Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 70 > Page 14 - A Selection from Song of Rita Joe, Autobiography of a Mi'Kmaq Poet

Page 14 - A Selection from Song of Rita Joe, Autobiography of a Mi'Kmaq Poet

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1996/6/1 (327 reads)

In a little while, I went to see the woman who had been involved with Frank and had a serious talk with her. I explained the situa? tion, woman to woman, and that was more effective than the other way of doing things. I told her, "I have a little baby, and the other children are like steps • eight of them in a row." She said to me, "I didn't know. I just thought that I was in love with the guy and I didn't consider the family." She told me not to worry anymore, and she became a friend instead. Of course, everybody talked about what had happened, but I know how to live down things like that I just ignored it and went on with my Ufe. If people made fun of me or laughed, I would laugh along with them. I even laughed when they called me "Bonnie and Clyde" and all sorts of other crazy names. But the thing that drove me away from writing my column was be? ing called "Here and There." When I heard that, I laughed, but I dropped the column. I didn't want to be given that nickname; I knew how nicknames stick. One day, after my son Junior to me, "Mom, the Beothucks YOUNG'S... POWER EQUIPMENT SALES • SERVICE'PARTS STIHL & JONSERED CHAIN SAWS LAWN-BOY - TORO - MURRA Y BRIGGS & STRAUON - TECUMSEH ARIENS SNOW BLOWERS & ROTO TILLERS LAWN TRACTORS - GENERATORS SELF-PROPELLED MOWERS SAFETY CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES 674-2008 MILLVILLE, BOULARDERIE read about the Beothucks, he said did not all die. Remember these words from the book: Pi 'tow 'ke 'waq na nin (We are from upriver). Those words are a clue." We knew from analysis of that phrase that the "Beo- thuck" might be Mi'kmaq; I would lay my life on the line that they were Miekmaq. I talked to people in my commu? nity about this, and my friend Murdena Marshall told me that her mother-in-law remembered an old woman in Conne River, Newfoundland, who would say, "Pi'tow'ke'waq na nin (I am from upriver)," when she was asked who she was. Also, an elderly man in Eskasoni told me that the word Pi'tow'ke means "upriver." The way I reason it, when my people en? countered non-natives they would repeat, "Pi'tow'ke'waq na nin (We are from upriver)." From those words come the similar-sounding word, "Beothucks."... "I'm a Beothuck," my son announced. 'They didn't all die like history says." My husband Frank Joe, his roots were from Taqmku'k His father Stephen Joe came across looking for a wife And he married a Micmac from Po 'tlo 'tek Producing two girls and two boys. One of them my husband. Today my children dream of their ancestry Being Beothuck, the grain flowing in them I let them dream, even encouraging a possibility Because I wonder, perhaps they were not all erased And that speck of sand flows in my children. Between 1980 and 1989, as Frank and I grew older, the spiritu? al part of our togetherness became stronger. We would go to? gether to many of my speaking engagements; I would call them "our little honeymoons." I remember his words to me on the last little honeymoon we took in Maine, in August 1989. "Are you happy?" he asked. "I'm happy where you are," I told him. "I'm happy where you are, too," he said. It was a Sunday, so we went to a little church at Peter Dana Point in Maine. During the church service, I usually bow my head when the priest lifts the wafer. That morning, I looked at my husband's bowed head instead. Now, when I close my eyes, I see the bowed head. "We're going to bingo!" my husband announced after the ser? vice. There was a bingo hall nearby, in Princeton. We had lunch there and settled into playing the game. A friend we knew from Shubenacadie sat near us and I remember Frank asked her if she knew where the Smithsonian Institute was. "What in the world do you want with that place?" I asked. "That's the place where I'm taking you next," he said. I replied that the trip we had taken to Niagara Falls earlier was enough for me. That evening, we got a room near Calais, Maine. The manager of the place had a French name. Frank said to him, "You know that they took the land from us, don't you?" The man un? derstood Frank's expression Beautiful Bras d'Orl "ARM OF GOLD" Campground & Trailer Park Open Field on Lake • Showers • Town Water • Flush Toilets • Washrooms 46 UNSERVICED SITES • 35 Acres • Sewage Disposal Tables • Rec Hall Groceries • Ice Laundromat • Canteenl OPEN MAY 15 to OCTOBER 15 Phone (902) 736-6516 or 736-6671 Route 105 • Exit 18 • Little Bras d'Or, Cape Breton| 2miUsfr(ml2Jewf(mnJland'crrjf Highland Ultramar & Restaurant Major & Minor Repairs • Official Inspection Station 2 Mechanics • Fuel Injection Service & Repair RV. Mechanical Repair • Parts & Accessories Canteen Supplies • Ice • Fast Fill Diesel Tires: Sales & Service • Towing AGENT FOR SUPERIOR PROPANE BBQ CYLINDERS, R.V. & AUTO PROPANE FILLING Phone: 736-0593 Route 105 Trans-Canada Highway • Bras d'Or J Bras d'Or: A Cape Breton Island Centre
Cape Breton's Magazine
  View this article in PDF format Print article

Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to the PDF version of this content. Click here to download and install the Acrobat plugin
Acrobat Reader Download