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New elders' lodge opens doors on Kawacatoose First Nation
Community members open a new elders' lodge on the Kawacatoose First Nation.
People on the Kawacatoose First Nation have been waiting for close to a decade and now their calls have been answered.
The Ketayak-Wikiwaw which means elders lodge in Cree opened its doors to more than 30 elders and dozens of community members.
“I think it’s very significant not only for our elders but for our youth and our community,” said Fred Poorman, an elder liaison for Kawacatoose First Nation.
“I would like some of our elders to teach our children the way of life years ago (in this lodge),” added the Chief of Kawacatoose First Nation, Dennis Dustyhorn.
A ribbon was cut, followed by a cake cutting and an honor song was sung to make it official.
Construction was jointly funded by Kawacatoose and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada at a cost of $100,000. The building was originally a day school, built in 1956.
“I would like to thank the chief and councilman for allowing us this building. There has always been a sentimental value to this building for us as residential school survivors,” said elder and local historian, Tom Favel.
Favel remembers being put in a back of truck like cattle and taken from his home to attend residential school on the nearby Muskowekwan First Nation.
“The 3 ton truck would be backing up and letting us out… and all of us would be walking up like little calves to go to residential school. Those times we would be crying. We would look back and see our mothers crying for us and we would be gone for 10 months,” said Favel during the opening for the lodge.
“In the wintertime, during breakfast, the nun would walk around with a ketchup bottle full of cod liver oil. They would grab you on the back of the hair and pull your head backwards and stick the bottle down your throat and you had to swallow it. If you didn’t swallow it and you threw up and it stuck in your porridge you were forced to eat your porridge. That’s the kind of treatment we got in residential school,” said Favel.
“All of us could come back from residential school. We didn’t have to face the Muskowekwan federal penitentiary is what I called it. Sometimes it was even worse than penitentiary,” added Favel.
For 71 year-old Verna Favel, Tom’s wife, sitting in the new building is like going back in time.
“When this building came up, it brought us out of residential school and this is where I attended school,” smiled Verna.
At the age of 6, Verna was also taken from her family and forced to attend residential school for 4 years on Muskowekwan. The day school served as a huge relief for many students.
“The joy of being home with your parents, family and your community and just enjoying life on your own turf. It was just enjoyable as a young child,” said Verna.
The day school only went to grade 8. Many students had to leave day school and go back to residential school by their parent’s request.
“A lot of us chose not to go back to residential school,” added Verna.
Verna eventually went back to school to finish her grade 12 education and also went to university. She later taught on Kawacatoose First Nation as a teacher for 36 years. Now retired, she is content to have a space to meet with other elders.
“Many of us are alone or with our (grandchildren) so it’s always nice to gather here and eat together,” said elder, Josephine Worm.
“(This lodge) opens the doors to our culture. We have a lot of our elders that talk the language that’s here,” said elder, Walter Assoon.
From Cree and Saulteaux language classes, to just sitting down and having a cup of coffee with an elder, the lodge will be open for many years to come, keeping the importance of oral history in the forefront.