Wise Woman 2006
A special event took place on March 8, 2006 to commemorate International Women’s Day. The Annual Wise Women Awards were announced at the Bread n’ Roses Luncheon in the Great Hall of the Legislative Assembly in Yellowknife.
In a time honored tradition since 1992, the occasion was amiably hosted by the Status of Women Council to recognize women for their contributions to their communities. The ladies were nominated by people in their home communities with the winners being chosen by the Status of Women Council Directors. The award recipients from the five regions of the NWT for 2006 were: Beaufort Delta – Eileen Koe of Fort MacPherson; Deh Cho – Tina Marie Gargon of Fort Providence; North Slave – Marie Speakman of Yellowknife; Sahtu – Laura Lenny of Tulita and from our very own region, Louise Fraser of Fort Smith.
My Mother, Louise E. Fraser (nee Mercredi), was born August 25, 1941 in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, to Adolphe & Martha (nee Swain) Mercredi. She says that she’s now made Fort Smith her home and doesn’t plan to ever move, for she loves the natural beauty so much.
Mom was nominated for her valiant role as a volunteer in her community. She has been active in Fort Smith with various groups, organizations and associations for many years. She is a Métis woman who worked in the Nursing field for over 30 years with the GNWT while struggling with a debilitating knee injury. She returned to school to take Office Administration as a ‘senior’ student and presently works along-side Sister Agnes Sutherland with the Society of Persons with Disabilities. She is one of the co-founders of ‘Circle of Friends’, an organization that assists people in a crisis and she is on the ‘Youth Justice Committee’ to guide youth in the right direction. She is a very vocal Elder Representative for the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, attending all workshops and AGA’s on behalf of the Fort Smith Métis Council.
Mom takes pride in her Métis heritage and has practiced that by sewing, sharing stories and demonstrating a traditional way of life, the Métis way.
She is known for giving herself to help women by providing motherly advice or assisting in directing them to proper contacts to receive help with their situations. Mom made sure that Christmas time was a time for children and would do what she could so that they wouldn’t go without. Single Moms with small children tug at Mom’s heart. She would rally people to come forward and give gifts or donations towards the ‘Secret Santa’, without anyone’s knowledge, ever since I can remember.
Often times, she has her ways of getting her family involved by giving away some items “we probably won’t ever use”, or by offering our services, with the use of our muscles, by lending a helping hand. She always used the term, “Do it with a good heart!” if we started to complain and reminded us that it was for a good cause, so, we adopted the saying as one of our family mottos. If Mom discovers that someone may be struggling and perhaps could use some help and they are too humble to ask, she tends to ‘marshall the troops’ and see what she could do for them, while still being in ‘stealth-mode’. She has the reputation in our community of a caring and kindhearted person, as she speaks with a soft-spoken voice, which makes it difficult to say ‘no’ to her requests and secretly, I think she knows this.
Her beaming smile is infectious. I am quite often told that it is one of the best remedies when people are feeling kicked down. Her expression gives them comfort to endure another day. Mom loves to give hugs for reassurance and sometimes I think she shouldn’t because that’s how the ‘waterworks’ start to flow.
Her undeniable faith has shone through when she’s been approached by others to contribute to a worthy cause. Without question, she is there.
Mom, Dad and I assist staff at the hospital for preparations of funerals and I have worked along side my parents long enough to feel comfortable by them making me understand how this was a big obligation to take on but one that had to be done. I was taught that this was a part of life, a journey we must all take. Mom says that her grandmother, Elizabeth Mercredi (nee Mandeville) would do the same and taught her that the body is just a shell that housed the soul. When you die, the soul departs and leaves the body therefore, that person that you loved so much is no longer there and the soul is in a better place. I find this analogy comforting as it tends to ease the mind to do what has to be done; while having respect for the family to prepare their loved ones.
Mom has truly a strong faith and hope in her heart for everyone. Her Christian upbringing has impacted her life in the way she chooses to live her life today. She is a very powerful person; not in stature but, her true sincerity in something she firmly deems of some importance. Since Mom has retired, our door has been open to many who come over to rant about their jobs, family or relationships and leave crying because her stories are so touching and meaningful that they forget what they went there to talk about in the first place! My dad will blame Oprah and Dr. Phil for Mom’s crazy notions and insights but Mom sticks to what works best.laughter.
Our family flourishes on laughter because we are always reminded that we need to have a great sense of humor in order to make it through life.or one of our family dinners!
My parents taught us to treat elders with the utmost respect, and it is a trait that we all practice in our daily lives with my zestful grandmother of 84 years. Elders know when your parents have taught you that respect; it shows in their eyes that your parents were paying attention. Often times, I am quickly reminded that we take life for granted and I should share my gifts; as not everyone has their sight, mobility or mind. Mom told me that people are born unto this world with their imperfections to teach us heartfelt compassion for the unfortunate, so we need to be humbled because of it.
Upon returning from the Award ceremony in Yellowknife, Mom was so proud to be presented with a plaque and necklace with a pendent and was so overwhelmed at the way they honored women. It really made Mom think. She said it’s the small things that stood out and many people recognized that those were their contributions. Ladies who spoke their own languages, raised many children, lived by their cultures and overcame their addictions.those are wise women.
“You don’t have to have a high education to be a wise woman” she says, “you are a wise woman in your own right by listening, watching, and observing how things are done. If you can make a positive difference in someone else’s life by those teachings, it is up to you to pass that on. Elders are not necessarily role models unless they chose to live good lives, a life others want to follow; whether they are young or old.
Just because you’re old doesn’t give you wisdom but it’s what you do with that wisdom and how you live and practice it.
Young people think that maybe nobody is watching and there will be one little person that is watching them, wondering what they’re all about and wanting to be just like them.that is the greatest gift of them all.”
When you nominate a wise woman, you need to list all the ways she’s inspired you and others to live a better life and contributed to the betterment of her community. Mom has made positive influences a big part of her life – her grandparents and parents. She continually shares stories of how kind her grandmother was to people and how she would encourage her family to do the same. Mom has made me the proud woman I am today because of how important she made family values in our household. She tells me that giving someone inspiration to be a better person is more than money; to touch someone’s life, now, that is priceless. She says that you have to smile a lot when you are encountered by new people too; to be remembered always smiling leaves a good lasting first impression.
I asked Mom what she would say if she were to speak to future Wise Woman recipients. Her response was:
“Us mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers should inspire our young women to be the best that they can in everything they do.”
Today, our young women are getting more educated, more political and more aware in their generation. We should applaud them, and give them the incentive to strive to fight for what is within their rights. We should admire women like Jane Groenwegen and Sandy Lee; women who are making a difference in our lives. My hope is to see more powerful women get involved and make decisions on our behalf. We, as women, must stand behind them 100% by believing in them or standing beside them to accomplish their goals. They are ‘our’ future.”
I was approached by one of my peers to nominate my mother and I was eager to complete the nomination form on her behalf. It took me quite some time to find the right words but I am confident that I brought justice to say how much I appreciate having a mother like I do.
I am telling you, children of an awesome mother; treasure her, respect her, recognize her, praise her daily, be grateful for her and especially.remind her! If you know someone who has influenced you in some meaningful way, it is important to remember their task has been accomplished by being a living example.like my mama!
By D. Melissa Fraser, Fort Smith Community Field Worker