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  Mrs Veronica Tobac   Listen to the audio introduction Listen to an introduction to Mrs Veronica Tobac by Joseph Naytowhow
  >>Mrs. Veronica Tobac

>>Birch Narrows First Nation
Self Reliance
Self Reliance - Dene title

1. "My story goes back to a time when my friends, relatives and I lived at Clear Lake. I was just a teenager at the time and attended the Beauval Indian Residential School. We stayed at school for ten months and by spring time we were anxious to go home. Our parents would come to pick us up in Buffalo Narrows. We were waiting there for them. They would pick us up and take us home by boat. Then, when we got back to Clear Lake everybody was getting ready to go on a fishing trip that would last for the whole summer.

Dene story text

2. Everybody would be busy helping one another getting things ready, like making dry fish and smoked meat and in the evenings, mending tents. The teenaged girls would look after the children. We would take them all over with us, keeping them playing so we wouldn't be in the way of our parents. People would be rushing from one person's place to another lending each other stuff needed to prepare for the journey. If somebody was short of paint for their boat they would go and find somebody that had some, so their boat would be ready; because knew they needed it for the whole summer.

Dene story text

3. There was a big fishing boat that came from Buffalo Narrows. Once ready, everybody would tie their boats to this boat. There was a barge already tied to the fishing boat; with the Hudson's Bay store on it. They'd have supplies on board to sell. The old guy's name was Magloire Morin and his wife was Alexie Morin. They were the ones that used to look after the store.

Dene story text

4. Everybody would tie their boats behind the barge, one after another. It was like that for anyone who didn't have a motor. Anyone with boat motors would travel alongside the ones with their boats tied to the barge and fishing boat. Then we'd get to the first camp where the men were going to start fishing. On the way people would get hungry. If we couldn't stop, people would share food and if somebody didn't have any, they'd just pass it from one boat to the other, sharing this food with the kids and everyone. It was like one big family travelling together. People enjoyed themselves. I remember it was a very good time because I was part of a big family. It made me feel good because I knew at the time, I had seen my future. I would never be alone. I had the feeling there would always be somebody there, whenever I needed help.

Dene story text

5. When we got to the fishing camp people helped, even if it was late at night. The young boys would help the elders pitch their tents. Then everything would settle down. The next day when we woke up it looked like a big fishing camp. There were tents all over. In the morning people would be laughing, chopping wood and getting breakfast ready. You could smell bacon, eggs, whatever people had to cook and you could hear the kids laughing and babies crying. It was a really good feeling and a good sound in the morning and was a good feeling I grew up with. This good feeling kept up from one place to another all summer long.

Dene story text

6. The first fishing camp was at a place we called Matsins Island. From there we'd go sometimes to Jackpine and then to a place with the flat stone, where we'd then end up at the rapids. We would go through the rapids to come to Turnor Lake and then from there people also used to fish at Wasakemew, Turnor and Little Turnor Lake. They used to take the fish down the rapids. There was lots of fish and they got a good price for it too.

Dene story text

7. All summer long people would hunt and fish. The women made dry fish. Kids did our own thing, like enjoying helping out with wood, hauling water and washing clothes. We made our own games. We made swings. We went swimming and played ball. We even made balls out of moose hide. We'd stuff the moose hide with rags and grass, pack it really good and sew it up. Then we made bats and played ball. We did everything. We also made tents. But the best part of it was everybody enjoyed themselves all summer long.

Dene story text

8. People enjoyed what they were doing and when one person was making moose hide others helped out. When people saw someone having a difficult time they helped out, and if a moose was killed and somebody went and asked for meat they'd give meat to that person. Even when you went to visit a woman who had dry meat or dry fish hanging up on a rack you'd just help yourself and nobody never said anything about; never gave it a second thought. That was the way life was in those days.

Dene story text

9. In those days we helped out and we worked to get the things we needed. If we needed something we‘d ask the person who had it. They'd make us haul water, haul wood or even help with laundry. It was fun for us, even washing clothes. We young girls would have competitions to see who would wash their clothes the fastest; who would haul and warm the water first and put the clothes on the clothes line. When it was time to cook bannock, we would see who could make the best bannock and find different ways to cook it quickly.

Dene story text

10. Yes, we did all sorts of things. We tried all sort of ways to see who was good at doing things. Even when we made camp we would see who could haul the biggest bag of spruce boughs. We'd laugh at one another because a lot of times the younger ones would try and compete with us and they would have a hard time. And we would climb trees. We would even have competitions with boys; and we'd play-fight with spruce cones. The boys would try to chase us away. We just kept on fighting them. We would make bows and arrows and slingshots. Yes, it was lots of fun.

Dene story text

11. People had a hard time making a living but nobody ever had hard feelings about it. Nobody took time to be miserable. They just did what they had to - to make the best of everything. If anything happened in those days, as kids we were never involved in it. Even when the older adults were telling stories they didn't want us to hear, they would tell us to go and play or do something.

Dene story text

12. Today, there are so many things said in front of kids and they take it all in. Kids get all that anger within themselves and that's what they grow up with. In those days we never grew up that way. The older people took care of things and kids weren't involved. That is why as young children we learned to have more fun. We enjoyed nature. I remember going out sometimes with just a blanket. I would go along the shore to find a good spot, a beautiful spot where I could lay back and listen to the birds or look at clouds. It was so amazing for me. I was only about ten or eleven years old at the time."

Dene story text

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Biography ~ Mrs. Veronica Tobac

Born at Clear Lake, Veronica quickly learned to live in the nomadic lifestyle her family had become accustomed to; travelling by boat throughout the northwest. Moving from place to place, the only opportunity for getting together during holidays was when friends and relatives would meet at La Loche or at Island Lake (now called Turnor Lake).

Veronica is fourth eldest in a family of 23. Both her parents and grandparents also came from Clear Lake. She is of Dene, Cree and French ancestry.

Married on June 9, 1955, Veronica was given away to her husband by her parents and grandfather. The custom of giving one's daughter away to a young man who took a liking to her was still practiced during Veronica's teenage years. From this marriage, she and her husband had eight children; three boys and five girls.

Similar to many Nations who experienced contact with Catholic missionaries, Veronica's whole community converted to Roman Catholicism as their spiritual belief.

Veronica has had many careers to date. She managed a cafe called the Fisherman's Inn, operated a grocery store at Turnor Lake, owned and operated a fishing company with her husband (and consequently cleaned a lot of fish), was a Security Guard at the Key Lake mine, was a truck driver, a Welfare Worker and still works today as a Community Health Representative (CHR) for her band.

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Birch Narrows First Nation

Dene Name:
English Translation:





ElderSpeak Dene Research, Design and Technical Assistant
Team Leader:Translator

Birch Narrows - in Dene
Narrows or area with Birch Trees

Birch Narrows Dene Nation
General Delivery
Turnor Lake, Saskatchewan
S0M 3E0
Phone : (306) 894-2030 or 894-2052
Fax : (306) 894-2060


Terrance Sylvestre

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