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Return to Innu Culture

9:37 min. - Evelyne tells about the path she took to reclaim her culture.


Evelyne St-Onge - The first time I found myself alone, completely alone, with neither children nor husband, I realized that... that I was on my own. And what was I going to do with myself? I really panicked. I thought that at least if the children were there, I could make toast, make their breakfast. I resolved nothing, I resolved nothing. I kept going and that's when I started drinking. And it was... it was quite a dark period for me, when I started drinking. I did... I started fights sometimes over politics, when I said things that... I was shy, I still had my problems with shyness that dated back to the residential school. And that nun followed me, the one that had humiliated me in public, and, when I drank, Lord she got pushed aside and I talked a lot, and... because for me, drinking... we didn't learn that at home. Really, it's like, drinking was my own decision. Because, I liked it immediately, right away I liked drinking. Because it gave me a chance to speak. It gave me the opportunity to laugh, to sing, all that... all the inhibitions were gone and I was really, completely transformed, and I really like that feeling. In Montréal, there was a women's group, and they asked me to join. There was myself and Anne Kapesh from Schefferville. And we both joined. There were women from every community in the Province of Québec. It was to establish a Native Women's Association in Québec. I said okay. That's when I learned that, all the law, the fact of being married to a Non-Native, all that, I wasn't Indian anymore. And in '85, the Indian Act changed concerning the status of women. Now I can marry whomever I please. I will remain Native. However, even now, it's not all settled for the children. It's settled for me, but it's not resolved for all of my generation. When I came back to the village here, the Indians said, "Hey, you, what is this? "You're not Indian any more, you betrayed us, you rejected us, you married a Québécois". And that made me react strongly. When I'd been drinking a bit, I reacted strongly. But on the other hand, I look at that today, it was a wake-up call for me to attend to my culture, I needed to attend to what I missed. I had to show the Indians that I was Indian. And, when there was a women's meeting I was involved, I was involved in the language. Everything Innu, I was everywhere, everywhere. I had to prove to the Indians that I was Indian. It was the beginning of us taking charge of education, and I enjoyed that, it was a movement that brought a lot of energy. Taking charge, and the Innu were finally doing something. When I had my identity crisis, and then it calmed down, I started dreaming in Indian. I started dreaming about an Innu prince charming who would take me into the bush, and ultimately, I met Philippe, a singer. And he sang in Innu. And that suited me very, very well. I had never seen him before. And we were at Moisie River, there was... I remember there was a journalist from Radio-Canada and we were all together at the camp up at DesNeiges. We were preparing a meal... there was a storm, and all of a sudden... before the meal. And everyone went to take shelter under the trees and all that. And lightning struck near the car, and Philippe was there. It was love at first sight! And... I'd never seen this one before. A year and a half later we decided to live together and we had Mishtashipu. Something was still missing for me. I thought, "I've stopped drinking, I'm healthy, "I'm starting to resolve my relationship issues and all that..." but I felt something was still missing inside. And I knew it was the spiritual side. And I thought, "My God, when I left the residential school, "I left God behind at the residential school when I closed that door. I left him there." I went on like that, without faith, without religion, not believing in anything. I felt like I had a complex. I didn't feel right... There was an emptiness inside me. And one night, Édouard, Édouard Michel came to our home and... "You know, I'm going to a full moon ceremony", and I said, "Yes" I said, I'll go with you." We were all sitting on the ground, it was the full moon, and there was a woman. There was a Naskapi woman who spoke about... the relationship to the earth, the sun, the moon... And that's when I found my answer. I found an entire spirituality around the elements of the earth that I'd never, never imagined, that I'd never seen, that I never thought could exist. And that was a discovery for me, a beautiful discovery, and afterwards I kept on wanting to learn more. Afterwards, they had a sweat lodge. It took place on the Moisie River, and I think it was my grandfather's territory, my maternal grandfather. I thought a lot about my ancestors that time, and I cried all the way through. I cried and cried and cried. It's as if I cried all the sorrow in the world that I had experienced. All the hurt I had experienced all my life, I cried about it that time. When I came out of there, I started laughing, I saw the stars, anyhow, I was lying on the ground... I'd been to the edge and that brought even more discoveries and, and still I keep up that side of things now. I go every year, every year I go to the Lakota Sun Dance. And that is a very, very important bond for me. It's the spiritual bond. The spiritual bond that was missing and that I'd always searched for... it took time for me to understand, and... and I really love that bond because it's gestures. It's ways of doing, ways of thinking that attach you to the earth, that attach you to others. We make the same gestures. Lakota or Innu, it doesn't matter, we make the same gestures.
Music - Kathia Rock

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