One Elder’s Perspective
Do I remember a time when my community was healthy? I’d have to go back to when I was young and I can only go by what I grew up with. There was no drinking. My parents didn’t drink, my grandparents didn’t drink. We were poor, but everyone got along. At hunting time when someone killed something a little bit of it went to each of the families. I saw that growing up. The women, my mother and my grandmother, they all worked hard. We didn’t have much of anything as children, but we all had fun, we made our own fun.
Mind you, there was work. Each one of us had to do work but to me that was a real healthy community, the non-drinking, the sharing, the caring. I don’t remember, I didn’t even know what the words jealousy or envy were back then because I didn’t see it. We were all in the same situation. Nobody had more than the other families so that is why I would say we were in a healthy community.
It eventually changed because, along the way, we got more money and more access to money. The Government of Canada, INAC [Indian and Northern Affairs Canada], started giving us more control of the money. I was already growing up. I started seeing the envy, the jealousy, and the gossip. Later, in the seventies, it still wasn’t too bad but the envy, certainly, and the jealousy was already there.
The drinking started about the sixties and it was my generation that started drinking, even though we didn’t see it at home or at my grandparents’ house. We’d go to town and we met friends. I’m not saying they forced us to drink, but we had to be like the other people, like our new friends, and that’s when a lot of people started drinking.
When the trouble really started was because of the money. We had gas on our reserve, so we started getting more and more money, and of course the jealousy and the envy got worse. Everyone wanted a new house and jobs. Council were the ones who decided who got the jobs and the houses so everybody wanted to be a leader.
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