Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Woman of Labrador

There's an Elizabeth Goudie Building in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador. But for that, kids I was talking to at the high school here knew nothing of her.

Elizabeth Goudie (1902-1982) wrote a memoir, Woman of Labrador, of the life of a Labrador trapping family. With the help of a visiting anthropologist, it was published in 1973. Memorial University archives offers a manuscript page from it online here.

Elizabeth Goudie only had a couple of years of schooling, but she wrote notes of her life in moments seized from the endless toil of the trapping family's annual cycle. In 1942, as construction on the airforce base at Goose Bay began, her people first saw trucks and electricity, and many other things.
They treated the children with chocolate bars and gum and they turned off the lights and turned on the show. When it came on we couldn't believe our own eyes and ears, hearing people talking and seeing them moving on the screen. I thought a lot about it after I got home.
But she is astute about the other side of contact.
We were bothered with heavy colds and flu and a lot of us got quite sick. The doctor said it was because of the new people...
She knows, too, that for all her pride in Labrador, her people, the settlers and Métis trappers, were not the first there. She describes her husband's father and uncles, the first white trappers to venture beyond Grand Falls (now Churchill Falls). They
were the first white men who went in there to trap among the Indians in the early 1900s; they didn't like it. They tried to drive us out in every way.... They were so cross about us stealing their trapping.
That territory is now mostly the reservoir created by the hydro electric project at Churchill Falls. Ownership and control of it continues to be contested between the Newfoundland and Labrador government and the Innu Nation.
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