Three women from the Battlefords area were honoured at a provincial gala last week.
Mabel Ouellete from Red Pheasant First Nation and Mary Thunderchild and Maria Linklater from Thunderchild First Nation were honoured as matriarchs at the annual Strength of our Women Gala, hosted by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).
“It was a wonderful feeling,” Ouellette said. “I had never expected anything like that to happen to me.”
The gala honoured women for achievements in different categories including education, environment, and law and justice in Saskatoon on Sept. 8. There were also 15 women honoured as matriarchs, who the FSIN said are the strengths of families and communities.
Ouellette, who’s in her 80s, and her husband raised nine children and both worked. She said she doesn’t boast, but she and her husband taught the children everything they know to become self-sufficient, hard-working people.
She lost two children in her life. One was murdered in 1985 and one died from cancer about five years ago.
“You never forget,” she said. “Even as we speak I'm choked up. That's always part of you.”
Ouellette ran a popular upholstery shop for many years near Asquith and people would even come from Saskatoon to have work done. After running the shop became too much, she moved to making tents and teepees out of her backyard.
Although she doesn’t make teepees and tents anymore, she still sews every single day, knits and has recently learned to bead.
Ouellette said she was overwhelmed seeing all the strong women honoured at the gala.
“Words can't explain the feeling you get that our native people, our neighbours, have done so well,” she said.
Thunderchild said it was wonderful to be at the gala and to see all the other women speak.
She moved to Thunderchild First Nation in 1953 from Alberta and worked with a women’s association for many years. Thunderchild raised 12 children and now has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
She said she had to fight for her children, as her in-laws tried to take them away when they were young. She said it was difficult but she had always wanted children and she raised all of them.
Thunderchild said now that her children are grown up, she teaches her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and tells them how to stay out of trouble.
Thunderchild, Ouellette and Linklater were all given blankets at the gala and honoured on stage.
Linklater was not available for an interview.
Sarah Rae is battlefordsNOW's court and crime reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] or tweet her @sarahjeanrae.
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