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Today life is easy. When I tell my children the hard times I experienced long time ago in my younger days, they have a hard time to comprehend it. Life long time ago was different than it is today. We were cautious not to over play and we weren’t allowed to wander around during the night. We were ordered to go in at dusk. If a young child didn’t go home that night and when the parents searched they’d used to use a small stick to punish them for disobeying. I don’t mean they hit hard, they just tap just to make a point. The other lesson I learned from my grandparents was to respect other people’s property, not to bother them at their house. Also, not to talk against your neighbour and respect your elders. I learned similar advice when I went to school. Today, the younger people do not seem to take heed. Long time ago, even when the elderly were getting on with age and walking with a cane, they still did their own chores like fetching water for themselves. We always stopped playing to go and help them and they looked so frail but they were so determined to do it themselves. They used to be grateful for the help and told us that we would have white hair, and we will grow old gracefully. That’s why I have white hair. Another lesson that I learned from my grandmother and the school is never to sit on clothing if it’s on a chair, especially a man’s clothing. Men were really respected those days because they were the ones who provided food to the family. The girls were mostly warned never to sit or step over an animal or a male person because of her menses. It was disrespectful to do that. I was asked to talk to the students one time and I pointed out this important lesson. Another form of respect which disappeared long time ago is when a man meets someone on the road or somewhere, they used to lift their hat or take off their hat as a sign of respect. The traditional teachings long time ago were well-respected. When a moose was killed everything of that animal was utilized and we didn’t leave any garbage around. We kept our campsite clean. Sometimes, it happened that they could not use all of the animal, they would burn the unused parts it so it would not contaminate the area. We still practice these teachings that were passed on from our grandparents. The long-term care service for the elders is the best thing that could happen at this day and age. All they need is some company. They need people to visit them and talk to them and show some compassion. I know they’re not going to be around a long time but we should be more compassionate towards them and let them enjoy their remaining days. The only visitors they get is their relatives and it would be nice of some people would go and check up on them to see if they require anything. Some of them need help to feed themselves, especially the strokestricken patients, or to look after their hygiene and I’m sure they will be grateful for all the little things done for them. Long time ago in my younger days, there were a group of older ladies who shared everything they caught, like rabbits. They used to make a big camp fireplace and cook those rabbits and share their food to everybody who happened to come and see them. Grandmothers long time ago used to call young children ‘my grandchildren,’ not just their own biological kin but every child and young person. Now, I never hear anybody refer to the young people as their grandchildren and that includes myself. I’m guilty of that. That gesture is kindness and love. The young people feel that emotion when the elders call them ‘my grandchildren.’ Things are different now. The nuns at the residential school were aware of that. They even called the elder ladies ‘my grandmother.’ Even the Oblate brothers and priests used that expression. When a hunter comes back from the bush, he shares what he had brought back. The hunter didn’t want to be paid for his kindness but there were some people that wanted to give in return for that kindness to acknowledge their appreciation. Basic food like sugar, tea, oats and flour, something that he can use, too. My father used to go hunting ducks in the summer and when he came back to the community, people used to come and ask if they could have some ducks to eat. My father never asked for anything in return but people use to come by to give something in appreciation for his kindness. We used to run out of food basics, like sugar, and we were quite happy when they give us sugar in return for our kind gesture because we would run out of sugar rather quickly. There are only a few people that still follow the traditional way of life because they’re dying off. My husband still does activities in the bush. There is nobody to replace them and trapping no longer interests people and the fur prices are declining every year. I wonder if Greenpeace (the animal activists) has something to do with that.


Teachings by Mary Sutherland


teachings, respect, elders, school, lessons, disrespect, moose, health, hunt, food,

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