Charley’s siblings

Norval Morrisseau – Migration

Well a few years have passed, since I last saw Charley. Tomorrow I will be at his school again and I wonder, how many siblings he has  now……

Let’s go back to the Social Studies teachings of 2010:

The following scenario is real,  just all names have been changed.

Envision the little elementary school in R. not far from where I live. Mostly white kids, a few Asian and about 12 Native students; Some Mohawk, some Ojibwa, some from other tribes, who’s parents moved here….

The subject of the day was family – and so all the kids in grade 1 were asked to tell how many siblings they have – counting them, you know….

All goes well, until it is little Charley BlackOtter’ turn to speak.

“15”! he announces.

“WHAT???” the teacher wonders – “No, Charley, are you sure?

” Yes!” The teacher is perplexed and decides to let it go for now. She knows, that Charley’s  mom has him and 3 other kids at home.

. Now the teacher is really perplexed. To make matters worse, Charley gets teased during recess. To make THAT matter worse, an older Native boy rises to the occasion of protector and brings all his followers. They whack the white kids with their tennis shoes because they made fun of Charley and his mom and SHE is a BLackOtter!!!

The teaches break up the fight and discuss with Charley the consequences of telling tall stories that are not quite true. Little Charley , now in the principal’s office, hangs his head and confesses, yes, he was wrong, he has 17 brothers and sisters, not 15 and he is sorry he had miscounted.

The school staff discusses the matter further. The teacher does have to call Charley’s mom anyway and asks her again about, how many kids she has. “What business is it of yours” is the answer. the teacher explains: Mom BlackOtter replies: If Charley says he has 17 brothers and sisters, than that must be true!” NOW the principal is perplexed. But she also knows; it has something to do with being Native. Just what exactly…???

Maybe the kids of his 2 aunties count as siblings????

She also checks her records and finds out, Ms BlackOtter is in her late twenties and lives in a “common law partnership”

She also knows – from the local gossip, that Charley’s grandma is a “special” person. Not that she always was – Thelma R. in her days was known to be a famous drunk and “loose” and none of her 6 kids are from the same father, ifffff indeed a father was known at all. Thelma was at one time a reasonably good student in the church run residential school over near P. but then had “turned sour” = gotten pregnant, claimed the priest to be the father (Oh what a nasty accusation that was back in the days…) The child was taken away from her after his birth abd given for adoption by the Church and Thelma had “married the bottle” and was known as a lay down drunk” up into her mid 40 ties… But then somehow she had managed to sober up, collect all her various kids around her and had moved back out to the land. = a small parcel of land that due to some treaty was her family’s…

Now Thelma was some sort of a matriarch and not good to eat Cherries with. She had taken up the “Old religion “ and now was considered an Elder and highly respected by her folks.

the principal was not inclined to tackle Thelma or anyone of her daughters. But still… she would love to find out, what was behind the 17 brothers and sisters, that Charley claimed to have.

Hmmm….. Maybe she should phone that Medicine woman- lady who comes to the school and teaches about Native customs.

So my phone rings.

Well, Lets see, if we can shed some light into Charley’s family relations:

1) Charley’s mom was married for a brief time to an Ojibwa guy from Ignace, further west, they had the oldest, now in G. high school and soon to graduate from there. That marriage broke up when the man moved out to Alberta and lives together with a lovely Cree lady and has 2 kids with her – and the one she adopted from her sister that had a few too many and so – in Alberta Charley has 3 siblings….because in Ojibwa culture, your brother’s brothers and sisters are your brothers and sisters….

2) Then there is little Hannah and her dad, who did not stay long either, but he now lives out on the reservation, and has 3 more kids -all waaaay older than Hannah but – Charley’s siblings.

3)Then Charley’s dad, who lives out in P. with another lady. He has 3 kids with her, but she has 2 from a previous marriage = +5 siblings for Charley

4)Then there is Henry, the guy that is now Ms BlackOtter’s common law husband and with whom she has little Ella and baby Henry the 2nd.

Henry is a nice guy, but he has an ex- wife on Curve Lake with 2 kids and then there was this crazy girlfriend before Charley’s mom and there also was a little baby…. now being raised by Henry’s mother in Curve Lake…. that then would be Charlie’s sister Marjory….

Soooo: Do I know all these people ?

No. / well, since  when I first wrote this ,  I know 2 more …

I know Elder Thelma S. and 2 of her daughters from the Pow Wow in T. last year. But I know, how Ojibway society works and how people view relations.

And I can explain it to the principal in the school. – Now, were we to add all the kids from Charley’s Aunties and Uncles, we would be in the 60 kids range – easy.

But Charley is smart. He knows already, that white people do not count these brothers and sisters….:)

Good for him!Norval  Morrisseau  Ancestral Spirit Speaks to Children

5 thoughts on “Charley’s siblings

  1. Do we really live that far away from our sisters/ brothers & family… yes family… that appointed authorities (and I use that as a tongue in cheek expression, that ‘their’ views, wherever they pulled them out from, or were coerced to increase & establish the pervasiveness of past & future seperation from them into a belief system…. well not for me thankyou.

    Very well written Mi-Shell. Some things just cannot keep being covered up forever… so it does become fact instead of the fiction that it really is… which I do not think it will.

  2. Where did the Norval Morriseau print you used called Migration come from? I can find lots of other Morriseau paitnings called Migration but can’t find the origin of this one you use. It is very colorful and perfect for a children’s book I am writing. I’d be grateful if you could tell me where you found it.

    • They were original artwork that the “Gallery on the Lake” in Buckhorn had for sale. I think they sold……
      But for a children’s book you will need permission from Morriseau’s estate in order to use them. sadly they are a bit touchy about granting that, since there are so many people copying his work. But there are gifted artists that are “on THIS side of the veil” that paint very similar and would be honoured, to grant you permission to put their work into your book.
      Good luck!

      • Thanks so much. I will look for another First Nations artist to use. I am quite intent on including one in the book. Perhaps a Bill Reid or Daphne Odjig will be easier. Thanks for your help.

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