Lac Seul First Nation and friends from across Canada honour Lorraine Kenny-Beaton's life

Submitter Name: 
Brian Beaton

A special letter written by a dear friend of Lorraine's and sent to Stuart McLean of Vinyl Cafe at CBC radio.

From: maryalice.smith@sympatico.ca
To: vinylcafestories@cbc.ca
Subject: letter about Lorraine
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2010 18:55:26 +0000

Hi Stuart,
 
wrote this after listening to the tail end of your Jan 17 show, after the passing of my friend Lorraine Kenny a few days before.  Thanks for moving me to put this into words.

Mary Alice 

Mary Alice Smith
P.O. Box 118
Longbow Lake, ON   P0X 1H0
maryalice.smith [at] sympatico.ca
 
February 18, 2010 (I first wrote this on January 21)

Dear Stuart,

I turned on the radio last Sunday afternoon and caught the last 15 minutes of your show (which I like to soak up in full).  It had been a long week, a long couple of weeks.  As I tuned in you were sharing your experience of the loss of your high school friend, Bob Ward.  And my heart lurched, as if we’d bumped into each other crossing the street.  I too was returning from a funeral, and a journey over the past month and years of being with my friend Lorraine Kenny, in her relentless reckoning with breast cancer.  She had passed just a few days before, on Thursday morning January  14, two weeks before her 55th birthday, at home with her family and a few friends, including me. She snuck away in a rare moment when we were all looking the other way.

I don’t remember now what you said as we bumped into each other on Sunday, you on the radio, I in the kitchen making a second pot of coffee.  I just know that you spoke to me about how the death of someone close to us touches us so deeply, in so many different ways. And how a song can speak to all of what that is.   And I thought too about the hundreds of thousands of people huddled under tarps in Haiti, not wanting to imagine what happens when not just one dear soul, but scores of one’s family and friends are suddenly lost to one another.

I want to tell you about Lorraine, and what she meant to me.
 
Lorraine or ‘Lele’ her childhood name, was born Lac Seul First Nation, near Sioux Lookout, Ontario.  At six years old, she landed in residential school with two of her sisters.  While they were there they found out their mother had died of tuberculosis in a sanitorium in Thunder Bay, and was buried there far from home.  After ten years or so in residential school, in the early 70’s the girls graduated from a ‘regular’ high school in Kenora, where as young women they watched the drama of Anishinaabe Park unfold.   Lorraine said it woke her up as an Anishinaabe.  Eyes open she began to travel, to immerse herself in gatherings of indigenous peoples across the country,  like the Indian Ecumenical Conferences of the 1970’s in Morley Alberta.  I might have bumped into her there in 1976.  And numerous times every year, up until just a few months ago, she would find her way across the country to soak up the company of other Aboriginal people on their healing path, seeking guidance from Elders, healers and spiritual mentors whenever she could.

We met in the early 1980’s at Nishnawbe-Gamik, the Native Friendship Centre, in Sioux Lookout, just north of Dryden, Ontario, 45 minutes off the Trans Canada.  Lorraine was returning, almost to home, with her husband Brian and their young family.  Lorraine of long jet black hair and carefully chosen words and outspoken Brian with his blond pony tail, raised on a farm in the eastern townships outside Ottawa.  They were day and night.

Even though Lorraine struggled painfully through her first decade of motherhood, with her own litany of regrets, she dedicated herself to becoming a loving and responsible mother to Leilani, Clayton, Serena and Stefanie, and in the past ten years a grandmother to Alliah, Jordan, Chalise, Chloe and Tristan. She said being a “kokum”(grandmother in Anishnaabemowin – Ojibwe) was one of best things that happened to her.   She could never get enough of what she called ‘baby medicine’.

At the same time as she settled into a ‘life with Brian’ and the children, she managed to complete a university degree and considered herself blessed to have rewarding jobs.

All our visits, phone calls, and emails were tied to our work or our families -- celebrating birthdays and holidays together, in meetings with community groups, at gatherings of residential school survivors that she helped organize, or in a canoe paddling to raise funds for women’s projects.  And every August long weekend at our favourite pow-wow at Eagle Lake, we set up our tents together at the same spot for twenty-five years, sat around the fire, shared food, laughs and concerns of the day.  We danced side by side, proud to be carrying on the tradition of the jingle dress among the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe).

And we often wondered together - about how to make life better, how or whether disparate cultures could get along, and how to raise our children in safe and loving homes.  She literally wrote the book on that – a Native parenting manual she developed in 1992, called “Raising the Children”. 

Lorraine was full of questions and simple truths. Once when she was visiting and I was anxiously excusing myself for trying to answer calls about something ‘urgent’ on a Sunday, she commented that “We all have our work”.

Lorraine’s work and travels brought her in touch with so many others out there doing their work as they’re called to do it (like your friend Bob Ward), many of them her heroes.  Whenever she could she would get her picture taken with these pathfinders … and then she’d proudly show off the snapshots -- her, bright eyed and beaming next to Ovide Mercredi, Buffy Ste Marie, George Erasmus, Dave Courchene, Donald Marshall.

But her favourite photos, in the last few weeks lined up along the wall where she could see them from the hospital bed in the middle of the living room, are the ones of her family – children, grandkids, nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers, and her friends or ‘my prends’ as she fondly called us .

The last few years Lele spent in paradise, her word for the new home she and Brian found.  A short drive from Lac Seul where she was born, and a 10 minute drive from Sioux Lookout, in a log house nestled halfway down a steep hill among hundred year old cedar and stands of birch, overlooking Abram Lake, where you can still drink the water.  A stream spills down over ancient rocks behind the house, and winds its way past where she slept, when she could sleep, just steps from the back door, where Brian brings in the wood for the stove.   Many days it was quiet but for the sounds of water and wind, and many hours were filled with watching, listening and talking with her children and grandchildren, who often came home to stay or visit, taking up the back bedroom and the upstairs.  She proudly spent her residential school compensation dollars renovating the kitchen and bathroom, adding a laundry room.  She had the biggest supply of cloth shopping bags I’ve ever seen, which she used to bring home ‘stuff’ the kids might enjoy, organized in an amazing array of plastic containers.  Her favourite places to browse and buy, next to second hand and discount stores, were office supply stores.  I still have the 3 x 4 inch ‘office in a box’ she discovered in one of those aisles. 

It’s soothing to remember all of these little things about her, how she filled our lives, rather than the empty space she’s left.

I too was listening to music a couple of weeks ago now, as I traveled alone the 3 hours to Sioux Lookout from Kenora, knowing ‘my prend’ would only be with us for awhile longer.  I kept switching through the satellite channels, then soaked in the sad comfort of an old country song  taking me back, like my cherished connection with Lorraine, a few decades  … Don Williams singing “You’re My Best Friend”.

You’re my bread, when I’m hungry
You’re my shelter from a troubled wind
You’re my anchor in life’s ocean,
But most of all you’re my best friend

Thanks for listening,

Mary Alice
+++++++++++

And for those country fans ... Don Williams singing You Are My Best Friend 

A younger Don Williams - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWGDeBFLsf8

And the older Don Williams - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdKx7CC-9RM

+++++++++++

From Wawatay News

Kenny-Beaton leaves a lasting legacy in women

Aboriginal people in the Sioux Lookout area are mourning the loss of a great lady – Lorraine Kenny-Beaton.

January 21, 2010: Volume 37 #2, Page B6

Kenny made her way home to the spirit world Jan. 14 after a long battle with cancer.

Kenny, a Lac Seul member, was married to Brian Beaton and the loving mother of Leilani, Clayton, Serena and Stefanie.

She also had five grand children – Alliah, Jordan, Chalise, Chloe and Tristan.

Kenny was very devoted to improving the lives of Aboriginal people.

She had been a residential school survivor of Pelican Falls Indian Residential School.

She had taken her life experiences and worked on her own self-healing and then helped others to heal.

Her passion was in the areas of parenting and residential school healing.

She developed the “Raising the Children” manual and the “The Resiliency Workbook for Survivors of Residential School.”

Garnet Angeconeb worked with Kenny in helping people to heal from the trauma of Indian Residential Schools.

“We worked on the residential school issue,” he said. “She helped a lot of people – a lot of the survivors. She was very committed to working in the healing movement.”

Angeconeb said Kenny was very committed to working with First Nation families.

“She was a fantastic lady and friend to all. She is going to be dearly missed,” Angeconeb said.

She was a founding member of many Sioux Lookout organizations including Sunset Women’s Aboriginal Circle, Equay-Wuk (Women’s Group) and Waninawakang Aboriginal Headstart.

She volunteered on the Sioux Lookout Anti-Racism Committee and Meno-Ya-Win Health Centre.

She helped to coordinate the Bii Waasaya Healing Project; which was a residential school healing program.

The work that Kenny had started at Equay-wuk continues for the benefit of helping women of the north and their families.

Jennifer Derosier, program director of Equay-wuk, was greatly influenced by Kenny’s work.

“When Equay-wuk started there was a number of strong, determined women and Lorraine was one of them,” Desrosier said. “We continued with the work.

“Her heart was with women and the families, in trying to help parents.”

Desrosier’s memories of Kenny go way back.

“I recall using her manual Raising the Children when I was a student in the Native Child and Family Worker Program.

“I remember thinking ‘It’s nice to see a First Nations woman develop a manual for First Nations families.’

It was relevant to Aboriginal life.

“Before Lorraine’s work, I don’t know what was there.”

Donations can be made in Kenny’s memory to the Raising the Children Fund through the Sioux Lookout Funeral Home, Box 1449, Sioux Lookout, Ont. P8T 1B9.

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Eulogy for the late Lorraine Kenny -  January 18, 2010 - written and presented by Garnet Angeconeb

Dear family and friends of the late Lorraine Kenny.

I am deeply honoured and moved to have been asked by the family to deliver the eulogy.

First of all, on behalf of the family, they are truly grateful for your presence here today – to show them your love and support at a difficult time.

It is never an easy time when someone passes away. But it is also a time for reflection. It is a time to celebrate the life of our loved one. And today, we celebrate the life of Lorraine who left us last Thursday morning to be with her Creator.

Lorraine was a modern day warrior. First and foremost she was a great warrior for her Creator. In a good way, she fought for what was right for all people and indeed was a champion for her people. Lorraine worked tirelessly to make a better world for all; creating social change for the better. She touched the lives of so many people.

Lorraine meant many things to many people. She was a respected elder. She was a natural leader. She was a wonderful teacher. She had an awesome sense of humour. She was a friend to all. She was a wonderful wife, sister, aunt, mother and a loving Kokum.

Lorraine’s world revolved around her endless love for her family. She loved her family so deeply and so unconditionally.

Lorraine was born at Kejick Bay – Lac Seul on January 31, 1955 to John and Mary Elsie Kenny. Lorraine’s mother, Mary Elsie, was from the Cromarty family.

Lorraine was born in the days when doctors and nurses weren’t readily around. The late Alice Littledeer Sr., who was known as Kitchi-Anice, was the mid-wife.

Lorraine will be lovingly missed by her husband Brian and their children: Leilani and her husband Jeff Redsky; Clayton; Serena; and, Stefanie.

Lorraine and Brian were blessed with five beautiful grandchildren: Alliah; Chloe; Jordan; Chalise; and, Tristan.

Lorraine leaves behind her siblings: sister Ida Mainville of Fort Frances; brother Paddy (Ida) of Lac Seul, sister Victoria (Donald) Koski of Thunder Bay, brother George (Mary) of Dinorwic, sister Marion of Sioux Lookout, sister Carol (Tom) Terry of Sioux Lookout, sister Elizabeth (Mel) Kiyawasew of Lac Seul and sister Alice of Vancouver.

Lorraine is cherished by many nieces and nephews. They are: Sharon; Ruth; Brenda; Jonathon; Sarah; Stewart; Donald; Trish; Kathy; Beverly; Kim; Michael; Calamus and child Jaylynn; Kanina; Jesse; Derek; Deanna; Rita; Camilla; Bryce, and Natasha. Great grand nieces and nieces include: Jaylynn; Joaquin; Nahauni; Shakyna; Roshel; Eridesa; Navadrius; and, Nashira.

Lorraine was predeceased by her parents John and Mary Elsie, two siblings John and Sarah, and nephew Patrick.

Lorraine attended and is a survivor of three Indian Residential Schools: Pelican Residential School near Sioux Lookout; Shingwauk Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie; and, Cecilia Jeffery in Kenora.

She attended Beaver Brae High School in Kenora in the early 1970s. This was where Lorraine first heard the powerful sounds of the traditional drum. She was a devoted and a great believer in the traditional ways of the Anishinabe people, always in the spirit of acquiring traditional knowledge.

Lorraine attended Trent University in Peterborough and Laurentian University in Sudbury where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Lorraine always worked for the betterment of her people. She worked with Equay-wuk Women’s Group, Nishnawbe-Gamik Friendship Centre, Ontario Human Rights Commission, and the Lac Seul First Nation.

Lorraine was devoted to her family. To her, everything was about her family. To her children and grandchildren, she was a provider and protector – caring for each of them always in a loving way. To her family, she was their pride. And to Lorraine, her family was her joy.
She watched her children grow up. She cared very deeply for each of them and for their well-being.

Not only was Lorraine devoted to her own family. She was also devoted to “family” in another sense – that being the community at large. We are all part of her family.

Lorraine demonstrated this by being involved in the community. She gave so much to children and young people. Her work on parenting issues will always be remembered. And in fact, the challenge is with each one of us to carry on with that work.

In another area of Lorraine’s work, she was a great warrior in addressing the wrongs of the Indian Residential School legacy. She worked from the ground level meaning that she worked with many survivors on their healing journeys.

Personally speaking, Lorraine so faithfully stood beside me throughout some of the darkest hours of my life in addressing this issue. I am so grateful for her strength, courage, and love, in making a better life for all those who were so negatively impacted by the horrible legacy of Indian Residential School system.

Against all odds, together we soldiered on to organize a number of healing gatherings for Indian Residential School survivors. There was so much pain. The pain was so raw. There were so many tears.

We were reminded that those tears of pain would eventually become tears of honour. Thank you, Lorraine, for helping us to turn those tears of pain into tears of honour.

The first gathering we organized was held at Pelican Falls in May 1997.

It was a large gathering. We had tried in earnest to take care of everything from: setting the agenda; to organizing places for people to sleep, to making sure that everyone was fed properly; to ensuring everyone was feeling safe.

We had even prepared for a lot of tears to flow. We thought we had ordered lots of Kleenex. Instead we received about eighty rolls of toilet paper. So at the end of the gathering, we had all this toilet paper we didn’t know what to do with. To this day, we still do not know whatever happened to all that toilet paper.

Today the healing work continues. And, it is up to us to continue on with Lorraine’s vision to help heal all those who are affected by the Indian Residential School legacy, including the descendants of survivors.

Lorraine loved being out on the land. In fact, over the years she organized many canoe-a-thons for ladies only. These canoe-a-thons raised money for various worthwhile community projects.

I am sure there are many stories about these canoe trips. During the last canoe trip, Lorraine did not participate. She only heard about the adventures, or rather the misadventures of the canoe enthusiasts. While on a portage, the ladies ran into a bear. One group of frightened ladies scurried the bear away only for the bear run into another group of screaming ladies. Apparently the bear was only trying to get away from all of them. The moral of the story is, don’t mess around with Lorraine’s clan – the bear clan.

And then there was the time when Lorraine was getting ready to meet Russell Means, a well-known American Indian leader. She was so excited. As she introduced herself to him, she said, “Hello, I’m Russell Means” to which he promptly corrected her as he said, “No, I’m Russell Means.”

There are many wonderful stories about Lorraine… wonderful memories of a wonderful sister. And as time passes, we will remember the good times, the fond memories and the many stories.

And yes Lorraine, you were the pillar for so many friends and colleagues. You stood on a solid foundation. We will miss those stimulating discussions we used to have over many breakfasts and lunches.

I will always cherish your words when you said, “That is beautiful – that is powerful.” Lorraine, your journey here on earth was both “beautiful” and “powerful,”

I would like to end by citing the words of Mother Teresa. These words are so reflective of Lorraine’s life.

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

Meegwetch!

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Obituary for Lorraine Kenny
January 31, 1955 – January 14, 2010

Edited from the Eulogy created by Garnet Angeconeb and presented on  January 18, 2010 at Lorraine’s funeral ceremony

Lorraine left us Thursday morning, January 14, to be with her Creator. Lorraine was a modern day warrior -- first and foremost on behalf of her Creator. In a good way, she fought for what was right for all people and was indeed a champion for them.  She worked tirelessly to make a better world for all by creating social change. Lorraine touched the lives of so many.

Lorraine Kenny was a respected elder, a natural leader, and a wonderful teacher. She had an awesome sense of humour, and was a friend to all. She was a caring wife, sister, aunt, mother and a loving Kokum.  Her world revolved around her endless love for her family, to whom she was deeply and unconditionally devoted.

Lorraine was born at Kejick Bay, Lac Seul, on January 31, 1955 to John and Mary Elsie Kenny (nee Cromarty).

Lorraine will be lovingly missed by her husband Brian and their children: Leilani (Jeff - Kenora); Clayton (Carolyn - London); Serena (Matt – Sioux Lookout); and Stefanie (Clayton – Kenora). Lorraine and Brian were blessed with five beautiful grandchildren: Alliah, Jordan, Chalise, Chloe and Tristan.

Lorraine leaves behind her siblings: brothers Paddy (Ida - Lac Seul), George (Mary – Dinorwic); sisters Ida Mainville (Fort Frances), Victoria Koski (Donald - Thunder Bay), Marion (Sioux Lookout), Carol Terry (Tom - Sioux Lookout), Elizabeth Kiyawasew (Mel - Lac Seul) and Alice (Vancouver). Lorraine is cherished by many nieces and nephews.

Lorraine attended and is a survivor of three Indian Residential Schools. She was an alumni of Trent University in Peterborough and Laurentian University in Sudbury where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was a devoted and great believer in the traditional ways of the Anishinabe people, always in the spirit of acquiring, practicing and maintaining traditional knowledge. Lorraine worked with numerous grassroots social service organizations, leading to her final career as the Residential School Program Coordinator with the Lac Seul First Nation.

Lorraine was devoted to her family. To her, everything was about her family. To her children and grandchildren, she was a provider and protector – caring for each of them always in a loving way. To her family, she was their pride. To Lorraine, her family was her joy.

Not only was Lorraine devoted to her own family, she was devoted to “family” in a broader sense – that being the family of man. We are all part of Lorraine’s family, as demonstrated by her community involvement. She gave so much to children and young people. Her work on parenting issues will always be remembered. Lorraine’s challenge to us is to carry on with that work.

Lorraine’s family and friends are inviting donations to be made to the Raising the Children Fund, care of the Sioux Lookout Funeral Home, in memory of her important work for us all.

We wish to express a special thanks to acknowledge all the work contributed by the community of Lac Seul, who came together to honour Lorraine by providing space, food, donations and wood for her sacred fire; to all her friends and family from near and far who helped throughout the gatherings and ceremonies; and to the Elders who helped her continue her journey to the other side. The traditional elders and healers across Northern Ontario, the doctors at the Sioux Lookout clinic and the Thunder Bay Cancer Centre, the nurses and support teams at Home and Community Care and all the others angels who helped make Lorraine comfortable in her home, earned everyone’s respect.

Meegwetch to one and all and a special meegwetch to Lorraine for all your special life teachings and gifts!