Windspeaker Logo

Share this with friends

Mary Thomas talks about:

Mary Thomas
Author: 
Windspeaker Staff
Volume: 
21
Issue: 
7
Year: 
2003

Page 31 Her dream of one day establishing a Native cultural centre -If we could have a lot of people go through [a cultural centre] and learn what it's like, what it was like and take the good things out of it and put it into our society today I'd think we'd be far better off. We'd learn to respect Mother Nature, we'd learn to respect ourselves, respect others. Those are the things that I would really like to get across to the people in general, not just our Native people. 'Cause we have to live together here. There is no way we are going to get rid of anybody. We're here to stay. We're all brothers and sisters. We're all human beings. We've got feelings. That's why I'm dedicated to getting a cultural centre going where I could just stay in one place. People could come there and learn instead of me running around to all the schools, because I'm getting tired. I think a lot of our Elders have given so much of themselves. And they hate to say no. I have that. I can't say no when somebody asks me 'We need your help. OK.' I don't think of myself. I think of them. That's why I'd like to see the cultural centre go, and we could teach the values of our people... Why there are so many Aboriginal people in jails and the problems with money -When we had the family structure the way it was, you have all the Elders. And when you listen today, when you finish high school, you are on your own. You get out. You go struggle for yourself. But our people didn't do that. When you became of age, you already knew what the expectations were and that was formed into a big family circle-grandparents, mothers and fathers, uncles, aunts, big brothers, big sisters, the cousins-all of age, all around the edge, and the little ones were in the middle. And every one of these older people had a responsibility to teach the little ones the values of life that someday they would enter into this outside circle. And it was a continuous thing like that. You were taught all the values, the morals of our people. That was the strongest thing they had was the family unit. And we question what happened, why did it happen? When the white people first came, the government and the churches were used to break that circle. They took us and put us in the residential schools. We were taught different values. We weren't taught the morals that [should have been] taught to us. There were no parenting skills, period. So, that's when our family circle broke. People didn't have respect for one another anymore. And you know there was never alcohol in our lives. That was never part of our culture. But after the Second World War when our men came back from the war they were a changed people. They had no more morals, no values, no respect, and they were addicted to alcohol. Because the government told them that as soon as you put the Queen's uniform on you're like a white man. You can go sit in the beer parlor and drink all the beer you want. And there were a lot of family break ups, a lot of family abuse, child neglect and that's when everything just went down.... That came because of the white man's belief in life, and we have to learn to change that somehow. But I feel that there is a lot of people already on our side. But they don't know just how to fit in and just what they should be doing. They want to learn more about the values of our culture. I can't do it alone. I need more of our Elders. They are getting fewer and fewer. They are all dying off. I just feel like I'm carrying a load all alone. And it's really tiring. Number one, we have to come to understand what did our people do [in the old days], what was it that they did, and use those values to implement within the school...We need to begin to identify what is it that's destroying us. And everybody knows that money is the issue, fast money, money, money, Money. You don't have no values, nothing good comes out of money. And that's what the whole system is about, and I'm hearing a lot of loud cry already appening. It not only from our people, it's the people in general. How many times I've gone to Vancouver, Victoria...Every time I go to a workshop, a convention, I see crowds of people all on the street with loudspeakers, 'We need jobs. We need jobs.' Young people are crying for jobs. One machinery [they use today] will take the place of six to 10 human workers. It's all mass-produced. It's all done by machinery. And there is only a handful of people getting very rich from it. And you are going to see, this was foretold a long time ago by my Elders, that the money is going to be the destruction... The benefits of a common language -I can hear my grandfather saying 'One day you are going to hear a language spoken...a language that's going to unite us. And our Elders are going to get stronger and stronger... What I'm looking for is the day we all start to communicate, which we've already done... you and I speak two different languages, even though we are both Native, but we got that common language between us, we can both speak English, and it's something my grandfather foretold. We'll all learn to speak one language and we can turn around and educate the owner of that language. We are not adopting it for nothing. It's going to be a tool to use to unite us. And I can see that happening... but we have that common language, the English. The benefits of spending time with Mother Earth Here in B.C. we are so fortunate to have such beautiful high mountains...to us, this is just beautiful... I have to celebrate that... If you don't reconnect yourself to Mother Nature you just wear out...I'd never get lost up in the mountain, but take me downtown and turn me loose in town, I go around one corner and I'm lost. I'd go up in the mountain and there is no way I'd get lost. I just love, all alone, walking behind trees, listening to the little birds, especially the loon. If there is a lake way up in the mountain, you sit and listen at night and you can hear that echo of th loon, when he gives his yah-holler, you hear his echo go through among the trees. It's so beautiful, you just feel at peace and calm. Just sitting out their listening to the loon on the lake, way up in the mountains. It's so peaceful... My aunt gave me [a] loon song... Oh, it just fills me with peace and calm. I can't help but pray. The loon is so free. I pray to the Creator to keep that freedom, teach us that freedom, protect all the things that he has created. We're just here on borrowed time. Let our spirits be free like the loon. Hear us echo through the forest. Beautiful, beautiful world. I try really hard to educate my children...let the little children learn what it's like to listen to the loon. It's a beautiful free bird... Whenever I feel down, I feel as though everything is crowding in on me, I'll sing [the loon song] and I just feel the freedom coming back to me. That I'm me and I can change things. I get that strength and I pray, give me that freedom... That will be a prayer for all our Elders, to remain strong. Not to give up on our young people's future. We will go down together praying. To be free like the loon. He still looks after the wilderness. That's where he belongs is up on the mountain, and does the beautiful echo, and brings that peace and calm in your heart and it is so beautiful. The strength of positive thinking -The United Church in town here, gave me a letter of apology for the way their church treated our people in the residential schools. You know, it takes a lot for a person to apologize. You have to give a lot of yourself to do that. And personally, I have dealt with all the pain and suffering I was subjected to in the residential school. I was full of hate, I was full of anger and I just hated myself for being a Native person and I hated white people in general just for the sake of the residential school. Well I dealt with that. It took me a long time to deal with it. And I've finally come out of it. I've taken the whol thing and I've thrown it aside and I've replaced it with positive thinking. And that's what got me to where I am today. I'm pretty well respected by different ethnic groups. People are always [calling]...There's a lot of good that can be learned from our culture. We must have something behind us or we would have been wiped off this earth long ago with the treatment they gave us. But there's somebody up there looking after us. And we're getting stronger. Our voice is getting stronger and it's being heard all over the world. I have faith in that and I pray that it continues...

Related Content