Maggie Blackbird

Romancing Canada's Indigenous People


I was over at Romance University and followed Loucinda McGary’s link to her blog.  She is a great blogger, with all kinds of interesting topics going on.  One of them I liked was Ten Things…

I’m an Ojibway chickie (thanks to mom and dad) who grew up on the rez–or First Nation, if I use today’s pc terminology, heh.  A child of the 70s and teenager of the 80s.  So I’m going to tell you ten things about growing up on the rez.

1.  The abandoned residential school was our playground.  It had sidewalks.  Paved small roads.  OMFG, pavement.  Can you believe it?  We’d ride our bikes down all the paths, skateboard, play tennis–clueless to what the big fun building used to be since we were too young to have been in residential school.  The one we played at closed in ’74.

2.  The old house where the priests used to live, who were a part of the residential school, was another fun playground, before someone moved into it (I still remember when Pam and her family moved in).  When you first opened the door, you had to climb a steep, long staircase.

3.  We still had outhouses.  No indoor plumbing!  When my friends from town arrived for my birthday party, they kept asking where the bathroom was!  Haha.  Naive me thought everyone had outhouses.  Luckily, Mom set up a makeshift porta-potty for our guests.

4.  Baths in the big grey tub.  Mom would heat water and fill this every Sunday night.  We’d get our hair washed, jump in the tub and play.  Can you believe we were considered one of the more progressive First Nations at the time?  LOL.

5.  Fish derbies.  My dad ran the volunteer fire department and was also the Fire Prevention Officer for the surrounding bands in our area (10 at the time).  This was an exciting time.  Mom would do her cooking and haul us to the fire hall for a day of fun.  While the men would take off fishing (we are on a lake, lake is a mere stone’s throw from my parents’ house), all day us kids would get to enter bike races, potato sack racing, etc.  When the men returned, we’d have a big fish fry with all the trimmings.

6.  Treaty Day.  Sort of like the fish derby.  It’s the day our band signed the treaty with the federal government of Canada.  There’d be all sorts of fun and games, with the adults getting in on the festivities, too.

7.  A rocking bus.  The band installed a stereo and speakers into our lil school bus.  While we drove to school, someone would slip an 8-track into the stereo and we’d get to rock out.

8.  Dogs got to roam free (a lot of them still do at other First Nations I used to travel to for business).  Old Ben, our doggie, never knew a ball and chain.  He’d accompany us all over the rez:  swimming, hiking, picnics at the big hill, etc.  No wonder why he lived till he was twenty-two.

9.  The old oil stove.  Rez homes at the time were pretty much built from match sticks.  During very cold winter nights, the heat wouldn’t reach the end of the house where the bedrooms were, so Mom would move the mattress on the floor in the living room.  Me, Mom, Dad, and my two sisters and brother huddled together under blankies.  Body heat and the heat from the oil stove would keep us warm.

10.  Helping Father Lambert run his bingos in the church basement.  Mom always took us to church every Sunday (we went to Catholic school in town and have a church on the rez), so me and my siblings were Father Lambert’s altar servers.  With our circle of friends lending a hand, we’d work the bingo and assist in the canteen.  Father Lambert would even give us treats afterwards for all our hard work.

Good memories.  I could go on and on about the baseball tournaments, trips to the Point, etc.

4 thoughts on “Ten things

  1. Hey Maggie!

    Thanx so much for reading my Romance U post and going over to my blog. I really appreciate your support. LOVED reading your 10 things all related to the rez! Quite a different world then. As you said, your nieces and nephews don’t realize how good they have it.

    Got a real laugh about the outhouse. My dentist of 20 years (he retired recently the RAT!) immigrated with his parents from Sicily when he was 5. He told me the only thing he remembered about Sicily was the outhouses. 😉 Those things leave a lasting impression, don’t they?



    1. Do they ever LOL. I think anyone who’s encountered outdoor bathrooms never forgets, heh. Thanks for stopping by, Aunty Cindy.


  2. Love this post! You really made that world come alive. Do you write stories in that setting? I’d love to read more about the people. I’m guessing you don’t live there now. When did you leave? Do you parents still live there? How has it changed since you left?


    1. Yes, the one story (the WIP i’m editing) takes place at one of the other First Nations within this district. I’ve been up there many times for business (constantly visited all 25 for biz and many others throughout Ontario). Before the bridge was built for this rez I’m writing about, you had to take the boat over, or some came in via float plane. I always liked that First Nation, probably because they’re on a lake, tucked in the wilderness, and the buildings and homes are built on a slope that leads to a huge hill. When you get out of the boat, you have a full view of the community. Just gorgeous to look at. The first time I stepped off the boat, I swore I was coming home, but my dad said I’d never been there before.

      Mind you, the story I’m editing takes place in 2011. The MC is a teacher at the school (since this First Nation is more isolated, they have a school).

      Hubby and I bought our house in ’99. We’re 45 mins from the rez where I grew up. So we’re always stopping in to visit, since our families still reside there. I haven’t lived on the rez since I finished school. Housing–that would be a post in itself how housing works. Hubby’s pharmacy is also located on the rez (technically agency land). As for that residential school, it’s now an office building for the aboriginal organisations. Four bands own the building and have a board of directors set up. My aunt manages the building.

      The rez has changed a lot. I watched the street lights come in, the new sub-division go up (where my brother lives), the new band office built, the golf course built, new fire hall…all kinds of changes. When I was maybe eleven, we finally had indoor plumbing. Yay! LOL. Now it’s just a lil town like any other town. My nieces and nephews don’t know how good they have it, heh.


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