Part 2 of the GUEST POST from my aunty Dr. Bindu. Read the first one here.
Doreen belonged to the Tses’Kiya (pronounced Tses-kee-ya) (Crow) clan of the Tahltan First Nation (the Canadian term for indigenous peoples) in the Upper North West of British Columbia. The CheYonne (pronounced Chee-oonah) (Wolf) clan attended to all the funeral needs as the Crow were in mourning.
Today the Tahltan nation has about 1750 members with only 35 speakers of the language, its use being discouraged by Anglican and Catholic missions in the last century. But Amy informs me that young children are being taught Tahltan again at school so the language may not die out yet.
Doreen was an expert hunter, Amy (whose Tahltan name is Su-la-ma) recalls how when she was 10 years old she went hunting with her mother. They were lying on a knoll atop Lava Beds, watching caribou through binoculars. “Then sneaking up as close as we could to get a good shot. Wow!….then the lead started flying out of the old lever action 30/30 (a rifle) open site….boom, boom, boom. When the smoke cleared she had knocked over 7 caribou. Old dead eye… I was so damn excited, I thought, my mother is the coolest.”
A great cook, in the 1970s Doreen ran a restaurant Tuya Café at Dease Lake. The café was renowned for its delicious pies. She could hunt, fish, trap, ride steep trails and walk for miles. Mother of 10 children she is a commanding figure on horseback in a photograph taken when she was in her 60s. She encouraged her children and grandchildren to further their education, ‘to be whatever you want in life’.
I spent August and September of 2012 with mother, returning to Wisconsin in October. During my visit I was trying to convince my mother that we needed a diagnosis of her illness. Why was she ill? My family had kept calling me in Wisconsin. Mom is so sick, she is dying, they said. When I arrived in Telegraph Creek I could not believe my eyes.
Compared to the last time I had seen her, she was so thin and humped over with severe osteoporosis. She would not eat and barely drank fluids. Her mind was all there though. I don’t think my siblings realized how far gone she was. Mom could not complete her ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). She could barely hear and was nearly blind.
My oldest sister, Evelyn and I tried to get her back on track with medications, daily care and eating on a regular basis. I quickly realized what a struggle it became. Every day we talked about death. I tried convincing her to go on a 9 hour trek to our nearest hospital to find a diagnosis, but she would always cut me off. “No, I am dying, what are they (the health care system) going to do for me? Just leave me alone, I want to be left alone.”
I ended up staying for 2 months. With the daily care we gave her, my mom’s health got somewhat better. Not by much, but she did look better and had put some weight back on. I knew I had to return to Wisconsin as my medical leave would end soon. I still had that gnawing feeling in my gut. I wanted to know what was wrong with my mother. Why did she want to die?
Read the final part here.