A collection of creative non-fiction stories about the colonization and immigration in northern Ontario.
About the authors
Laura Stradiotto is a journalist, web content developer and media relations specialist based in Sudbury. Laura has a B.A. (Hons.) in Rhetoric/Italian Studies from Laurentian University (2001) and a post-diploma in journalism from Cambrian College (2002). In May 2017 she completed an M.F.A. in Creative Non Fiction at the University of King's College in Halifax, NS.
Excerpt: 150 Years Up North and More (edited by Laura Stradiotto & Karen McCauley)
Muriel's Medicine: A Memoir
By Margo Little
During my childhood on Manitoulin Island, segregation wasthe norm and racial stereotypes were firmly entrenched. Most com-munities were governed by strict religious dictates and a rigid classsystem that had been imported from overseas. If a Catholic womanconsented to marry a Protestant man, for instance, the unionwould invite ostracism. Similarly, if a European man married anIndigenous woman they were often shunned. On Western Manito-ulin in the mid-Twentieth Century white settlers endured a hard-scrabble existence on inhospitable acreages while their Indigenousneighbours were relegated to small remote parcels of land knownas reserves.
My mother's ancestors were based in West Bay, now known asM'Chigeeng First Nation. According to the Office of the IndianRegistrar in Ottawa, my great-grandfather opted for voluntary en-franchisement in 1921, which involved surrender of land in favourof the right to vote. Giving up your status was supposed to bringadvantages but it brought only conflict with other band membersand years of struggle. Eventually, my great grandparents moved toWisconsin, but my grandfather married an island girl and settledin Mindemoya in Central Manitoulin. The six children they raised,including my mother, were assimilated into mainstream societyand encouraged to hide their Indigenous roots. Even the names onbirth certificates were altered in a small but significant way to dis-tinguish the new branch of the family from the relatives on reserve.When my mother married an Irish trapper/farmer in 1946, all ref-erences to Native background ceased.
But no matter how people try to suppress their heritage for thesake of survival or for the sake of their children, there's always asegment of the settler population that harbours a long memoryand a deep-seated desire to discourage mixing races or religions orcultures.
This is the story about my own first-hand encounter with prej-udice as a mixed race child and about the advent of a gentle healerwho entered my life at a particularly traumatic time. In our shorttime together in 1956 she shared seven guiding principles that steermy life to this day. And for that I am eternally grateful.
"You squaw; you dirty squaw! Why don't you go back to thereservation where you belong?" The hateful voices came fromsomewhere near the school flag pole, but I didn't dare raise my eyes,didn't dare react to the comments. It would only provoke moreattacks.
The stinging words had strafed me from the moment I startedfirst grade at the rural school. At first, it didn't seem possible thatthey were talking to me; I was blissfully unaware that I was consid-ered an Indian, but day after day the taunting persisted. The bullieshad found an easy target. I was learning the hard way that my highcheek bones and distinctive features were not acceptable.