Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

A Tribute to Mary John and to the Synergy of Bridget Moran and Mary John

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Native Studies

A Tribute to Mary John and to the Synergy of Bridget Moran and Mary John

Article excerpt


This paper honours Mary John, an Elder from Stoney Creek, and the synergy of Mary John and Bridget Moran which produced two important books. The paper begins with the eulogy to Mary John in the Prince George Citizen of 2 October 2004, describes the collaboration of Bridget Moran and Mary John, and then elaborates on the way Mary John expressed herself to students to whom she talked about thorny topics such as the implementation of the Durieu system of punishments. It is important to pay tribute to Mary John who passed away on September 30, 2004.

L'article honore Mary John, une Aînée de Stoney Creek, et la synergie de Mary John et de Bridget Moran, qui ont écrit deux livres importants. La première partie est une réimpression de l'éloge funèbre de Mary John, parue dans le Prince George Citizen le 2 octobre 2004. Suivent une description de la collaboration entre cette dernière et Bridget Moran et une présentation de la façon dont Mary John s'exprimait devant les étudiants auxquels elle parlait de sujets épineux tels que la mise en place du système de châtiments de l'évêque Durieu. Il est important de rendre hommage à Mary John, qui est décédée le 30 septembre 2004.

The Prince George Citizen of October 2, 2004 reported the passing of Mary John in the following words:

Stoney Creek mourns loss of Mary John. The gentle Native elder [sic] known as Stoney Creek Woman died quietly in St. John's hospital in Vanderhoof Thursday following a lengthy illness. Mary John was 91.

Born in 1913 in Lhedli (Prince George [Confluence of the rivers]), Mrs. John (nee Quaw) was raised in Saik'uz or Stoney Creek south of Vanderhoof.

She devoted her life to improving the lives of Aboriginal peoples, to preserving language and traditions and to building bridges between cultures. Her life story is recounted in the book Stoney Creek Woman, written by her long-time friend, the late Bridget Moran. One of her last public appearances in Prince George was when she came in a wheelchair in June to witness the unveiling of the Third Avenue sculpture of Bridget Moran who is holding the book. Mrs. John reached out to place her hand on the book, gazed in Moran's face and said, "It looks like her. I love it. I'll come to visit her often."

Mrs. John was one of the first people to take an interest in preserving the Native language. She worked on the creation of language materials and taught conversational courses. She was a founding member of the Yinka Dene Language Institute and her long years of service as director earned her the position of honorary chair for life. Even after she became ill, she continued to work with a linguist to document the Saik'uz dialect.

Her formal education began at age nine when she went to school in Fort St. James and moved to Lejac Residential School when it opened in 1922. She left school at 14, and two years later married Lazare John.

She became a major leader in her own community and in the larger Yinka Dene (Carrier) community. With Sophie Thomas and Selina John, she established the Homemakers1 Society and then the Stoney Creek Elders' Society-both of which were a force for political progress and social and economic development.

She was honoured both at home and across the nation, being named the 1978 Vanderhoof Citizen of the Year, receiving an honorary doctorate from UNBC in 1996, the Prestigious Order of Canada in 1997, and the Queen's Jubilee medal in 2003....

(Prince George Citizen Staff Oct. 2 2004, 3.)

Forever In Our Hearts

I was in the Elder's Room at the First Nations Center at the University of Northern British Columbia September 30 2004 when we received a phone call to tell us Mary John had just passed away. I had spoken to her in August 2004 after her son passed away from cancer to give her my condolences and she said, "When are you coming to see me? I miss you." I said, "As soon as the Johnny David book is done. …

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