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Culture Story

Kettle & Stony Point First Nation History Culture Stories

Culture Story
by Shelly Bressette

“Little Lena Henry on the side road, she was a sweetheart. She was always making baskets, and of course, me, I was like sixteen, seventeen.  Really curious about what happened to our culture.  You know, like there was nothing here, there was no dancing, there was no drumming, there was no lodges, and I had spent the summer in Akwesasne.   It was a really vital longhouse community.

I lived with an ironworker and his wife, and they spoke fluent Mohawk in the house.  And the little boys all spoke Mohawk.   I would be sitting there, and it was like being in a different country.  And then they would talk to me in English, like in a very strong Mohawk accent.  Though, you know, of course you get to know some of the young people.  All the young people spoke their language.

When I came home I was really confused.  What happened?  Where did all this go?  And I remember going to visit Lena Henry, and I asked her what happened.   I said, ‘Why,’ I said, ‘what was the difference between the people long ago and the people today?’

And she said, ‘Well I’ll tell ya.  Long ago if someone showed up at your door, and they were hungry, you would say, well I have a loaf of bread, you could have half.’  And she said, ‘Now of days, if someone showed up at your door, and they said, I’m hungry, you’d say all I have is a loaf of bread.  That’s just enough for me and my family’.   She says, ‘We don’t share anymore.’  And that was the big difference she saw in our people, and I thought as I got older, a very strong philosophical statement on her part about the culture.

How we had come from this really sharing culture where people really had to depend on each other, into a time where, and probably my own grandmother said she saw it really change after welfare came into the community.  Whereas before, people would get together and really work to help each other.  Like, even to do the threshing bees and the buzz bees where everyone would cut would with each other, and you know harvest their crops together.  Go from house to house; help each other in times of need.

And then, she said, ‘When welfare came to the community its like people just expected to be paid for that they do.’  That kind of communal stuff anymore, or, it was less and less and less that she saw over the years and that really saddened the older people to see that element leave their community.  And maybe you might see it return eventually, but at that point in our history it was going.”

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Canadian Heritage
This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through Canadian Culture Online.
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