Keeping the Home Fires Burning
This story is based on the memories and life experiences of long-time community member and deceased Elder Joe Deschamps as retold in a reflection on his life by fellow Fishing Laker Matthew Lajimodiere. The story begins with the youth’s memories of knowing Joe and his grandkids all his life, including the time he spent with Joe and his family at their house. One of Matthew’s favourite memories of Joe is his constant humming – a theme that reverberates throughout the story. We hear first hand stories from “Old Joe” about some of his adventures in the bush and how his lifelong partner, Elvina, was constantly at his side.
Of particular interest, Joe talks about Elvina working alongside him, “she would join him on the traplines” suggesting that gender equality existed between men and women in the not so distant past. Joe shares how he tried to take the community kids out in the bush and teach them the traditional ways of the Métis, but they just “ran around the bush like they didn’t care to learn.” Joe’s story ends with the bittersweet message that the ability to make change often ends before our dreams can be realized. This story is an exemplar of the oral tradition as enacted by a Métis elder and, as such, the original stories told by “Old Joe” include ‘impossible tales’ – stories that are humorous and perhaps hold the true secret of survival. The youth who partnered with Joe in creating this story clearly sees the value of the many lessons Joe offered through his lifetime reflections in his final statement.