I am from the Saulteau First Nations Reserve on Moberly Lake. I was born in a hospital over an hour down the road but the generation before me were all born right at home in log cabins. Some were born in tepees!
My mom’s name was Irene. My dad met her when he was only twenty years old. He was an Irish Canadian who came north to fight forest fires and log. She was cooking at one of the camps he worked at.
They hooked up and a year later I was born.
She died when i was eight months old.
My dad was devastated and didn’t even go to the funeral. He left me with my grandparents. I never saw him much after that, until I was in school, and we did get closer when I was a teenager.
He died a few years back.
I was really raised by my grandma, Suzette Napoleon.
She was full-blooded Danezaa, no Caucasian blood at all and didn't speak English. She lived a traditional life, following the seasons, which meant working all the time trying to stay ahead of the game. She never ran out of stuff to do.
My father was born in Saudi Arabia, where his father worked in oil and gas.
Later he went to boarding school at Heatherdown,his side of the family was, and still is, very British. Always civil and never mushy or sentimental.
My mother comes from a completely different walk of life.
She, like the rest of her family is a warm, practical person with a love of learning, hard work, and family.
She bought and operated two bars on the King's Road, trendy places, one was called the "Constant Grouse" and the other one was called "Le Chevalier".
That’s where she met my Dad.
We had an elementary day school in Moberly Lake.
It was rough. Fights all the time. And the teachers didn’t have any trouble laying the strap on you. We’d practice boxing during recess. Boxing. That was our entertainment.
Public school was almost as bad as residential school because of the indoctrination but there were some good teachers. In fourth year I met Mr. Odin. He was the first teacher that ever encouraged me.
Then in grade five we all had to start bussing to a school in Chetwynd, down the road. It wasn’t just us native kids anymore. There was a lot of racism, even from the teachers, which I’d never experienced before.
It was the worst. Most of my friends left school, but I stuck with it because I had a natural curiosity for things. And I knew it would be a lot harder than doing chores for my grandma all day.
When I turned seven I was sent to a boarding school called Sunningdale. It was a very structured environment, but it also provided us with a lot of freedom.
Yes, we put on our collar and ties for chapel on Sundays, and changed clothes for lunch, and had brown shoes on in the morning and black shoes for night, but we were also out in the woods lighting campfires with a pack of matches the teacher gave you.
Although we were terrified of the headmaster and the matron, Sunningdale was an incredibly loving environment and real home away from home. That said if students had a problem with each other they often settled outside. There was a different mentality back then. Things were a little rougher around the edges but it was all done in an incredibly loving way.
We looked after each other
My Grandma was the main cook in our house. She turned all the wild game we caught into things like meatloaf and moose burgers.
She also was in charge of the garden and did all the canning. On Saturday mornings we’d have pancakes smothered in her special berries from the root cellar beneath our house. So good.
Both of my parents worked in hospitality but never really had anything to do with food at work.
It was a different scene at home. They loved to entertain and threw a lot of dinner parties. My mother always seemed to relish feeding people and I liked watching her cook, especially when it meant transforming a fish or some game into a meal.