Mom says I have it easy and that I have no clue what sacrifices Grandpa made for me to have such a ‘normal’ life. As I get older and as you get older Grandpa I have come to realize I know nothing about you. All I know is that you are my Grandpa and that’s all that mattered to me before. I am ready to listen now Grandpa, my distractions are set aside and my heart is open to hear your story, your life journey.Read Dominique Parisee's My Ojibway Hero
My name is Dominique Parisee, I am 15 years old and I am of Ojibway decent. I am the proud granddaughter of Roland Parisee, member of Brunswick House First Nation, Chapleau, Ontario. I wanted to share my grandfather’s story because he was able to overcome vast obstacles in life to get to where he is today. When I told him I wanted to write about his life story he was encouraging me write about my great grandmother and her struggles with discrimination and losing her Indian Status. He is a very humble man and did not think his story needed to be told. I want to let people know that change is possible no matter what obstacles are placed in front of you, the cycle can be broken. There is a little voice inside of us all, some call it our psyche, maybe it is God or the Creator talking to us but we must listen to that voice, it is very powerful. It was difficult to write a short story on my grandfather’s life as there is much more to share about him. He is my role model, an inspiration and after sharing his story I know he will be for others too.
I lay down on my comfy bed, the warm sun is shining through my window, the web from my dream catcher makes a cool design on my wall, I have my laptop beside me and my new cell phone that is beeping like crazy from my friends texting me…..life is good! Mom says I have it easy and that I have no clue what sacrifices Grandpa made for me to have such a ‘normal’ life. As I get older and as you get older Grandpa I have come to realize I know nothing about you. All I know is that you are my Grandpa and that’s all that mattered to me before. I am ready to listen now Grandpa, my distractions are set aside and my heart is open to hear your story, your life journey.
“Anin sikwa my Granddaughter” and he gently cupped his hands over my ears and kissed my forehead. I had a vision of you long, long ago. I could not see the colour of your eyes or the curves of your face or hear your name but I knew one day you would exist, and I wanted a great life for you. I wanted for you to always be warm and never go hungry, to have a loving home, one free of violence and alcohol, a good education and a life free from discrimination. That vision lit a spark inside of me to make a change and to break the cycle. Now that you are older I will share with you how I grew up to be the man I am today. A man I hope you are proud to call your ‘Grandpa’.
My vision was the Creator at work, telling me there was something bigger in the world for me, but I did not know what that something was. It was the Creator’s way of guiding me on my life’s journey. All I had to do was listen to him.
I grew up in a small village in Northern Ontario called Franz. It had a population of approximately 100 First Nations and non-aboriginal people. My education suffered at a very young age, I was basically illiterate at age 13. There was a small school house with one teacher and approximately 20 children from grades one to eight. I have many memories but one that is so vivid in my mind today. I was a young boy and I went to catch a suckerfish from the lake. My teacher found out and when I returned to class he whipped my hands with a large leather strap. He repeatedly whipped my hands over and over in hopes I would cry. I did not shed one tear for him, I resented him for what he did to me and it still weighs heavy in my heart today.
Growing up amongst alcoholics was ‘normal’ for me. Alcohol use was prevalent amongst all my family members, my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles. I despised alcohol for what it was doing to my family and didn’t indulge. I had my first beer when I was 22 years old. To escape the dysfunction I would spend a lot of time roaming around in the bush. I would hunt grouse, rabbit and fish and when I got older I started to hunt for moose. Being in the bush was my own heavenly oasis.
The Creator was always speaking to me and I knew I had to leave my family. In Grade 8 I moved to Aurora, Ontario to live with my Uncle. During that year he lost his job and couldn’t afford to house me. Food was very scarce and I ate a lot of rice. My mom would send moose meat in the mail to supplement my diet but by the time it arrived the meat had spoiled. The winter months were frigid as we had no heat. My only source of heat was from a kerosene heater. I would wear my winter jacket and climb in to bed to stay warm. It was very difficult to concentrate on my studies because I was so cold, hungry and lonely. I knew that I may not have another chance at obtaining an education so I drowned myself in my studies. I would read the dictionary as it was readily available and I would copy my notes over and over until I knew the subject well.
Later that year I met a non-aboriginal couple, Mr. and Mrs. Scott. They were very concerned for my well-being and my education so they invited me to stay with them and I graciously accepted. It was sure nice to be in a warm house with home cooked meals and friendly people. It was difficult at times because I was very shy and would not speak unless I was spoken to but with time I grew to love them like my own Mom and Dad. During my high school years, the Scott’s treated me extremely well; they encouraged and assisted me with my studies. Mr. Scott was exceptional in math and was able to guide me in my mathematical studies but I always struggled with English and I blame that on the lack of education I received during my early years of schooling.
I can recall the first time I felt discriminated for being aboriginal. The high school I attended was dominantly ‘all white’ and one of my class mates told me to go back to the reservation. I believe to this day I was the only aboriginal student in the school. I wanted to leave many times due to loneliness. I was 500 miles away from home with no communication with my family except for the occasional letter I would receive from my mother. I never had my mother’s support for leaving home and getting an education. She wanted me to stay by her side and work on the railroad tracks. Something was always pushing me to obtain an education. My parents could not afford to pay for my schooling and because I was not a status Indian there was no financial assistance available. I was one of the oldest of 10 children in the family and I wanted to set an example for the rest of my siblings…..anything is achievable with hard work and dedication.
I was in my grade 12 year and I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I browsed the walls in the counsellor’s office and I notice an RCMP pamphlet and I thought to myself that that would be a good career. I applied and wrote my entrance examination. During the examination I overheard a couple of recruiters say “an Indian is applying.” I never thought much of it; I assumed there would be many Indians in the RCMP. During my RCMP training at Depot in Regina, Saskatchewan I quickly realized I was the only aboriginal person in my troop and only saw one other aboriginal person in another troop during my training in the early 1970’s.
During my latter years in the RCMP it was then that I started to partake in sweats, round dances, and pipe ceremonies. Attending sweats made me feel whole, close to the Creator. I felt at home around my people, my aboriginal brothers and sisters. Where I grew up in Northern Ontario I never attended any of these ceremonies because the Elders were forbidden from performing any of their traditional ceremonies.
I was able to break the cycle and provide my family a life free from violence, alcoholism and obtain an education but I could not change the word ‘discrimination’. I was not the only one that felt discriminated; your great-grandmother was forced to give up her Status in 1948 after being hounded by Indian Affairs for 3 years after marrying my father who was not a status Indian. Losing her Indian status had a profound effect on my mother. I often heard her say, “I am not an Indian anymore; I am now a white woman.” One of my mom’s cheeriest moments was when she regained her Status in 1985 along with her children – Bill C31. I could finally identify myself as being Indian. As a result of this bill, First Nation women continued to be discriminated against. On January 31, 2011 Bill C3 passed allowing the grandchildren to gain Indian Status……your mother!
After retiring from the RCMP my grandfather went and furthered his education by attending the University of Regina and received his Business Administration Diploma. He is currently employed with Saskatchewan Justice.
Miigwech and I hope you enjoyed my story, my Grandfather’s life journey, my Ojibway hero.