Norman Fleury: Part 2 Video Transcript
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I would say our grandparents were the best teachers that any body would have wanted because we have learned the Michif language, we learned Michif culture, we learned our stories, our legends, our songs, our feasts, our celebrations, we learned all those from our grandparents, because my grandparents, well they were born in about 1873 and 1875, and my great grandparents, I’m speaking more of my Maternal grandparents, because I did not know my paternal grandparents, but my maternal grandparents parents, they were of the buffalo hunt era.
They were buffalo hunters and my grandfather and grandmother used to tell us stories about like in 1851 battle when they had the battle of the Grand Couteau some place in the United States against the Sioux. Those kinds of stories, like they were real, live, vivid stories that the old people told.
My grandfather used to tell us stories about his father and working with the Hudson’s Bay company and they would haul freight for the Hudson Bay Company and they would start in around the Winnipeg area or St Francis Xavier and they would go along The Carleton Trail right to Edmonton. It would took them, I think he’d say, about 3 months, by the time they left home and brought freight over and brought some back it took them about that long.
Those were the stories, and they told us a lot of the history, they spoke of Louis Riel. They spoke of him that he was a very wise person, quite a leader and somebody that as a believer, very much a Christian. Even after they grew up the stories were not told as much It was hushed for long time up and then, as they got older they started talking about those stories more and more.
Now when you grew up, did you grow up as a Michif ?
Always, always grew up as a Michif, always. We did not know any thing else. And we knew if you were a Michif person. And we always were. See our grandparents instilled pride in who we were. They never discouraged us from saying who we were. Some people may have had different experiences but we didn’t. Like our grandparents always were proud people, and they were proud Métis people
And now my Bannock, ma gallete key chaud.
You mentioned the buffalo hunt .. Did you hear stories of the buffalo hunt in particular?
Well, the stories that they tell us, like my grandmother, like my mom’s mom, told me stories she said their was so many people, it was a like a little town. When they camped at night, those that were already set up camp and already were cooking, you could still here the creaking of the Red River carts a long ways away and there were still people coming in. There was that many. She did not exactly know what there was in numbers but there was so many
Lis gallete awa chaud. It’s hot ! Nice and hot…
So my grandmother was quite a historian and she never ever went to school. She never sent to school a day in her life. She couldn’t read or write, but you could not, how would I say it now, she would never stumble when it came to history because she knew, because she lived it. They didn’t only talk about it, they lived it. So my grandmother, she also hunted, she had her own gun, she would set snares, she was a medicine women.
There was a man who is gone now, he lived to be ninety some years old. He came to my grandmother’s…I think it was in the late 30’s…and he had tuberculosis. My grandmother cured him of tuberculosis. He worked on the railway for over 30 some years after that. He was cured.
She also had six daughters. She brought all of our family into this world. She was the midwife and she used to go, well all hours of the night, somebody would knock on the door and they would be there with a team of horses. They would say my wife is going to have a baby, or my daughter, so my grandmother would take her thread and her Vaseline and her scissors and just the little things she needed and she would be gone. And she went to she’d deliver babies. In those days, they could only give her things like, if they were farmers, maybe meat or some goods for her services. And sometimes she never ever got paid. But because she was a midwife, it was her responsibility and if she didn’t go, then she would feel very bad if something had happened. It was like a doctor; if you’re on call, you gotta go all the time
We used to go digging medicines, so I know some medicines, some herbs because of my grandmother. She learned from a Cree lady, a Cree woman taught her. This lady always told her to put tobacco to give thanks and if you did not have any tobacco you prayed, you knelt down and prayed and you asked the Creator or God, that if you are taking something to give life, so you put something back, and that was the idea.
So my grandmother had quite a balance as a Michif person. She had the European mixture and the First Nations, and since the Métis evolved to have their own distinct culture and society, she was a 3rd generation or 4th generations Métis / Michif, so they had the dances, the songs, the history and stories of the Michif people. And it was not borrowing from anybody because we developed our own and our language was developed.
Her story of the language was that it when God created man, the French he gave French, the English he gave them English, the First Nations were give Dakota, Cree, Ojibway and then she said the Métis were created, so when God created us, it was his responsibility to give us a language so we could communicate with each other. And so she said it was a God-given spiritual language, a language of the land. Which makes a lot of sense.
Because you can’t really explain to people, it is really difficult when you start telling them about what your language is all about and she said, ‘you know our language that we have belongs to us. That language that God gave to us belongs to us.’ Because when we speak French or Sioux, or Dakota, Ojibway or other languages, English, which is what 90% of the Métis, speak, it is still not our language…we use it, it’s a borrowed language. But when we speak Michif, that’s our language and nobody can come and take that away from us, because that was given to us.
I have learned a whole lot from my grandparents and I thank them very much. Because without them…I was very, very fortunate to grow up in an environment, in a community where they still had the values of the Métis in terms of the culture and language and just everything.
We were distinct…we never tried to be French. We never tried to be anybody else. We were Métis. We didn’t have to look at our genealogy, we knew, we were born into it. So that’s the big difference. And that’s why I feel so fortunate, because when I hear about these talks about people wondering who they are, I really feel sorry…I sympathize with them. I feel sorry in a lot of ways because, I guess, I really don’t know what that would be like.
You know when we start speaking Michif , when I go to these conferences like Michif Language Conferences or when I talk to my friends in Michif, it feels so good because we know what we are talking about, we know who we are, we don’t have to look for definitions, we don’t have to explain. When you are amongst Michif speakers, you know who you are.