When I came off of the reserve, I mean from the residential school. I was now fifteen sixteen years old, and my stepfather was sick. His name was Nathaniel Shirt.
He was sick and so we had to leave that place of residence where we were and we went, we just kind of borrowed a house for four months or six months. So they kept us on there for a while. I now know we were homeless. I call myself that time, I was a homeless teenager.
My father's cousin came to get me, his name was George Hunter and that is my father's cousin and he said, “You come and stay with us.” They’re Catholics and so I was Catholic and I really come to know my cousins and, you see, because I grew up on the, in the residential school, so I barely got to know other people around me, and I really got to know them.
So I worked there six months like from April till October to the end of October, and that’s how I learned how to ride horseback riding and I’d go to dances on horseback ride, and so while I was out there I would go and visit 'cause they were now staying at my stepbrother's place, my stepfather and my mother, and I’d go and see them, but I would go and give them the money I made. I was making 30 dollars a month, so I'd give them 20 and I'd keep the ten.
I really didn't need the money, I knew he was sick my stepfather. So as long I got home by 8 in the morning, I thought I'd stay for the night. So he motioned me to go to him, it was around 9 o'clock, so I went to him. He could barely talk, little did I know he was dieing, I was sixteen.
He says to me, "You know something," he says, "I want to ask you something. Take care of your mother. Do not chase after boys. Respect yourself. Because," he said, "for a girl that does that, that goes to show they don't respect themselves. You're aggressive. Apply that aggressiveness in a positive way, that will take you a long ways. You've got this one line to walk, and there'll be many distractions, keep going on that one line, and that will take you a long way." He said that.
Little did I know that nine hours after, he died in his sleep. He fell asleep and he died that night. He never spoke again, those were his last words before he died. I find it an honorable thing for a stepfather to say that to a stepdaughter. I live still, I live by that quote by what he said to me. I've been really happy about it. I have no regrets.
So, one time, my late friend Jenny, I told her about that. She's really surprised. So then, four year, my stepfather died in '46 and my mother died in 1950. Here, I had no more family. But I was now married, and had two kids. I think really that's what saved me. I really, really felt lonely. I really felt that no more family after that, when these two people were gone that were close to me.
I had a great time when I was a teenager, but he made us work. He made us do a lot of things. He really, really was very highly respectful of us. There was enough food in the house for us; he worked for the government. So at least, the guidance I got was from there, from a male. My mother was a very good woman; she always had to sort of, always and sort of in a nicer way, discipline me. I think that was really, those are things I always have to keep in mind.
Stories By Nellie Carlson
The following stories are by Nellie Carlson.
This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections Initiative, Industry Canada.