status card. Now I don’t even exist.

His 21- year old granddaughter Marcia says he exists as she throws her arms around him. His life story says too. Mason was born in Toronto Ont. April 6, 1920, but never got to know his parents. His dad had died a month before he was born and mother passed away after a month he was brought in to this world. For the next twelve years he was ‘kicked around from one place to another’ but upon learning he was going to be placed in an Indian Residential School he left home. “I didn’t want anything to do with that school,” he says.

He was now on his own and knew he had to work hard to make a living for him self. So he packed up his belongings and left Toronto to pick berries and vegetables somewhere in southern Ontario. When the doors of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto (NCCT) first cracked open at its current location Mason was the first security guard. He worked there for there 20 years and managed to raise a growing family. But before the Mohawk Elder was a truck driver who hauled heavy loads right across North America.

As the years flew by he became a jack-of-all trades who retired with an impressive resume. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and he wasn’t afraid of heights. He was a lumber jack, did a fourteen year stint in steel work and even drove transport. “You name it I’ve done it,” he says with a proud smile. In 1968, after his wife Cora Jean Davis died his life was shattered. He lost the only woman he ever loved. He returned to the work force about four years later accepting a job at the old Native Centre on Beverly St. It was a job he’d keep for fourteen years.

By 1972, he started to volunteer at correctional institutions and Eventually got a second job at an organization called ‘Springboard’- Transporting visitors to correctional institutes to see inmates. Mason raised four boys and a girl and has 16 grandchildren. “He never relied on welfare,” says Jay Mason, one of his sons. “He worked hard all his life,” he continues. “He helped build southern Ontario by clearing land and became an ironworker who helped erect the buildings and bridges.”

In 1992 Henry Jack man, Ontario’s then Lieutenant Governor, rewarded Mason with an Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship. Recently, Mason received his temporary Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) but even had trouble getting that because he never had a birth certificate. “They told me to go back to the country I was born in to get my legal documents,” he says. “What country do you think I was born in,” was his response.

Meanwhile, Abrigional Legal Services of Toronto (ALST) has taken over his quest to secure a Birth Certificate and Indian Status card. But Mason Isn’t confident the government will give him the identification he needs. “It’s a loosing battle,” he says. Charlene Tehkummah, a community legal worker, says ALST has been working on the case for two years. “Its frustrating” she says, about bureaucratic red tape she has gone through. Mason, a valued community member and regular visitor to the Native Canadian Centre says the greatest reward is not the kind you put in your pocket. “It’s the kind you put in your
heart and carry to your grave.”

Native Canadian Newsletter Feb,2002


She helps them make it through the night

By Gord Atkinson

After two years of sleeping on heated concrete Maryjane Tait knows what she wants - her own home. And ironically, the Ojibwa teen is getting it by helping the homeless. Maryjane, 17, is the newest member of the Gimmie Shelter team, a mobile outreach service that assists Toronto's homeless in moving from street to shelter. In November alone, 168 homeless people across the city were assisted.

This program encounters some unique challenges since it relies on the persuasiveness of the workers to get the client to accept the offered shelter, because a lot of street people distrust social agencies. Thats where Maryjane's enthusiasm and warmth come in handy. She who has experienced so much of the rigors of the winter night seems the perfect person to assist others caught in the homeless trap. She knows what it takes to make it through the sub-zero temperatures and how it feels to shiver the night away under the wintry stars. Fantasies of being a superstar, changing the world or having a Martha Stewart kitchen are not what Maryjane is about. Hers is a basic goal. She just wants to get out of that arctic sleeping Bag, the four blankets stretched underneath and trade in the hard concrete for a real mattress. Maryjane was a sucessful graduate of the six-month Completing the Circle Program offered at Native Men's Residents (Na-Me-Res on Vaughan Rd.)

She excelled at her assigned tasks, including the afternoon Street Help outreach placement," said Theresa Burning,supervisor of counseling services at the men's shelter. "I'm not tired," she said, on a recent homeless seeking excursion. "I went to sleep early last night," she continued. "As long as
I'm working, I'm happy." Maryjane said she is determined to take the same path as Herman and Cindy Francis - a formally homeless couple who own their own van and live in a rented house in west-end Toronto. Herman has a full-time job and Cindy makes and sells her own Native arts and crafts. The two are raising a family unassisted. "I respect both of them,"Maryjane said.

She knows many, many people who have lived on the street for years. "I can't up you them and say do you want my will power," she said. "They 've got to do it themselves. But I can encourage them." Maryjane puts $300.00 aside every pa cheque so she will be able to pay first month's rent when she finds a suitable place. And she is keeping her fingers crossed and praying that her boyfriend Derek finds employment. "He (Derek) protects me." she said "Watch that girl go," said Briar Ames, coordinator of GimmieShelter. "She will be a leader in the community." Gimmie Shelter is funded by Human Resources Development Canada.

(HRDC), City of Toronto, Off the streets into shelters, (OSIS) and
Miziwe Biik Aborigional and Training.
Requests for services can be made through the Street Helpline
at: (416) 392-3777

Native Canadian Newsletter Feb,2002


Julia Valencia’s Hockey Career Forged In Steel

By Gord Atkinson

Patrick Roy… Felix Potvin…Julia Valencia? A towering winger unleashes a bullet and Valencia’s big glove goes
Into a blur. He shoots, she saves. The crack of the slap shot and the smack in the leather form a single loud impact. Valencia, 18, of Mississauga made 22 saves, that night at the Lambton Arena in Toronto’s west end in a losing caus e- she let in seven others.

After the game, the only women in the five team men’s hockey league smiles at her dad and hugs him. “She really works hard,” said Carlos Valencia. “I think she as a bit nervous for the first game,” The big slap shot was clocked at just under 100mph. ‘Those hard ones can burn the hand for a second or two,” said the 5ft-1 goaltender, after emerging from her private dressing room. “I still have a bruise on my thumb from another I took.”

In most Canadian families it’s the young boy who inherits his dad’s hockey stick. Not so with Team Valencia. About four decades earlier it was Julia’s mother who was stopping flying rubber in a three team Native co-ed team in James Bay, Ont. “In those days we didn’t have equipment,” said Celine Valencia, about her bruising hockey playing days. “All I had was a hockey stick,” recalled the bubbly 45 year-old. Celine was the only eight years old when she first started playing the game.

Friday nights the younger Valencia catches fast moving hockey pucks for a team called Council Fire, but the rest of the week she works at catching dreams. Valencia has taken a year off school to work in the Gift shop at the Native Canadian Center of Toronto, selling everything from Medicine bags to dream catchers. Her grade average in her graduating year was 94 per cent and her goal against average is 4.2.

“She really stands her ground,” said playing coach Thomas Wemigwans. The playoffs begin in March. “I think we can win it all if we pick it up a notch,” he continued. Council Fire is currently in second place in the York Men’s League. Valencia is welding of two cultures. Her dad is an immigrant from Ecuador. Mom is Cree form Moosonee. In fact, her hockey career was forged in steel, as both of her parents are certified welders. When Julia was 11yrs old her father’s gift to her was a pair of skates. They were the heavy black leather kind that most Canadian boys are given. So while most girls Her age were dreaming triple toe loops, Valencia was living her dream By protecting the net in a girl’s league. She has accumulated numerous hockey and soccer awards over the years.

In April of 1996 City TV named her Midas Player of the week. In the summer Julia keeps fit by playing soccer. She speaks some Spanish And just recently started learning about her Cree side. It started when she first Visited the NCCT in 1998. For Valencia, life is more than just stopping goals. She will be going to college this to begin a three-year course. “I’m hoping they have a hockey team,” smiles the talented net minder.

Native Canadian Newsletter Feb 2002