“Most of the things that I've learned have come from elders; the things that worked in life anyway came from my grandfather and my father. One of father's favourite expressions was, “There are things you can do, things you can't do, and things that have to be done. They're the most disagreeable things and the hardest, but the hardest lessons to learn are the ones that stay with you.”

[This interview was conducted on September 24th, 2009 by Mount Allison students Ashley Brzezicki and Laura Browne. Glad and her friend Charles Thompson live in Oxford, Nova Scotia and came to Mount Allison to be interviewed in Dr. Marilyn Walker's Arctic Ethnography class in the fall term of 2009. Glad is a Métis woman who speaks about her Métis background.]

Marilyn: Welcome everyone, and especially welcome to Glad Mazarall and her friend Charlie Thompson. Thank you very much for taking the time to come in. I know you're both really busy with all kinds of community projects, genealogical research, historical research, nature conservation, all kinds of things. So you came in from Oxford especially for this class. Glad has been a friend for a long time now. She was one of the people who was at my induction into the Eastern Woodland Métis Nation - she was one of the drummers. Glad is an elder in the Métis community. She knows that she is the first one of this set of interviews. So I asked Glad to come in because she's very comfortable talking about herself and her background and will be a really good introduction to the project for the class. So maybe we could start off by asking you, Glad, if you can tell us a little bit about your background, maybe where you grew up, something about your family. You know we're trying to understand the diversity of the Métis experience in the Maritimes. So anything that you want to share with us would be an honour.

Glad: Well I was born in Springhill, Nova Scotia. And my father was brought up in a Catholic orphanage until he was thirteen when he got fed up with that and run away and wound up in northern New Brunswick somewhere up there among the First Nations up there. And the lumber industry and agriculture and the stock market crash of ‘28 brought him back to Springhill. We have no idea where his brother, Billy, is and he spent most of his life looking for him. But we couldn't find him, I can't find him. Which leads to my genealogy studies. My mother was born on a farm in Rodney, they called it the Hilltop. Stones, no I won't say stones, I'll say stone, is about all it was. They scratched the living out of the soil up there, what there was of it. And somebody introduced them to each other, and they kind of got together, and I'm the result. They took one look at it and says “I'm not gonna try that again” so I'm an only child!

And my grandfather, who was about the best tailor that ever threaded a needle, I learned to sew from him. I learned a lot of life lessons from grandfather and my father, I mean, he was on his own from the time he was thirteen. So experience was his teacher. He was brought up in the school of hard knocks; I suppose you've heard of that school. And he had grade four education, he was mainly self-taught. Most of the things that I've learned have come from elders; the things that worked in life anyway came from my grandfather and my father. One of father's favourite expressions was, “There are things you can do, things you can't do, and things that have to be done. They're the most disagreeable things and the hardest, but the hardest lessons to learn are the ones that stay with you”. I went through high school in Springhill; my mother wanted me to be a teacher. I'm a mechanic, and a farmer, and I'm a seamstress. I knit, I crochet, I do weaving, I made these belts.

Marilyn: Glad, can you say something about the belts that you and Charles are wearing?

Glad: Okay, these are, well the colour of this one is Acadian, there's no yellow in it, the star of the sea, but it was done with Acadian colours with the red, white and blue. The center is always red, because that's the good red path. And usually there's red on the outside edge too, which keeps you on the straight and narrow; I guess that's why they call it the ‘straight and narrow', there's so few people walk it. It's finger woven; you fasten one end of it, well you put the colors together in long strings with a wiggle in the middle I call it. You have to change this side to underneath and the top here. And you fasten one end of it to the ceiling and you bring the other end back down; and you sit in the middle and work from one end, the middle to the end, turn it around and work the other way. There are a number of different patterns; each cultural group has their own pattern. This is ‘center-fléché', or ‘arrow heart'. The method used is finger weaving, you don't need anything else but your fingers and the yarn and something to fasten it to. A full size sash like the one Charlie has on takes a full winter to make. It starts in the middle, see the center in the middle on this side of his hip, and that's where you start from, the center, and go both ways.

Marilyn: So you said this is an Acadian design?

Glad: This is Acadian, that is the flame, you can see the flames going out from the center. And this is Acadian and it's, there's lightning on both sides here, and the center-fléché, and of course there's an arrow in the center of that one too.

Marilyn: And so are you wearing that because you have Acadian background?

Glad: I'm not sure about Acadian background, it's English and Irish and First Nations. My married name is Mazarall. His people were too far north, they were in Bay de Vin, up in northern New Brunswick. And I guess they never got hooked up in the expulsion. I haven't found anything about them. I read a book on the Mazaralls in North America, and I couldn't find my husband or his people. And I called and was talking to the author, and he said he couldn't find Nicholas after his birth. Well he had the galvanized gold Mary of Protestant, so he was excommunicated and just wasn't included. So, yeah, my people are, my father's people are Scottish and Irish, and First Nations. [pause] But we can't find the First Nations because the women were registered as English Baptists to keep their kids home so they wouldn't go to the residential schools. My mother's people she always said they were English, but I've traced them back to Ireland, so that's where they came from. In the 1700's they were heading for Philadelphia and got shipwrecked on Sable Island and were brought back to Halifax and a land speculator brought them to Ardoise, in Windsor.

Marilyn: So now, Glad, do you consider yourself to be Métis?

Glad: I would like to believe I am. My soul is, and my heart is. My bloodlines, my DNA says I'm a lot in Irish, English, Scottish. I went in to see about my eyesight, and the doctor says “Oh, you've got ancestry in the northern Scotland, highlands of Scotland.” I said, “Yeah”. Well he says, “You have an eye condition that William the Conqueror brought into the highlands of Scotland,” he says “you've got ancestors who are blind by the time they were 60.” I said “yes”… He says “you will be too if you don't have it fixed”. So I got it fixed, they have laser surgery now, and I got it fixed. This one can never be fixed, a screwdriver slipped and it's part of being a mechanic I guess. And no safety glasses, and stupidity mainly.

Laura: Do you feel any cultural affinity towards the Scottish or the Irish, knowing that you have that heritage?

Glad: The Celts, the Celtic. Yeah, it's in my heart too .

Laura: Are you active within a Métis community?

Glad: Not as active as I'd like to be.

Laura: Are there any organizations that you belong to that are Métis organizations? Or any events or anything like that?

Glad: I like to go to their events. But as far as being a member of an organization, no. I just am.

Ashley: When do they have their events? Is it annual or is it for a specific ceremony? Do you get to see them often?

Glad: When I can get to a powwow I like to go to those.

Ashley: What is a powwow?

Glad: A big party. But it's mostly sober and you can remember what goes on! There is a lot of singing and dancing, chanting and drumming. The last one I went to had a belly dancer. She kept most of her clothes on .

Marilyn: These aren't, just to clarify, necessarily Métis powwows, they're powwows that anybody of Aboriginal background can go to.

Glad: Anybody can go, yes. Well, I don't think the belly dancer had much Aboriginal background .

Marilyn: And when you go Glad, do you wear your Métis dress?

Glad: Sometimes, sometimes.

Ashley: Is there a specific dress to go to a powwow?

Glad: Well, the dancers wear different costumes for different dances. And if one loses a feather everybody clears off the field until that feather is retrieved.

Laura: So, their costumes are very important then?

Glad: Oh, yes.

Ashley: And apparently the feathers are extremely important. Is it the eagle feather?

Glad: Feathers are very important. There are a lot of eagle feathers, yes. The Eagle is very important because of the way they circle and fly and you lose them and they're up and they go up to the land above the clouds. They're traditionally the go-between, between the land on the earth and the land above the clouds.

Laura: Is that just a pretty metaphor or an expression? Or is the ‘land above the clouds,' of religious significance?

Glad: They don't have a religion, they have a way of life. And they live it. It's not just for special days. They live it every day, or I should say we live it every day. We live that every day. And if you see an eagle, you know, everything is okay when you see an eagle.

Ashley: So it's a good omen if you see an eagle?

Glad: A good omen, yes.

Marilyn: So Glad, you have a farm, you told me you were growing pumpkins?

Glad: Yep, it's his farm. And we have, how many tons did you say the other day?

Charles: At least ten.

Marilyn: Ten tons of pumpkins?

Glad: Yes. We have found the great pumpkin .

Marilyn: You have quite a lot of knowledge about living on the land. Can you talk about how you gained that?

Glad: Grandfather.

Marilyn: And how? Did he take you out walking around and tell you stories?

Glad: Yes.

Marilyn: Can you think of any lessons that you really remember from him?

Glad: There's one about reaching out to your fellow travelers on this path of life. The little sparrow broke his wing and he couldn't go to the North Land where Glooscap lives to get his winter plumage. So, Blue Jay came along, he was up singing in a tree and kind of got left behind and here was little sparrow struggling along, so he goes down and scoops him up and sits him on his back, and of course with the extra weight he was a little late getting there too. And when he got to the teepee of Glooscap in the North, Glooscap asked him in, asked them in, into the warmth of the teepee, and he fixed up the wing, and set him so he could fly again, and sparrow was given plumage for the winter. And Blue Jay, because he was kind to the sparrow, there was no plumage left, so Glooscap took the blue of the sky and gave Blue Jay blue plumage, he took the white of the clouds and put the white on Blue Jay. And if you'll notice, if you get close enough to a Blue Jay, you'll see the black feather of the black storm clouds and you'll also see the shimmer of the gold and silver in the sunrise and sunset in the plumage of Blue Jay, and that's why Blue Jay is the color that he is today.

Ashley: That's a beautiful story. So why is it that story stuck out to you most?

Glad: It's rewarding kindness, I mean we shouldn't do things for reward, but if we do things from our heart- there's another story about coming to the Great River when our time is up, and our canoe is waiting for us and the good things we've done are patches and the bad things we've done put holes in our canoe; they don't hold water very well with holes in it. And if you do something and say, “I better do this because I need a patch for that hole”, your glue that you put the patch on with is not waterproof. But if you look at something and say, “Well now, that person needs help”, you put the patch on your canoe with good, solid glue and the water wouldn't take it off. And when you get to the other side you are rewarded with lots to eat, and lots of fresh water to drink, and warm clothes.

Laura: Are these stories that you were told by elders in the community?

Glad: Grandfather. I wasn't supposed to be listening according to my mother. Uncle Gordon could tell good stories too, he was my father's mother's brother and he told stories about the English, the things that they did to the Natives, and one of those was buying scalps from the Natives. And he come home one night and discovered he had bought his own wife and daughter's scalps. Fixed him! I bet his canoe leaked.

Laura: Are these stories that are specific to your family? Like the story of the sparrow?

Glad: A lot of them are universal. Yeah, and the Blue Jay, yes.

Marilyn: So if you were able to tell a class of students who don't know anything at all about the Métis experience here, what are some of the most important things you'd like to commemorate?

Glad: How to build a fire.

Marilyn: Okay, so survival skills.

Glad: Survival skills, yes. If you were left out in the woods, I mean, where would you be without supermarket, Wal-Mart?

Marilyn: And do you think those survival skills will carry over into modern life?

Glad: Oh, I think they do, yes. You have to learn how to look after yourself, father always said the best way to protect yourself, or teach anybody to protect themselves, you've got to learn how to protect yourself and how to get something to eat.

Marilyn: A lot of Métis conversations I've had about being Métis, they say they're a very adaptable people, very good at surviving with not very much but also at sharing. Because one person has something one year, the next year they might not have very much and so they rely very much on their neighbours and friends and family. Do you think that's part of being Métis?

Glad: Well, it's stone soup.

Marilyn: It's stone soup. You're going to have to explain that one.

Glad: Well, you have a big, iron pot and it's sitting there, nothing in it. There's stones around it, there's no fire under it, you can't make soup, you know. Somebody comes along and puts a stone in it. Stone soup. Okay? Well, somebody else says, ''Well, I've got some water,'' so they put some water in it. Somebody says, ''I just killed a porcupine, we'll skin that and chuck that in.'' Not much fun to find a porcupine quill in your soup, you've got to peel it. And somebody else has a turnip. Well they chop that up and put that in. Some potatoes, carrots, little bit of salt. But if one feller with the potato, he sits there, he chews on this old raw potato, it's not very interesting. But you chuck that potato into the pot with all the rest of the vegetables, somebody comes along with an arm-load of wood, somebody has a flint and steel, a bit of birch bark and you make a fire and you've got stone soup and everybody eats well and they share.

Ashley: So, the importance of sharing, is it still alive in the Métis community right now? Does everyone share food still?

Glad: Some do, yeah. Yeah.

Ashley: But it has changed a little bit from the past?

Glad: Oh yes. Greed has stepped in. I mean, there was no greed. My grandfather always said that in the East here, in the Mi'kmaq, there was no word for ''thank you.'' But you just, I mean, you've got something, you've got something, we all put it together, we all eat. There's no thank you, you just do it.

Ashley: So where do you think the greed came from?

Glad: White man. I mean sure, there's good and bad in every people, every group, but white man came over here and he took all the trees, he took all the fish. There's no cod out there now. There were lots of them, they were here for fifteen hundred years. And there was lots of cod, there were lots of animals, there was plenty to eat. Sure there was lean years, lots of snow and people starved to death, yes, but there wasn't the misery that there is today. There wasn't the pollution either because there was nothing here to pollute. There was no plastic, no oil. Didn't need it. There was firewood. There wasn't as many people either. You get pollution with a lot of people.

Laura: So what you might be saying, correct me if I'm wrong, is that the capitalist lifestyle of the Europeans was detrimental to the Native way of life?

Glad: Yes. Oh yes, they brought in diseases that the Native had no way to fight. T.B. killed an awful lot of them, Smallpox killed a lot of us. And other things, even the flu. Of course the flu killed a lot of them too in Europe: overpopulation. You take any animal and you put it into a small area, you know, several animals, any animal, they'll fight, and the survivor is there, but it's the same with people.

Ashley: Do you think there are any efforts being made in the Métis community to try to reverse the greed?

Glad: I think so. I'd like to believe there is, anyway, but I really think there is, yeah. There are some good leaders out there now.

Laura: Do you have any experiences, maybe recent things that you may have seen, acts of generosity or community solidarity that you would want to share with us?

Glad: Oh, I don't know. If you look hard enough you can always see people doing for other people and not expecting much in return, but if you don't expect then you get rewarded. But what is it they say? “My reward is not of this world?” And I've always heard it say true, true genius is never recognized in its own generation. Look at Michelangelo, you know, all the artists, the musicians, Mozart, they mostly all died paupers.

Marilyn: Glad, when we were talking at Mel's the other day you said to me, “there are three, we have three parts of ourselves”. Do you remember that? You were talking about Métis identity?

Glad: Yeah. The part you see, the part that I really am, and the part that the other fella sees: your side, my side and the right side, in other words.

Marilyn: Can you explain that to the class, in terms of who we are, who you feel you are?

Glad: Well, everybody sees everybody in a different light. If we're looking through my eyes, I don't see you the same as she would see you. And, it's like an accident; this person sees it from this side and this person sees it from this side and the policeman comes in here, ''Now what happened?'' 'Well this fella here says this happened, this fella says this happened and they get in a great big pow-wow fight because they didn't see it in the same light and yet they're both telling their truth, their own truth.

Marilyn: Now do you think that's true about people, people's perceptions of the Métis being different from how the Métis see themselves?

Glad: Oh, there was such a chasm between the Europeans and the First Nations when they came here, when the Europeans came here, they couldn't see it. A lot of them, the leaders called them their “children.” Well, they were most certainly not children. Most of the Europeans couldn't survive here, they wouldn't have survived here, were it not for the help of the Natives.

Student: You referred to Glooscap, can you explain who Glooscap is?

Glad: He was kind of like St. Peter in the Christian way of life, only he made things. Now, the boar's back: he was mad at the beaver because the beaver had damned up that, and he threw clods of dirt at the beaver, which landed in the ocean and were the five islands and then there's two islands. And the stones on the beach at Partridge Island, which was where Glooscap lived, that's referred to as Glooscap's Grandmother's jewel chest because there's so many pretty stones down there. He was what they call a hero-god, something like that; he was a demi-god. Yeah. And when white man came, he left and he picked up Paradise and put in his pack, and when he went out over, and he tripped over something and he had squirrel in the backpack with him and squirrel chewed his way out through and kind of wrecked the backpack and then Glooscap tripped. Paradise fell out and that's where you get the Thousand Islands. It is a beautiful place up there. Almost as beautiful as our Nova Scotia.

Student: You mentioned that you were a mechanic and we asked you what you think it was important to teach people or what it was important to do was to have your survival skills, and so I wanted to ask you: Where do you feel most comfortable: when you're in your mechanic shop or when you're out in the garden or maybe out in the middle of nowhere alone having to survive?

Glad: Out in the middle of nowhere. Yep. In the woods I mean, you can't get far enough back into the woods today to get away from civilization. You look up into the sky and there's jet streams going. They're always there. You can't get far enough back from the lights of towns and cities in order to really see the beauty of the night sky. And there's another one, without the darkness, we couldn't see the stars. I remember a time when it was dark. During the Second World War, we had blackouts. And it was black. It really got dark. I mean, oh about two and a half miles away from town and on a dark night they say, you know you couldn't see the hand in front of your face? Well, without the stars, if it was cloudy, it got dark.

Student: You spoke briefly about your father and your grandfather. Was your grandfather his father?

Glad: Yeah.

Student: You spoke as well about your father's brother. I was just curious about a bit more of that history, whereas you can't seem to locate your brother, but your father ran off. Did he go back to his home or go back to his family?

Glad: No. He was on his own. He was used to being on his own and he bought a piece of land on Clairemount, an acre, and built a shack on it and called it Freedom's Last Stand, and that's where he married my mother. I guess that's what he meant.

Student: And when did he reunite with his parents?

Glad: He never did with his mother. She came to the orphanage and picked up Billy and left my father there. And Grandfather was in Spring Hill when he came back, and we have relatives there, in Springhill.

Marilyn: Glad, is that one of the reasons you've been doing so much genealogical research to trace your own ancestors? How far back can you go?

Glad: Seven generations on my Mother's side: the Hunters. Father always said that my mother was an Indian because all Indians were hunters. She was a Hunter by birth. Her last name was Hunter. So, she didn't like that idea.

Marilyn: So you could do the genealogy on your non-native side? And then what about on the native side?

Glad: Can't find out a thing. Nope. No. I can do the genealogy on father's side. I know, but I can't find out what happened to Billy. And I never knew what happened to Grandmother.

Marilyn: So, you know a woman from Shediac who applied for Mi'kmaq status, even though she still considers herself to be Métis. But you won't be able to do that because you can't establish your genealogy, not on the Native side?

Glad: Yeah.

Student: As a class we've been talking about the Métis and we've had some trouble defining what it means to be Métis, so I thinking that it would be interesting to get your perspective about what it means to be Métis.

Glad: That is something that's in your heart. If you have an affinity with the land, with the animals, and with the ancient people. Now I knap. I make arrowheads and stone knives and this sort of thing. I would have brought some here today, but yesterday I got word that my dog's dying so I'm not in prime shape today. However, I could come back and show you how to knap if anyone's interested.

Marilyn: That's a survival skill. So when you meet other people who are Aboriginal do you identify and say, “Well, I'm Métis”?

Glad: Most of them can tell by the shape of your face, the way you speak, the reverence you have for the land. And my sash, if I'm wearing it.

Marilyn: Now, when you came to my induction, you told me that you'd made your skirt. And you had a beautiful full skirt on. Do you consider that to be sort of a Métis dress or Aboriginal dress, or …?

Glad: Some of them wore dresses like that, some of them stayed with the Native costume and some went with the White costume. It was a matter of personal choice.

Student: Earlier when we were talking about your sash, you talked about the good red path. Is that an expression or is there a story behind it?

Glad: Well, the Christians call it the straight and narrow. The Natives, you put your feet on the good red path and you behave yourself. You know, you do good, you try to be good. Father said, the good and the bad -the good is when it's not going to hurt somebody, yourself or someone else; bad means that it will hurt someone, either financially or physically or mentally.

Laura: And would that include destroying the land?

Glad: Destroying the land, yes. Nobody would take their mother and gash them open the way the farmers do with their ploughs, is the way it was put to me. And that's one of the reasons why the Natives got along so well with the French here, because they didn't tear down the forest. They lived on the marshes. Yes they dyked them to keep the water out, but they didn't tear down so many, so much of the trees.

Laura: So the French were less invasive or less destructive?

Glad: The French wanted to assimilate. The English wanted to annihilate. That's how I understood it anyway, that's the way it was taught to me.

Marilyn: Now you said you were learning French, and obviously you speak English. Do you speak any Aboriginal languages?

Glad: No.

Marilyn: And do you speak French from your family background or because it's something you wanted to do?

Glad: It's something I wanted to do. Well, I was working in Montreal in the sixties and I suppose you folks are all too young to remember the sixties. I was making three dollars an hour in Montreal in the sixties. I thought I was a Queen. I bought myself a big black convertible. Yeah! Those were the days! But today it would be, you know, three dollars an hour isn't much today. Back then it was. And in Montreal, well you have to know French or you don't eat.

Marilyn: So why did you come back to the Maritimes?

Glad: I was coming home. I got a job driving a school bus.

Marilyn: And can you say about what that meant for you, coming home?

Glad: Coming home to the sea. The ocean. I missed the ocean more than anything. The waves on Lake Ontario—well they're waves, but they're not ocean waves.

Laura: Do you think that there's a stronger Métis presence in the Maritimes or in Quebec or …?

Glad: Oh, northern Quebec it's very strong. And northern Ontario.

Laura: And do you think throughout your lifetime you have seen any kind of a progression of Métis community?

Glad: I think they're accepted more now. At least on the surface. I don't know really. They seem to be getting ahead now more. They seem to be anyway, whether it's just on the surface or whether it's really there, I mean.

Marilyn: Now at one point you told me that you couldn't get a job if you had Aboriginal ancestry?

Glad: Oh no!

Marilyn: Even if you had Acadian?

Glad: Yeah, the slightest little bit of French accent in you and you know you didn't get work and if you looked even a little bit Native, well what was the word? Lazy Indian? They just wouldn't hire a Native person at all.

Laura: Was that something that you experienced personally or friends of yours?

Glad: Friends of mine. I brought a girl home and my aunt... no, she was my cousin. Well, it was during exams and I brought her home because we were writing exams and she didn't have any place to go to eat her dinner. She had her dinner with her. I brought her home. My cousin: “No way!”. Well I said, “Fine, I'll eat my supper on the outside on the doorstep with her” and I did. My father was really upset over it. And she got told off, not my friend, my cousin. But that stuck with me because there was never anything like that in my home. And I never quite felt the same way about the cousin afterwards.

Student: What's compelled you to learn to speak French?

Glad: The fact that when I was in Montreal you just couldn't communicate.

Student: Oh I thought that was something you were doing more recently. Did you learn to speak French?

Glad: Well, I did afterwards. I was in Montreal for three months. I didn't like the city.

Marilyn: And so do you have any Métis friends now who speak French, and if so, do you speak and French with them?

Glad: Yeah I do, but not that much, no. English is my first language and I have one friend she's in the genealogy department there. It's just something I do and I'll ask her a question in French and she looks at me and says, “Oui,” because that's the word she knows in French and it doesn't matter what the answer is. It's, “Oui”. I will tell you the difference between Native time and White man's time. If you ask a White man what time it is, he looks at his watch and says, “two o'clock”. Ask a Native person what time it is and he'll sniff the air, check out the trees and the sky, the temperature of the air, and say, “it's autumn”.

Ashley: So time is just distinguished by the four seasons?

Glad: Yeah, time is a series of beads, it's not circular. Everything else is circular. The circle is sacred because you have your circle of friends; you have your family circle. Any wild animal makes a nest and it's round. Everything is round. And when you have a friend, you put your arms around them. When you love someone, you put your arms around them. So, round, circle, the circle is sacred.

Laura: Do you think that European culture is too fixated on time?

Glad: It's on money. I mean, money is okay, I suppose in today's society you need it, but friendship I would say means more.

Marilyn: So, if you had a wish about the future of the Métis community or Métis studies or being Métis what would it be? Something you would really like to see happen.

Glad: A wish? Get back to your roots. Get back to the land!

Marilyn: Well, thank you very much. Every time I talk to you my heart expands.

Glad: Thank you.

Marilyn: And a little while ago when we started the class we had a talking circle and everybody spoke from the heart and I think they learned how to do that even more by listening to you. I really appreciate you coming in. So thank you very, very much. And you, Charles, for bringing her. Although I know she is the driver!