WHERE MY STORIES COME FROM, WHICH IS TO SAY, WHO I AM
WHERE MY STORIES COME FROM, WHICH IS TO SAY, WHO I AM
I am a registered and claimed member of the Metis Nation of Ontario (www.metisnation.org), the federally and provincially recognized representative government for our community. Specifically, I am from the Historic Georgian Bay Métis Community with section 35 Indigenous rights. My mother, aunts and uncles, sibling, children and cousins are all registered and claimed members. But I want to talk about the specificity of my stories outside of the categories and designations and instead, from a community standpoint.
My Mere (grandmother) Edna Dusome, was a member of the Georgian Bay Metis Community. She was born in 1913 and passed away in 2005 after raising me alongside my parents. I talk about her a lot in my work and most of my stories come from her, in one way or another. Her mother was Henrietta Patterson-Boucher-Trudeau-Beausoleil (DOD 1962). Henrietta (or Hattie as she was known) was raised by her aunt/godmother Olive Beausoleil and her uncle Isadore Dusome, both community members, but her birth parents were Cecile Beausoleil and (Charles) Benjamin Trudeau, also both community members.
Henrietta’s mother, Cecile Beausoleil, was the daughter of Alexie Beausoleil and Olive Giroux. Alexis was one of the “halfbreed” signatories on the 1840 Penetanguishene Petition (http://www.metismuseum.ca/resource.php/14577). Olive was French. Henrietta’s father died in Sault Ste. Marie in 1928 and was the son of Louis Trudeau (son of Jean Baptiste Trudeau and Angelique Papanaatianencoe, Anishnaabe) and Marie Parisien (the daughter of Jacques Parisien and Marie LaFramboise, Anishnaabe).
My grandfather, Fred Dusome, also a member of the Georgian Bay Metis Community, was less constant in my life but is an important part of who I am. He was a fisherman and a guide on the Georgian Bay and his parents were Joseph Dusome and Philomene Secord. Philomene’s parents were Sophie Beausoleil (from a “French Breed” family on the 1901 census) and Benjamin Secord (the halfbreed son of Simon Secord and his Anishnaabe wife Marguerite). Joseph Dusome’s father was Frederic Dusome (son of Francis Dusome, halfbreed, born in Red River, Manitoba who passed away in Penetanguishene in 1906, and Elizabeth Giroux, who’s mother Charlotte was listed in the 1836 Michigan Halfbreed Census and was descended from the Mentosaky’s of Lac de Flambeau.)
Of my mother’s four grandparents, only her maternal grandfather was not genealogically connected to the Indigenous community (Scottish) though he raised Indigenous children. My father is French and Scottish Canadian from a military family, and this is where my last name comes from. I travelled to parts of his homeland (France and around the UK) a few years ago and it is definitely a place of old magic. I want, and have started to, learn more about these ancestors and their land. Growing up, my parents made a decision that my brother and I would be raised as part of my mother’s community, which is also the community both of her parents belonged to. My Mere lived with us as we moved around based on my Dad's work, but we always went back home to the Bay every year, no matter what, for months at a time. Now, I have come back to this place to live full time, surrounded by my extended and extensive family. I am a part of this community not only because it is on my registration card.
For generations my family lived ‘across the Bay’ and that’s how we were known, to each other and in town, as across the Bay people. My cousins are the Gervais, Buttineau, Boucher, Grenier and Duquette families. There are many other familial and community connections and old stories, but the ones I mentioned here are the direct lines connected by archival documents and records.
One of the pivotal stories of this place is how the Halfbreeds, First Nations and French communities, separate but living in the same area, came together through a giant wolf. The story, and creature, came to be known as the Loup Lafontaine. He travelled the roads, menaced the people, but stopped to play with children and was finally brought down through a pact with God. This is not the only supernatural wolf story from here and every year there is a wolf festival, Festival du Loup. The community continues to tell stories of the Loup-Garou or the Rougarou, similar to the communities out west and the Cajun community in Louisiana where they have an annual Rougarou Festival in Houma. My own family has several stories of encounters, one that includes my Mere and the local priest in the 1950’s.
I come from hunters and women who told stories and made their own remedies when they weren’t purchasing salves from the ‘peddler’ who would come across the Bay once in a while. Some remedies used holy water from the Shrine in town, others used water collected from the Bay on Easter Sunday. Many were based around onions and pine. To this day, my family hunts and harvests.
I recognize my privilege, one being that I had the great good fortune of growing up in a vibrant community without removal. My parents’ decision to make sure that my brother and I were entrenched in our culture allowed me to stay connected and to pass along the stories I heard while spending years with my Mere and her sisters. My family has always had each other and everyone was fed and loved. It was beautiful. Difficult at times for many reasons, and we passed along anxiety as well as stories, but beautiful none the less.
I’ve spent my entire working life, with a few small detours, working in and for the Indigenous community; the friendship centre, a women’s centre, for elected Councils, in government securing funding, etc. But all I ever wanted to be was a writer. It’s not really surprising considering my Mere raised me with stories that went all the way back in our family lineage to the present. On the other hand, some of the things I have survived have compelled me to write inclusive of difficult subjects. I had the enormous good fortune of being taught writing and storytelling by the very best- people like Lee Maracle and Maria Campbell. This is where my stories come from, generations of halfbreeds on the Great Lakes over to Manitoba and reaching into the US, and guided and influenced by powerful, generous women who had already done the heavy lifting of blazing the literary trail.
I always preface any interview I give with a statement that I do not speak on behalf of anyone, that I am not an elected leader, that I am just one person from one community. I am a fiction author, not a cultural or political expert, not a spokesperson. I turn down speaking engagements and projects, instead sharing lists of people better positioned to speak on issues and identity. I am a writer, I have opinions and experiences, I am a community member and that’s where I speak from. When I am asked to present by community on their behalf, I do my best. I try to use any platform I am given to make room for others. Like anyone else, I am not beyond reproach. I am also a person who has enormous anxiety in my daily life (one of those people lay in bed at night thinking about something I might have said 8 years ago and cringing...) so I prefer to build instead of speak.
I am fortunate enough to have a large and brilliant network of Indigenous friends and colleagues that I rely on to guide me when my fictional work veers from my own specific identity and experience. I am indebted to them for their knowledge and friendship.
This is who I am. This is where my stories come from. Nothing more and definitely nothing less.