“Today I can talk about the Métis and I like it, and my children understand well enough. Well enough that I told them last year that I was making my own coffin… they understood. I told them I want to have a mass in the church. I kind of gave them my will, saying I’m making my coffin myself. I’m making it in the shape of a boat, with two handles like oars. And I said that when I’m lowered into my grave, I want a Métis to come and perform a ceremony. I said, “I would like for Émile to do that.” Well, I guess we don’t know which one of us will go first. But we’ll stay anyways, because when a person dies, whether you die or I die, the body goes away, but the spirit stays. Because people talk about you after you’re gone. All the time. There’s always someone who’s going to be saying, “I knew Émile”, or “I knew Crow” (they call me Crow). Some will say: “He was quite the… Some will say: “He was a damn good guy”, because that’s how it works.”
[ Norbett Vinneau was interviewed by Émile Gautreau and Marilyn Walker in St. Isidor, New Brunswick at a meeting of the Alliance Premier Peuple de la Côte Est/East Coast First People's Alliance. The interview was transcribed by Andrea Cormier, Jennifer Dugay, Bernard Soubry, Patrick Andrews, and Madelaine Metallic]
Norbett: My name is Norbett Vinneau. I was born in 1933 in Tracadie. I was baptized at the church in Tracadie. They told me the date I was baptized, but I don’t remember it. I think it was seven or eight months after I was born. I continued to live at that time with others and life was hard at times but it passed. It always passed.
I was just telling my friend earlier about something that happened to me when I was a little boy. I was five and I liked a drink that my father made. It was a type of beer that some people called home brew and I really liked the taste of it. I liked the feeling it gave me. (Norbett begins to cry) I don’t know…I'm sorry, I can’t help it. Lots of things are going through my head. I didn’t know it would bother me, but it does. In my home there was a lot of violence. It was hard at times. When my mother and father were fighting, or when there was fighting in the house because my father was bootlegging, then I'd go drink. I’d be upstairs at home and I’d steal the beer. And one day I had taken some, and I came downstairs and my aunt was there. I had my beer mug in my hand, and she said to my mother, “Why are you letting a five year old child drink?” It’s funny but that stayed in my head and I think about it often. This made me an alcoholic by the time I was ten years old. I promised that if I got married, if I had children, that I wouldn’t do the same. My father did something I didn’t like, and I couldn’t do that. I made myself that promise and I didn’t keep it. It just didn’t work out that way. I married a woman I loved a lot. That was September 21st 1954. I promised she would have everything in the world that she could need. It didn’t turn out that way. The drink turned me into quite a rebel. I had it out for everyone, I argued all the time. When I started drinking, I wasn’t the same person, and I regretted it once I was sober. I’d hide out in the woods. My life was like that.
I knew there was something about me. I didn’t know I was a Métis, but I knew there was something from the start that was different from other people because when I was a little boy, I would go out into the woods behind the house, and I loved listening to the sound of the wind in the trees. I heard songs, I heard music, and I felt good there. I felt good. I’d leave the house for half a day at a time and if I could find a stream where the water was running, it was the same thing. I’d lie on the side of the stream, on the bank as we would call it, and I could hear the songs and the whispers. I would hear all kinds of things and it was beautiful, really beautiful to me. When I grew up, even when I’d sit on the front patio with my wife, we’d look at the clouds and I’d see all kinds of things in them. I saw wars in them. All those clouds, they would arrange themselves like soldiers battling. And horses. I’d see all kinds of beasts and animals in there. You know, it was nice. I always liked that. I still see them somewhat. When I go outside at night and the clouds are passing, I like that. In the afternoon too, I like to watch them and I see all kinds of things there.
About eight years ago, maybe ten, my son went to Tracadie and there was a guy there who could tell you where you were from, things like that, and he said to me, “Dad, we’re Indians.” I said, “What? Indians? I don’t know where you’d get that”. But he said, “No, we’re Métis, we’re Mikmaq.” It didn’t surprise me in a way because I already knew there was something there. Ever since then, I’ve liked it. I’m proud, very proud to be Métis. I’m quite happy about it. It’s because they were terribly intelligent people and I often think about what they went through. Being thrown into boats and being sent off that way, then drifting along the coasts and coming to places like Tracadie and Neguac and Tabusintac. And then keeping themselves and their families alive. I think they’d have to be awfully smart, awfully intelligent. They had nothing to work with and they made tents, bark cabins I heard they called them. They were very intelligent and I’m proud of them. Very proud. Because I remember life used to be hard. It wasn’t like it is today. At home, we didn’t have a toilet in the house. Things like that didn’t exist. No telephones, no electricity, nothing at all. We had an old stove that mom used to cook on. I remember cause on one the dome was more square. The other was a star and the dome was more round. I remember Mom would make us all kinds of good dishes. She would make poutine creuse. They were made with dough that was spread out, a sort of pie crust, and then she would put sugar inside and roll them. Then she would name them, because if you didn’t give them a name, they would bust! (Looks towards Émile and asks if it was this way for him). So if she forgot to give them a name, they would bust and the sugar would leak out. She couldn’t forget to do that. Maybe it was just one of those things! Anyway, after that there were dough boys. Dough boys were like dough about this thick (shows thickness between fingers) and they were little squares that we would dip in molasses and sugar.
We ate a lot of fish. Herring, gaspereau, or “sucker” we called it, trout, and salmon. And the meat was almost always deer, moose and hare. I remember that my father and I would go hunting for food to survive. When he killed a moose all the neighbours would come and get their share because it was such a large animal. It was the same thing if there was a pig. If there was a pig, then there was a piece called the “neighbour’s piece” and it was cut three quarters thick. I remember it like it was yesterday. They would cut it three quarters thick and give it to the neighbours. Everything was divided: potatoes, turnip, carrots, and cabbage, anything at all. Anything that was cultivated was shared with the neighbours. All the neighbours had a part. When it came time to chop wood for heat in the fall, it was the same thing. There would be 7 or 8 guys who would take off with bags on their backs and axes, and each guy had his place. If it took two days, then for two days they would cut wood for him, then they’d go off to the next guy’s place, then the next place, and all the neighbours would have all their wood chopped for the winter. I remember like it was yesterday.
Émile: And the langisse? What was done with them? How were they arranged for food?
Norbett: For food?
Émile: Yes, the langisse?
Norbett: We would salt them. The meat was salted as well, except in the fall sometimes, I don’t remember exactly when. But before Christmas, three or four guys would go hunting and they would freeze the meat in these little sheds. Sometimes they would kill a moose and it would be close to Christmas, and they would divide it anyway, even if it was frozen. But in the summer everything was salted. All the meat was salted. There was nothing else to be done.
Émile: And the moose meat, when it began to freeze in November, would it stay hung there?
Norbett: Yes, hung up…
Émile: There’s a crust that would form on the meat.
Norbett: Yes, it was hardened and you had to get it off.
Émile: Can you explain that?
Norbett: Yes. They would take a knife and after they removed the crust, the underneath was still good. My father had a knife that he called the double- handled knife. It was a knife that had two thingy’s on it, you know, and he would hang the meat up and slice it. There were all these really thin, thin slices. I remember I liked it so much, it was unbelievable. He would cut them and then we’d grease the stove top and put them on there to cook, and it was really good. But we also ate lots of raw meat. Raw moose meat, raw deer meat, hare, partridge, with no salt or anything on it. There’s a bit of a salty taste when you eat it raw like that. Salted or frozen, you find a little taste of salt in it. That’s what life was like in those days.
Émile: Ok, let’s start with that. You started to have problems with alcohol and tobacco and things like that. And then life with your wife, it was almost the same as back when you were at home.
Norbett: I never beat her. My father hit my mother sometimes. And my mother, well, she would hit my father sometimes. It’s not a nice thing to say, but it’s the truth. One time, he took a rolling pin and hit her right there (points to forehead) and he split her open. My father was a big man. He was about 6’4. Mom was a woman who weighed about 200 pounds. Maybe 250 to 280. My dad was a pretty solid guy too. His wrists were the size of my fists. Big hands… I said I didn’t want to have my father’s life, but I lived even worse. I think about my wife often. I go into the woods sometimes and I hide. I sit in my car and I don’t drink anymore. I’m happy not to be drinking, and if I do this, if I stay sober, it’s thanks to my wife. She’s the one who’s doing this. I know it’s her. I know the Great Spirit is there for me. He protects my wife. I know it. She died on March 4th 1992. I found her at eleven in the morning. A vein had busted in her head, and it killed her. And I only stopped drinking in 1993.
Émile: You stopped drinking?
Norbett: Yes. I haven’t drank since then, and I never will. It’s thanks to her that I am here today and am able to speak with you. The good Lord is good to me. The Spirit protects me all the time. I know it protects me. My wife had such a hard time with me.
Émile: How many children did you have?
Norbett: Eight. Four girls and four boys. They are all still alive.
Émile: They are all alive?
Émile: And do they all live around here?
Norbett: No, there’s just Raymond who works out west. The others are here. He came down the other day…
Émile: And the family’s spirituality, are you all Catholic?
Émile: You didn’t learn any aboriginal spirituality?
Norbett: Not much. Now I know more. In the beginning, my children didn’t want to listen to what I had to say. But me, I liked it. So I kept on with it and today it’s better. Today I can talk about the Métis and I like it, and my children understand well enough. Well enough that I told them last year that I was making my own coffin.
Émile: And did they handle that well?
Norbett: Oh yes. Then they understood. I told them I want to have a mass in the church. I kind of gave them my will, saying I’m making my coffin myself. I’m making it in the shape of a boat, with two handles like oars. And I said that when I’m lowered into my grave, I want a Métis to come and perform a ceremony. I said, “I would like for Émile to do that”. Well, I guess we don’t know which one of us will go first. But we’ll stay anyways, because when a person dies, whether you die or I die, the body goes away, but the spirit stays. Because people talk about you after you’re gone. All the time. There’s always someone who’s going to be saying, “I knew Émile”, or “I knew Crow” (they call me Crow). Some will say: “He was quite the… Some will say: “He was a damn good guy”, because that’s how it works.
Émile: Now I want to talk about how you went to prison.
Émile: You were boxing with people in town?
Émile: You started to drink a lot more at what age?
Norbett: I started to drink more around twenty eight. Twenty eight or thirty.
Émile: You started going to prison.
Émile: At what age?
Norbett: I went to prison in 1965, I think. I can’t quite remember, but about then. Yes, that’s what drinking does. That’s what life is when you start out like that. There were neighbours back home, and those people lived well. There was no fighting or anything, and I liked them. They tried to convince me to stop drinking, but it didn’t work. The drink is stronger than that. It’s very strong. When it gets into your head, it’s mental; the drinking illness is a mental illness. It’s an illness in the head. Your system needs it when you’re not drinking, but if you stop for three, four months, maybe five, six months, I don’t think your system is addicted to it anymore. But if it’s only two or three days, then your system still needs it. It’s a constant craving. It’s constantly running through your mind; you have to have more. When you wake up in the morning, it’s the bottle, or “give me a shot of hard liquor”. I myself came to mix tobacco and water in the morning and I’d drink that. I never had a binge with rubbing alcohol, but there are those who would use it and go on binges. Myself, I used to put it in water and it would make the water white. And in the morning, to bring myself around, because I didn’t have any liquor, I’d take a glass or two of that and I would feel better. I’d be fine. No headache, no nausea. Just fine. I don’t know if that worked for other people, but it worked for me.
Émile: And when you drank you’d get angry?
Norbett: I was mischievous
Émile: You were mischievous?
Norbett: Yes, I was mischievous.
Émile: And that’s how it started? Ok, so when you went to prison it was in 64’?
Norbett: Right around then, yes.
Émile: October 1964. And the reason was because you hit someone? What happened?
Norbett: I don’t think I can really say what happened.
Émile: No? It doesn’t matter.
Norbett: But it was a fight.
Émile: Ok, it was a fight.
Norbett: That’s right.
Émile: And the other times, was it the same thing? A fight?
Norbett: Yes, that’s right. Each time they put me in prison. They put me in prison often, though I only went to the big prison twice. But I’ve never been back since I stopped drinking. If I had continued to drink, it would have killed me. I know it would have killed me.
Émile: You would have died.
Norbett: Yes, guaranteed. I was the kind of guy that if I was drinking with you and no one bothered me, I wouldn’t bother anyone. I wouldn’t have bothered anyone. The problem was that if we were drinking together and someone came up and said something to you, he would have been better off saying it to me. If he said it to me, it wasn’t so bad. But you’re my friend. That’s how it was. And I was pretty rough.
Conversation shifts to Dr. Walker and Émile discussing the interview, as the original interview was conducted in Acadian French.
Émile: Basically what he’s saying is that his drinking started at age five. Stealing the home brew, taking a cup upstairs and drinking it. Now, his aunt caught him a couple times and his father would beat him up because he was drinking, but he started becoming an alcoholic at that age because there was always home brew there and he was dipping into it most of the time. So by the time he was in his teens, he was basically an alcoholic because of that. And in the house, there was always fighting. His father was a big, angry man and he drank really heavily.
Dr. Walker: So who was Mikmaq in his family?
Émile: Well, his mother, but I think also his father has Métis blood also.
Émile: (To Norbett) The Aboriginal blood, it’s from both sides of your family, right? Not just your mother or just your father?
Norbett: Yes, My father also. I’m not absolutely sure, but I found that my father was Huron.
Émile: (To Dr. Walker) Yep, his father was probably not Mikmaq, but he was Huron, a mixture. But it wasn’t talked about there, that was all taboo, and he never knew that he was. He just felt there was something but he didn’t find out until later on, maybe fifteen or sixteen that he figured out they were Aboriginal.
Émile: (To Norbett) She would like to know how you found out that you were Métis; how it happened. Did your mother tell you something, your father tell you something, your neighbours tell you something, or your aunt tell you something?
Norbett: The only thing I knew, was when my son went to see Alfred Chiasson, when he told him that we were Métis. Then I declared that I was Métis. Before that, no one was allowed to talk about these things. People were afraid to talk about it. If you were Indian, you could get killed. It hasn’t been so long since they did away with scalping of Indians. In 1955 it was done away with and if I’m not mistaken, it was in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia.
Émile: That’s still on the books. They haven’t removed that yet. It’s still written. They haven’t undone that yet.
Norbett: No, but it hasn’t been long since they removed the right to do it. So when someone tells you these things, it does something to you. I don’t know about other people, but it makes me feel a bit aggressive. I just wonder, why make people suffer so much? Why? Our race was in Canada first, they were the First Nations. And it was just jealousy and trying to take away their rights. That’s all it was. Today I’m not doing this for money, that’s not what I want. My thought is that I want my rights. I want to be able to go on the land of my ancestors and be able to kill an animal if I need to. I want the right to do that, to feed my family and even give some to my neighbours and friends. That’s all I want.
[Editor's Note: The following section of the interview was transcribed by three students of Dr. Marilyn Walker's Indigenous Knowledge Systems course, Bernard Soubry, Patrick Andrews, and Madelaine Metallic.]
Marilyn: So when did you find out that you were Métis?
Norbett: I was a Métis?
Norbett: Yeah, it's about, euh, eight years ago I would say, cause my son went in Tracadie and he meet a fella there who could read that--I don't know how, but anyway, he find that on those thing he was looking at--he was woking as, or something--anyway, he come home and told me that, "Dad, did you know we have Indian blood in our veins? [Émile walks in.] I said, no. That's how I learned I was a Métis. And then after that, well, I keep on asking people all over the place, everyone I meet, to find out more and more and more.
Marilyn:Uh-huh. And how do you think your son--what was it about your son that made him go to Tracadie?
Norbett: I don't know, he was just there and he meet that guy and he was charging, I guess, it was ten dollars--he just ask you if you want to know if you had Indian blood in you or not. And that's how he find out. [Émile:Backinafewminutes.Okay?Wehavetodothesmokeceremony.] Just when he went and asked the guy, he said, can you tell me if I have Indian blood but he asked for his grandfather's name, and stuff like that, and his father's name, mother, everything, and so he said, you have Indian blood in you--Mi’kmaq--on your father's side. So I learned it that way.
Marilyn:Was there any on your mother's side?
Marilyn: Was there any Indian blood on your mother's side?
Norbett: Yeah. It was on my grandmother's side that we had, cause her name was Margaret. And our great-grandmother, she was Catherine. She was pure Indian. My great grandmother.
Marilyn: Your great-grandmother.
Marilyn: And she was Mi’kmaq
Norbett: Yes, Mi’kmaq.
Marilyn: So, today, what does it mean to you to say you're Métis? How do you feel to say you're a Métis?
Norbett: I feel great. I feel... I'm happy. I'm so proud of it. It's not funny. I'm proud to be Mi’kmaq. I'm proud to be... to belong to Indian blood. I feel really good. When somebody asks... I'm so proud to say it. And I'm going to die like that. Yeah... I'm going to keep on to the last day. Well enough 'cause I made my own coffin.
Marilyn: Yeah, Émile was telling us. And what can you tell us about that? What does it look like?
Norbett: Oh, it's great. Because I want to be buried as a Mi’kmaq. As an Indian. That's what I want.
Marilyn: And... how will that take place? How... what does the coffin look like?
Norbett: My coffin? It's made with pine. White pine. And it's made... the shape's going to be a boat. The back is two feet wide, and the high... the side is eighteen inches, and the front where my feet going to be is eighteen... eight inches wide.
[This part of the interview took place in French, and has been translated.]
Norbett: I want to be buried like a Mi’kmaq. That's what I want. And I'm starting my coffin, I've started to make it. My children all know, my family knows. At the beginning, they weren't okay with it, because things like that... when things are like that... it didn't matter that I was buried like a Mi’kmaq--the difference, for them, was the coffin I was making myself. That's what bothered them. But now everything's okay. I'll build it myself, I'll stuff it myself. I'll do everything--two oars to make the handles, to carry me. And it's two feet wide at the shoulder, and the base is eight inches wide--for my feet--and it's sixteen inches deep. And it's made of pine--the pine is the tree that grows highest, towards the sky, and that's why I chose pine. And I want everything to be like it would be for Indians, because my race is Indian, but I want to be brought to a church--I'll have a mass anyways, but when I'll be in my grave, I want it to be as an Indian. Or a Métis. And I've chosen Émile, my friend, as long as he's alive... if I die, as much as possible, it's Émile I'd like to do the ceremony. If it's possible. But if it's not possible--he might go before me... well, I think he'll stay as long as me. I think. I'll ask him. That's my decision, my burial, on that side. For the rest, well, we'll see.
Émile: Talking about that... are you going to do the fou rdirections?
Norbett: Oh, yeah! Yes, yes, yes. East, South, West and North.
Émile: For the prayers you say.
Norbett: Yeah. I always do my prayer, every day... well, I can't say every day, because I can forget from time to time. Often I wake up in the morning and do my prayer--the four directions. And when I go outside, the days I do it, I kiss the earth because the earth is going to take me for eternity. I'll be there for the rest of time. That's why I do it. And I do the four directions because my prayer's that way: Serenity, life, power, and... er--
Norbett: Yeah. And I do that every day. A couple of days ago, I forgot, but I did it when I remembered in the morning--it was one of the first things I did when I woke up in the morning, at four, five o'clock... that's what I do, first time.
Émile: And you kiss the earth.
Norbett: Oh, yes. Every morning. Every morning.
Émile: You get on your knees and--
Norbett: Yeah. I get on my knees and I kiss the earth.
Émile: OK. That's good. OK. (to Marilyn) Alright. He already explained everything about the, the casket and everything like that, and the ceremony that he does, and how he does it, and, er, why he does it... okay, now can I go back--
Marilyn: You can go back to--
Émile: OK. (to Norbett) So--how was it when you were young, you haven't told us too much about the food your mother made. What did you eat? What did she make for you that you still like today?
Norbett: Oh, yes, I still like that today. I remember--she had poutines, she'd call them "les poutines creuses" [hollow poutines], and there were [poutines à la "nache"], she called them, with raisins--made with raisins--and with lard in them. Salted lard. So we ate a lot of that.
Émile: And the poutine, it was a poutine... made with potatoes?
Norbett: Yeah, yeah.
Norbett: Yeah--lard, yes--we ate that often, yeah. But it was a lot more... how can I say it--yeah, like that. But there was a lot of fish for us. Because we were close to the river, it was normal for us, and if there was going to be meat, things like that well, we needed a lot of it--if you had beef, for example, we didn't have that much. There was pork sometimes: my father would fatten the pig and we'd have that, we'd divide it. And when one of the neighbours killed a bull, he'd give us a piece of beef that he'd gotten from the bull he'd killed--but you only did that in the fall. The pig, too--you only killed animals in the fall. We had fish in the summer--pretty much all summer long. Winter, we'd have smelt often. Apart from that, you couldn't fish much. But we had some cod, and salmon, and trout--we take all that and salt it. The fish was all salted.
Émile: OK. At Christmas--what was there at Christmas?
Norbett: At Christmas, it was... it's funny for me to talk about Christmas. It's because I--what I remember most, it's eating all of that--we had cakes. We ate so much. But back then there wasn't all sorts of stuff on it, not stuff like nowadays. There were molasses cakes, and raisin pies, and, er, pies. They also made some with wild cranberries, wild cranberry pie, stuff like that--everything that came from the earth because that's what there was. And we had... molasses cake, sugar cake, and we had pies. And there were meat pies, some with hare, some with pheasant, deer--
Émile: It wasn't like today, with a big turkey.
Norbett: No, no, no, no, no.
Émile: It was our kind of pie. Like a meat pie...deer, moose, rabbit, stuff like that.
Norbett: Yeah, yeah. Anything they had. Not like now, with... turkeys, you know, that stuff. No, not us--we didn't have that.
Émile: And did you put your socks on a nail--your socks?
Norbett: Oh, those were hung in front. Mom did that. Yeah, for that--that was done in the evening. My job was--holding yarn, you know? [He demonstrates.] Both arms out, with two bits of wool, right, so she could take it, right, to hold it. And she'd take angles, and wood--that was all done by hand.
There was sheep's wool, and she took it and we washed the wool, and then we took the [écarts]. They were about this big [he shows the size with his fingers], about six inches wide, with little iron teeth—and she brushed the wool like that to be able to ??pass it through the shuttle??. There were [écarts] that were about this big, this wide. And you'd take them in your hands, and make the wheel spin--
Émile: Was it big like that or very small? The “spinningwheel”?
Norbett: It was the same as an [écart], but it was a bit smaller. And there was yarn that went in there—that was smaller. And she'd stitch them at night when we'd finished dinner and everything was washed up. She stitched.
Émile:What did your father do for work?
Norbett: He was a lumberjack.
Émile: A what?
Norbett: A lumberjack.
Émile: Oh! A lumberjack.
Norbett: Yeah, yeah, and he made leather shoes-- des souliers de peau rude, they called it. He had wooden models, just like feet, and he'd wrap them all around the cessants, they called them, all around the foot—and stitch it in front. And he'd put them in stalls and sell them. They weren't expensive.
Émile: Your mom never made paddles? Like the Natives did it.
Norbett: No, she did make some, but not many; but my father made rackets.
Norbett: Yes rackets. Rackets, fixtures, and things like that.
Émile: But did you rmom make paddles with um...
Norbett: With resin?
Norbett: Yeah, yeah, yeah. She made some for the neighbours, and for us. She'd give them to the neighbours—she didn't sell them—she didn't make any. She made them in the evenings, like that.
Émile: Were going to talk more...you haven’t talked about how you boxed with Ivan Durant- you boxed also eh?
Norbett: Ah yes.
Émile: You haven’t talked about that, can you?
Norbett: But I didn’t technically fight against him.
Émile: No, no ,no... “Training”.
Norbett: Oh training, yes, for a couple of years.
Émile: You travelled within the province and you boxed right?
Norbett: I boxed in Nova Scotia, in St. John a couple of times, and I boxed in Quebec. It was seven times, seven times in all that I boxed. But it’s not a championship matter, I started from the beginning. You have to do it and you have to be tough.
Émile: You weren’t paid much for it weren’t you?
Norbett: No, no, I wasn’t paid very much.
Émile:Did you start drinking a lot after boxing?
Norbett: Oh yes, yes, beforehand even.
Émile: And how old were you when you started smoking?
Norbett: Smoking—around sixteen, fourteen, maybe even before then... before, like I said, I smoked through three and a half to four packs a day.
Émile: Was it the tobacco you bought at thestore? It was not the kind of tobacco you made eh?
Norbett: My father made the tobacco.
Émile: But how did he make the tobacco?
Norbett: He called it [forlingue]. It was a kind of tobacco, it was big and long, like this, all roped together.
Émile: And then he would cut it?
Norbett: Yeah, he'd cut it all and keep the lower part to chew, because you can smoke, but you could chew. And he took a bin and twisted the wooden plug—it was full all the way. And he'd put it—it was about this long and this big, I'd say—he'd put it in with molasses, and then he pressed on it, and took a ??[juive]??, and he hit it, and then put the hole??all the way through??, just right. It was tight, and then he left it there one week or two, if I'm not mistaken. After that, he took his [bloc à savon], his wooden plug, and he had his tobacco, his chewing tobacco.
Émile: Was it better?
Norbett: Yes, and we chewed it.
Émile: It’s the same thing?
Norbett: Yes, the same thing.
Émile: Now, it’s been 18 years since you have stopped drinking; and your life has improved?
Émile: What changed in your life when you stopped drinking?
Norbett: The first thing that stopped in me was fighting—when I stopped drinking my troubles stopped, right away. The only thing that could help me was the only thing I can see helping any alcoholic—AA. Nobody else, nothing else for me. It's the only thing. It's a bit weird, because... I talk about it and it feels weird. I get emotional because I think of the troubles I had and the suffering I was laying on myself, the suffering my wife went through, my children... I think about it all the time. And then only thing that could help me was an AA member like I am now. It was a guy like me who told me, who was able to get the message out. I understand—just a bit—that there's so much I don't know. All my life, it was revenge in me, and revenge... I don't know why—that's just how it happened. With me, it was always, “Come here, you bastard, I'll--”... that was my life, my idea, me—to clench inside myself and around me, around the neighbourhod, I was... I almost did it a bunch of times there, but in the neighbourhood, I didn't want to do that. But as soon as I was somewhere else, somewhere no one was pressuring me—I was drunk.
Émile: When you were young, you never really received any affection .But now, I can see that you enjoy affection, you gave Marilyn a hug and things like that. How did that change? How did that happen?
Norbett: It happened with AA meetings.
Émile: AA meetings?
Norbett: Yeah, that's it. With AA meetings, I was able to understand that it wasn't beating on other people that was they key. It was to give love. Not to try to get it from people, but for me to give it, the love that was in me. It was up to me to go and give it. Because if you're always looking and looking for it, it doesn't work. You have to give before you receive.
Émile: And that is important to you.
Norbett: Yeah. But when you don't get it—I didn't get it, what I was doing. In the morning I would have my bottle of beer, and in the evening I'd have it, and I'd drink again, and put it down then. I'd come back at night and take up the bottle again. I wasn't able to cope. When my wife died on March 4, in '92, I started drinking really hard—and I never stopped. My life was in danger, that's the truth. But the worst was that others' lives were suffering. And nobody knew. It didn't show, I didn't talk about it. I didn't want to say anything, but people didn't know. I'd go to work, and then I stopped--but today, I'm okay.
Émile: When you went to school, I want to know at what age you started.
Norbett: Six years old I think.
Émile: Was it ten miles from your house?
Norbett: Maybe... yes, but during that time it was tough.
Émile: Was it in French?
Norbett: Yeah, in French. I remember—this has weighed a long time on my heart—Mom had made me a coat. And I don't know if you know the song, “My Coat of Many Colours”? Well, I wore that coat. And at the new school, they laugehed at me. Because it was an old coat made of scraps all sewn together. She'd made me a coat like that, and the others laughed—they though my coat was funny-looking. I kept going to school. I didn't like it—I don't know why, but I never wanted to be in front. You'd think if I'd been in front I might have been good, but I didn't want to do that. We were always laughing—my and my two cousins, we'd tussle in the back. And even if we knew the answer, we wouldn't say anything in English. And we'd fight.
We had to be in back and we crept away. Then, we would fight a lot, which is reasonable for little kids. We fought often though, and sometimes in class. Then she would get the stick. It wasn’t like it is today, you can’t hit kids anymore. You can barely yell at them because it will hurt them. In our day, it wasn’t like that. The teacher had a stick, about the length of this talking stick and about an inch thick. She would grab you by the fingers and strike you on the hand.
Émile: Was this a nun?
Norbett: No, just a regular school teacher.
Émile: Was she French?
Norbett: Yes, she didn’t live far from our house. Anyway, she was very devoted to Jesus Christ, unbelievable. Once, she held my fingers and I noticed that she had hit my right hand a hundred times...
Émile: A hundred?!
Norbett: ... and she hit my left hand a hundred times too. Yes, a hundred. My hands were very red and swollen by inches. One time, I watched for my chance and pulled my hands back before she hit them. She made me stand on my knees and keep my arms straight. She had geopraphy textbooks that were very big and heavy. I hard a hard time lifting them. She placed them on my hands and I had to keep my arms straight. If they lowered, she would strike me around the ribs. It was tough, she got me good that time. Unbelievable, that’s how they taught back then. You had to learn something, but I didn’t have the mind to learn. I only finished the sixth grade. Then I went on the job market. I had to apply to jobs. I had to make them think that I was smart, that I was capable. If they asked, I told them that I had done the tenth grade. If they caught me, then I told them it was a misunderstanding, and had really meant to say six [Translator's Note: in French, six and ten are six and dix]. That’s how I made my life, I had to lie but I made my life. I still got some good jobs.
Émile: Did your mother and father go to school?
Norbett: No, they couldn’t write their names.
Émile: When you went to school, did you learn about the Native way of life?
Émile: The only religion taught was Catholic?
Norbett: Yes, there wasn’t anything else they taught us.
Émile: At what age did you finish school?
Émile: After that?
Norbett: I went to go work in the woods.
Émile: With your father?
Norbett: No, he was too old to work. I worked in camps, I was “cookie”.
Émile: Did you also go to Labrador?
Norbett: Yes, back in ‘55.
Émile: Same job?
Norbett: No, I worked with machinery. Driving trucks and things like that.
Émile: Do you still go to Catholic church?
Norbett: Not very often, I was a Knight of Columbus. The “right arm” of the church they call it. There were things that went on that I wasn’t happy with though. They also accused me of things I didn’t do, so I left them when I learn that I was a Métis. I wanted to live the life of a Métis as best I could and be closer to the Métis and to the Native Peoples.
Émile: And you learned the spirituality of Mother Earth from me (Émile), correct?
Émile: Now ,for all those reading this,what would you like to say in regards to being proud of being a Métis? What would you like to say to all those Acadians hiding in the woods who won’t admit that they are Métis? What would you like to say?
Norbett: Acadians, to me, don’t exist. I won’t say that this is how everyone else feels, but to me there aren’t any Acadians. They have their own national holiday, but I’ve never heard of a real Acadian. It’s just a name they gave to our people, at least in this area. We’re all Métis. If they could learn and think clearly, and better study what it is to be a Métis, they would know. To me, it’s the best life there is on this earth. Being a Métis, there’s nothing to it, it’s just pride. It’s a shame the government doesn’t recognize it. In this area, I could show you Native cemeteries. I found plenty or arrow-heads, even long black hair and necklaces.
Émile: Would you be able to show us these places?
Norbett: I think so, lots of people live around there, but I think I could get there.
Émile (explaining to Dr.Walker): When they come out and find out the true feeling of being Métis, they will know themselves a lot better, like himself. Now he’s not lost anymore. He was lost, but now that he has found his spirituality and know he is Métis, he is extremely proud of it and wasn’t before. That’s why he was fighting and all that stuff.
(to Norbett)Your kids, do they know that they are Métis?
Émile: But they don’t say “I am Métis”? Will they eventually?
Norbett: No they don’t, but I think they will. I find that they are just too shy to say it. What gets me is that with my kids, it’s like they are embarrassed. They hesitate to speak about it, I see it when I speak to them. They know though, and they are happy inside. Especially Remond, he’s working out west. He won’t hesitate to say it, but the others are reserved. One thing that makes me happy though, is that one of my grandsons isn’t shy at all about it. He goes to school and proudly says: “I’m an Indian.”.
Émile: Thank you for sharing your story because it is going to give people hope that they can also know who they are.
Norbett: Exactly, they should go out and look, to find out, because (those of them) they are Métis and don’t know it. But they should do and discover it. Ask and then they will (learn). They will be proud of themselves and what they have done. That’s the way I am very proud of myself. I found my real place where I belong.
Émile: And that will also help very many other people. Thank you very much.
Norbett: To help is all I want to do, to help.
[BEGIN SECOND PART OF INTERVIEW - CETTE PARTIE DE L'ENTREVUE SE DÉROULE EN FRANÇAIS.]
Norbett: J'veux être enterré comme un micmac. C'est ça que j'veux. Pis, euh, j'commence mon cercueil, j'ai commencé à faire, pis mes enfants toutes le savent, ma famille le sait. PIs, au commencement, y'étaient pas grand d'accord, à cause que les affaires sont de même, des affaires de même... ça faisait pas d'équivalence que j'sois enterré comme un micmac, la différence qu'y faisaient, c'était le cercueil que j'faisais moi-même. C'est ça qui ??ferpaient dont le plus.?? Mais astheur tout est correct. J'vais l'faire moi-même, j'vais l'bourrer moi-même. J'vais tout faire--deux rame pour faire les poignées, pour le... pour me porter. Pis y'a deux pieds de large, aux épaules, pis y'a huit pouces de large à la base pour mes pieds, pis y'a seize pouces de haut. Pis y'est fait en pin--le pin, c'est l'arbre qui pousse le plus haut vers le ciel, pis c'est pour ça que j'ai choisi le pin, pis j'veux tout avoir qu'est ce que c'est qu'y'a en indien parce que ma race est indien, mais j'vas être rentré à l'église, j'vas avoir la messe pareil, mais quand j'serais descendu dans ma tombe, j'veux qu'ce soit en indien. Ou un métis. Pis j'ai choisi Émile, mon ami, aussi que lui en vie, moi j'mourre, aussi que mondialement, c'est Émile que j'voudrais qu'y vienne faire la cérémonie. Si c'est possible. Mais si c'est pas possible, p't'ête ben qu'y va partir avant moi, ben, moi j'crois qu'y va être aussi longtemps que moi. J'pense. J'lui d'mande. C'est ça ma décision que j'ai pris, mon enterrement, c'est s'bord-là. L'restant, ben, on verra.
Émile: S'enquête sur le fait, là... vas-tu faire les quatre directions?
Norbett: Ah, oui! Ah oui, ah oui, ah oui. L'Est, le Sud, l'Ouest, pis l'Nord.
Émile: Pour les prières que tu fais.
Norbett: Oui. Ben j'vas tout l'temps faire ma prière, à tous les jours... fallais pas dire à tous les jours, parce que est à près oublier d'temps en temps. Pas souvent que j'me lêve le matin pis ma prière est faite--les quatres directions. Pis quand j'sors dehors, le jours que j'fais, j'embrasse la terre parce que la terre va m'prendre pour l'éternité. J'vas être là pour le restant. Ben c'est pour ça que j'fais ça. Pis, euh, j'fais les quatres directions parce que c'est ma prière qui est de même--la sérénité, la vie, le pouvoir, la... voyons donc.
Norbett: Ouais. Pis j'fais ça à tous les jours. Y'était ben une couple de jours, j'ai oublié. Mais j'l'ai fait en me revené?? dans l'matin--c't'une des premières chose quand j'me suis levé l'matin, par quatre, cinq heures, là... c'est ça que j'fais, première chose.
Émile: Pis t'embrasse la terre.
Norbett: Oh, oui. Tous les matins. Tous les matins.
Émile: Tu t'mets sur les genoux pis--
Norbett: Oui. J'me mets à genoux pis j'embrasse la terre.
Émile: OK. Ça c'est correct. OK. (to Marilyn) Alright. He already explained everything about the, the casket and everything like that, and the ceremony that he does, and how he does it, and, er, why he does it... okay, now can I go back--
Émile: OK. (to Norbett) Alors--comment tu t'retrouves quand t'étais jeune, t'as pas dis grand chose en regard les repas de ta mère. Qu'est-ce que vous avez à manger? Qu'est-ce qu'à faisait que t'aimes encore aujourd'hui?
Norbett: Oh, oui, j'aime encore aujourd'hui. J'me rappele comme elle avait des poutines, comme elle appelait, les poutines creuses, là, pis y'avait les poutines à la nache, qu'elle appelait, avec des raisins--faites avec des raisins--pis du lard dedans. Du lard salé. Alors on mangeait beaucoup ça.
Émile: Pis la poutine, c'était une poutine, tu fais.. des patates?
Norbett: Oui, oui.
Émile: Des oeufs?
Émile: Du lard?
Norbett: Oui--du lard, oui--on prenait ça souvent, oui. Mais c'était pas mal plus... comment, oui, c'est ça. Mais c'est beaucoup de poisson pareil, nous-autres. Parce qu'était proche d'la rivière, pis c'était... pas deu horaires, pour nous-autres, pis si y'allait faire d'la viande, des affaires de même, ben fallait en chcercher pas mal, si y'en mettait par exemple le boeuf, le, d'même nous-autres, on l'avait pas beaucoup. On avait du cochon des fois, mon père allait gâter le cochon pis on avait ça, on l'divisait, pis quand c'est un des voisins tuait un boeuf, y nous donnait un morceau de boeuf, qu'y s'était tué--rien qu à l'automne que c'était fait. Le cochon pareil. Tue un animal à l'automne. Le poisson, on avait ça l'été, pas mal tout l'été. L'hiver, ben souvent d'léperland. À part de ça, y'a pas grand-chose de pêche. Mais on vivait plus de morue, pis le saumon, la truite, y'en prenait, pis on salait ça. Tout salé, l'poisson.
Émile: OK. À Noël--qu'est-ce qu'y avait, à Noël?
Norbett: À Noël, c'était... c'était comme comique pour moi de parler de Noël. C'est parce que... j'me qu'est-ce qui m'reste de la tête de plus, là, c'est manger tout ça--on avait des gâteaux. On mangeait tout ça. Mais dans c'temps-là y'avait pas de ??choses?? dessus, pas d'affaires comme astheur. C'était des gâteaux à la mélasse, pis des tartes aux raisins, pis, euh.. des tartes avec... murmures y'en mettaient aussi avec des pommes de pré, des tartes aux pommes de prés, des affaires de même--c'était tout de quoi qui pari qui v'nait de la terre, parce que c'était ce qu'y avait. Pis on avait... le gâteau à la mélasse, le gâteau au sucre, pis on avait les tartes. Pis y'avait des pâtés à la viande, là, au lièvre, la perdrix, chevreuil--
Émile: C'était pas comme aujourd'hui, comme dire, un gros dinde.
Norbett: Non, non, non, non, non.
Émile: C'tait un pâté d'nous-autres. Comme un pâté à la viande... chevreuil, orignal, de lapin, d'même.
Norbett: Ouais, ouais. Tout qu'est qu'y'avaient eux-mêmes. Pas comme astheur, là... des dindes pis des affaires, t'sais, ça-là. Non, pas nous-autres--on avait pas ça.
Émile: Pis est-ce que tu mettais tes bas sur un clou, là--les bas?
Norbett: Ah, c'était accroché à l'avant, ça. C'était maman qui faisait ça. Ouais, à partir de d'ça--ça, c'était fait le soir, ça. Moi, ma job était--tiens d'la laine, là? Les deux longs bras, aec deux bouts de laine, là, pour qu'elle puisse le prendre, là, le t'nir. Pis elle prenait des écarts d'angle, de laine--c'est tout fait à la main, ça.
Norbett: Les laines de moutons puis l’a pris et lavait les laines, puis ensuite on prenait les écarts. Il les avait fait comme ça de large (il a montre la taille avec ses mains) puis six pouces de large, là, avec des petites dents bouts de fer de métal dedans puis y passaient ça de même, pis y'écartaient la laine pour pouvoir la filer. Il avait des écarts, là, c’était ça de large, ça et ça de gros. Pis tu prenais dans tes mains, pis tu faisais tourner la roulette--
Émile: Est-ce qu’il était gros comme ça ou un petit? La “spinning wheel”.
Norbett: C’était la même chose qu’un écart d’angle, mais c’était plus petit que ça. Et c’était un jeu de laine pour virer la d'dans—ç'était plus petit. (8 :00) ---- les roches puis elle brochait ça a soir quand y'avaient fini l'souper pis c'tait lavé, elle brochait.
Émile: Qu’est-ce qui a faisait pour travail ton père?
Norbett: Il était un bucheron.
Émile: Un quoi?
Norbett: Un bucheron.
Émile: Oh! Un bucheron.
Norbett: Oui, oui, puis il faisait des souliers de peaux, des souliers de peau rude, qu'yappellent, y'avait des fontes en bois, c'est tout fait du même pied, pis il roulait ça tout le tour des « cesants » qu’il appelle, autour du pied—y cousait ça en avant. Puis il faisait les montages piz y vendait ça. C’était pas cher ça.
Émile: Ta mère t’a jamais fait les pagaies? Comme les indiens?
Norbett: Non, elle l’a fait, mais pas beaucoup; mais ma père faisait des raquettes.
Émile: Des raquettes?
Norbett: Oui des raquettes. Les raquettes, les montages, puis toutes de ça comme même.
Émile: Mais ton mère faisait tu des pagaies avec des um...
Norbett: Avec des crêtes, du résin?
Norbett: Oui, oui, oui. Elle en faisait pour les voisins, et pour nous autres, pis elle les donnait aux voisings—elle vendait pas—elle en faisait pas beaucoup. Elle en en faisait pareille les soirs mais… Depuis, elle en fait de même.
Émile: On va montez un peu la... t’a pas parlé de comme ta boxer avec Ivan Durant; toi t’a boxer aussi eh?
Norbett: Ah oui.
Émile: tu n’a pas parler de ça, peu tu parler...
Norbett: Mais je n’ai pas battue avec.
Émile: Non, non, non... “training”
Norbett: La placer? Oui, pour un coup d’années.
Émile: ---- puis t’as boxer aussi oui?
Norbett: j’ai boxer en Nouvelle-Ecosse, en Saint-Jean un coup de fois, pi j’ai boxer a Québec c’était sept fois, sept fois que je boxer en toute. Mais ce n’est pas des affaires de champions ça commença en débutant. Il faut faire la, et sois grand.
Émile: T’étais pas payez grand chose pour ça eh?
Norbett: Non, non je n’étais pas payer beaucoup.
Émile: Après boxer a tu commencer à boire beaucoup la?
Norbett: Oh oui, oui, puis avant aussi.
Émile: Puis a quel âge as-tu commencer a fumée?
Norbett: Oh fumée, au tours de 16-14 ans, p'tête avant ça... avant ça moi j’ai fumée quatre boites comme j'disais, c'était Hectors, c'est ma chimée la j’ai fumée trios boites et demi – quatre boites par jour.
Émile: Puis est-ce que c’était le tabac que tu achetais au magasin? Ce n’était pas le tabac que tu faisais eh?
Norbett: Mon père faisait le tabac.
Émile: Mais comment est-ce qu’il faisait le tabac?
Norbett: J'y appelait ça la forlingue, lui. C'était une marque de tabac c’était large et long comme ça, puis toutes était corder ensemble.
Émile: Puis il l’a coupait?
Norbett: Oui il coupait tous ça avec un tranche de bas puis ensuite pour en faire chiquer la, parce-que t’avoir fumé, puis t’a chiquer pis y's prenait une binne, pis y tordait la plug de bois, d'la pleine, ou d'la large. Puis il mettait ça – puis il était comme cette long ou cette gros, qu'on dirait—puis il mettait ça la dans avec la mélasse, puis il pesait dessus, pis y prenait une juive, p'y tapait dessus puis ensuite il faisait la magique pousser le trou de bout comme-il-faut. C’était serré en dans ça puis il laisser là ??…?? une semaine ou deux, si j'me trompe pas. Pis après ça, il prenanit son bloc de savon—sa plug de bois, là pis y'avait son tabac là, son tabac à chiquer.
Émile: C’était mieux?
Norbett: Oui, puis on la chiquer… moi même pareille.
Émile: C’est la même chose?
Norbett: Oui. Même chose.
Émile: Maintenant, ça faisait 18 ans que t’a arrêter de boire. Puis ta vie a changé beaucoup.
Émile: Qu’est –ce qu’à changer dans ta vie quand t’a fini a boire?
Norbett: La première chose que a changer en moi c’était la chicane quand j’arrêter à boire mon trouble a toute arrêté, tout de suite… seule chose qui a peux m’aider moi, c’était la seul chose que je vois que un alcoolique qui va l’aider c’est AA. Il n’y a personne, il n’y a rien d’autre chose pour moi. C’est la seul chose. Ça me fait drôle, parce-que ... je parle de ça et ça me fait drôle. Je deviens cœur gros parce-que je pense au trouble que j’avais et la misère que je donnais a moi-même, au trouble que je donnais au autres, la misère que ma femme a eu, mes enfants... Je pense toute ça au temps moi-même... pis la seule chose qu'ya pû faire, c'est un membre AA comme moi. C'est un gars comme moi qui me l'a dit, qu'y'a pû transmettre le message. Je comprends un petit peu que je comprends a absolument rien. Toute ma vie c’était le vengeance en moi et la vengeance... je ne sais pas pourquoi non plus, c’est même que ça se passé. Moi c'était toujours m'a'trégler ça vite, mon tabacnarc, c'était ça ma vie, mon idée et moi en toute—de clencher d'd'ans puis a l’entour de chez nous, mes voisins, je voulais... y'a fallu plusieurs fois là, dans l'voisinage mais j’aime pas ça, faire ça. Mais dès que j'étais à l'étrange, là, à l'étrange--il n’avait pas personne qui me pressait—j'étais ivre.
Émile: Quand tu étais jeune, comme t’étais jamais embrasser, il y avait rien comme ça. Maintenant je vois que tu aimes d’être embrasser – tu as embrassé Marilyn et tous comme ça. Comment ça changer ça, comment ça arriver?
Norbett: Ça avec les assemblées d'AA, ça arriver.
Émile: Les assemblées d'AA?
Norbett: Oui, c’est ça. Avec les assemblées AA, j'ai pû comprendre que c’était pas fesser su'l monde--ce n’était pas ça qui était la clé. C‘était de donner d'l'amour. Pas essaie de chercher les autres, c’est moi qui l’a me donner, c’est icitte c’est ça qu'yétait d'bord en moi. C’est a moi de sortir et de la donner. Parce-que si je l’ai tout le temps chercher et chercher, ça ne marche pas. Plus que je vais le donner toujours en recevoir.
Émile: Et ça c’est important.
Norbett: Ben oui. Mais quand tu ne comprends pas – moi je ne comprenais pas, tous que je faisais. Le matin, je prenais ma bouteille de bière et le soir je prenais le bouteille de bière encore et la boire, et la remettre. Je reviendrais en la nuit et reprendre la bouteille. Ce n’était pas coupable. Quand ça faisait que ma femme est morte le 4 de mars en 92 je commençais la brousse pas mal, j’ai aller a la bout pas mal la, puis j’ai jamais arrêté. J'prenais une caisse de 24... J’ai menti avec des chiques, charger dans le chemin avec un case de 24. Ma vie étais en danger, ca c’est vraie, mais la plus pire c’etait la vie des autres qui soufraient. Puis personne ne savait rien. Ça paraissait pas, puis je ne parlais pas. Je ne voulais pas dire, mais personne ne savait. J'm'en allais sur l'ouvrage, pis j'arrêtais de boire… aujourd’hui je suis bien.
Émile: Quand t’étais à l’école, je veux savoir quand c’était, quel âge?
Norbett: Six ans, je pense.
Émile: Est-ce que c’étais dix milles de ta maison?
Norbett: Peut-être... oui, mais dans ce temps la c’était « tough ».
Émile: Est-ce que c’était en français?
Norbett: Oui, en français. Je me rappelle—ça m'a resté caché sur le cœur pas mal ça. Maman m’avait fait un manteau. Et j’sais pas si tu sais qui chante la chanson « My Coat of Many Colors »? Moi je l’a portais cette manteau. Puis en la nouvelle école y'ont ri de moi. Parce que c'était un vieux manteau qu’on coupait en morceaux les pièces de matériaux, puis on les avait cousu ensemble. Elle m’a fait un manteau comme ca, puis les autres ca fait de rire, ils pensaient c’était comique mon manteau. J'ai continué l'école. J'ai pas aimé l'école je sais pas pourquoi mais je ne voulais pas être en avant. Me semble que si j'étais en avant, je s'rais plus bon, mais j'voulais pas faire ça. Puis je voulais ne pas faire ça. Tous le temps en a rire. Moi pis mes deux cousins, on s'battait entre nous autres. Pis même si on l'savait, on répondait pas en anglais, puis on s'chicanait.
Norbett: Tout le temps en arriere. Moi pis mes deux cousins la, on se battait entre nous autres pour qui se qui allait en arriere. Quand meme quand on savait de quoi, on repondais pas a la maitresse. Faut etre en arriere, faut reculer.
C’est comique comment s’qui était... Pis la ben, on se chicanait, come de raison... des pti jeunes la, me semble... on se battait souvent. Desfois on se battait dans la classe. Ben la a pognait la strappe. Dans ce temps la c’etais pas comme asteur. Asteur tu peut plus les battre comme avant. Tu peut pas les parler fort parce que ca va les faire mal. Mais dans notre temps c’etais pas ca la. La maitresse avait une strappe, elle etait (indicates the length of the talking stick) pis comme deux pousse de large. C’etait une bit de moulin pis c’etait en rubber. Pis c’etais la toile mit dedans, de coton.
Ben y te pognait en avant de meme la, sur les doigts, pis a (makes a hitting motion).
Émile: C’etais une Soeur?
Norbett: Non.. non.. C’etais une maitresse d’ecole. Une femme.
Norbett: Oui, elle etais pas loin de cheznous. Anyway a Jesus Chris y’elle... pas croyable. Mais une fois moi a me chenait les doigts pis jm’ai appercu qu’elle m’a donnee cent coups de strappe dans cette main la (indicates right hand)...
Norbett:... pis cent dans ste main la. Oui oui, la main a venu ben rouge pis enfler comme ca d’eppait (indicates an inch). Pis pour que tu reste la a chien (tien) les doigts. Pis une bonne fois j’ai watcher ma chance pis quand que’elle a etee pour me faisser... j’ai ete de meme (pulls his hands back).
Moi j’etais a genous, a m’a faite metre des (livres de) geographie la, c’etais grand ca, pis c’etais pesant (heavy). Elle m’a fait rouvrir les bras de meme pis a (ma fait tenir les livre) que j’avais de misere a lever. Pis quand qu’ils decendient, pack! Une tappe! (indicates his rib area). J’ai trouver ca tough... elle m’avait pincer cette fois la. Pas croyable, c’est de meme qui fallait t’apprene a ce temps la. Fallait t’apprene de quoi. Mais moi j’avais pas le tete pour apprendre. J’ai aink pogner grade six. Apres ca, J’ai ete au marche de travail. Ben la, faut t’applique a des jobes. T’asseil de les faire voirs que t’es smarte, que t’es capable. Y te disont: “quelle grade que t’as?”. Moi j’dis grade dix. Pis si qu’ils me pognait, moi j’disais qu’ej m’ai trompe. C’etais six que j’avais dit, mais ils on comprix dix. C’est de meme que j’ai fais ma vie. Pour pogner les jobes possibles, j’etais chanceux pareil. J’ai conte des menteries assez pis j’ai fais ma vie, j’ai pogner des bonnes jobes pareil.
Émile: Ta mere pis ton pere la, es ce qu’ils avient ete a l’ecole?
Norbett: Non, y pouvient pas ecrire leurs noms.
Émile: Quand t’a ete a l’ecole, y t’on tu appris de la vie des Autochetonnes?
Émile: Et la religion, c’etais seulement Catholique?
Norbett: Oui, y’avait pas d’autre chose qu’ils nous a montres.
Émile: A quelle age que t’a fini l’ecole?
Norbett: Treize ans.
Émile: Et apres ca?
Norbett: J’ai ete dans le bois.
Émile: Avec ton pere?
Norbett: Non, il etait trop vieux. J’ai ete dans des camps, j’etais “cookie”.
Émile: T’a ete a Labrador aussi?
Norbett: Oui, en ‘55.
Émile: Meme chose, “cookie”?
Norbett: Non, j’etais en machinerie. J’drivais des trucks pis des affaires de meme.
Émile: Vas tu a l’eglise Catholique maintenant?
Norbett: Pas souvent. J’etais Chevalier de Colombe. Le bras droit de l’eglise comme qu’ils l’appelent. Mais y’avait des affaires qui passaient dedans que j’ai pas aime. Pis ils m’on accuses des affaires que j’ai pas fais pis j’ai toute lache quand j’ai su que j’etais un Metis. J’ai voulu prendre la vie Metis le plus j’peut pis me colle le plus... tight... contre les Metis pis contre les Indiens que j’peut, parce que c’est (le monde que) de ma vie.
Émile: C’est moi qui t’a appris le spirituality de la Mere-Terre?
Émile: A tout le monde maintenant, qu’es ce que t’aimerais dire au monde en regard to la fierte d’etre Metis? Qu’es ce que t’aimerais le monde savoir... Les Acadiens qui sont caches dans le bois pis y pouvent pas admitter qu’ils sont des Metis. Qu’es ce que t’aimerais dire la?
Norbett: Les Acadians pour moi, il n’a pas. Ca, ca existe pas ca, un Acadian pou moi. Je vais pas dire que tout le onde pense comme moi par example, mais y’avont une fete des Acadiens mais c’est pas des Acadiens. Moi j’ai pas entendu parle des Acadiens. C’est un nom qu’ils avion donne de meme, d’apres moi. Pas dans ce coin icitte, mais ca c’est tous des Metis. Si qu’ils peuvent apprendre pis penses plus mieux pis etudier mieux quoi qui est la vie Metis pis quoi c’est un Metis. C’est la plus belle vie sur la terre pour moi. Le Metis, ya rien, c’est une fierte. Pis c’est de valuer que le gouvernement le reconnais pas. Parce que dans ce boute icitte, moi j’peut montrer des cimetieres Indiens, j’peut montrer qu’on les trouvent assez des boutes de fleches la, d’Indiens, en pierre. On trouve ca icitte. Des cheveux ca pourit pas dans la terre, le cheveux etions comme trois a quatres pied de long. Les cheveux, c’etaient ben noirs ca. Pis y’avait des colliers que j’ai ramasse.
Émile: Es ce que tu pourrais trouver ces places la?
Norbett: Je croix que oui. Mais ya beaucoups de monde qui est loge la, mais j’croix que j’peut y’aller.
Émile (explaining to Dr Walker): When they come out and find out the true feeling of being Metis, they will know themselves a lot better, like himself. Now he’s not lost anymore. He was lost, but now that he has found his spirituality and know he is Metis, he is extremely proud of it and wasn’t before. That’s why he was fighting and all that stuff.
Émile: Tes enfants, ils savent qu’ils sont Metis?
Émile: Mais ils disont pas “Je suis Metis”? Ca va soritr?
Norbett: Non, mais je croix que oui. J’trouve qu’ils sont trop genes. Moi ce qui me derange avec mes enfants, c’est comme si qu’ils sriont genes de le dire. Comme si qu’ils aviont une crainte dans eux que je vois quand je les parle. Mais ils savent, en dedans eux meme, ils savent et sont content. Surtout Redmond, y travail a l’Ouest lui la. Il va plus lui donner, mais les autres sont plus (reservees). Mais coss que j’aime la, ya une des garcons de mes garcons que lui est pas gene. Y va a l’ecole pis yer pas gene a l’ecole, “Ju un Indien moi.”, y dit.
Marilyn: Thank you for sharing your story because it is going to give people hope that they can also know who they are.
Norbett: Exactly, they should go out and look, to find out, because (those of them) they are Metis and don’t know it. But they should do and discover it. Ask and then they will (learn). They will be proud of themselves and what they have done. That’s the way I am very proud of myself. I found my real place where I belong.
Marilyn: And that will also help very many other people. Thank you very much.
Norbett: To help is all I want to do, to help.