The late Cree Elder Flora Grandjambe of Fort Mackay, AB
I was so blessed share some time with Flora Gandjambe of Fort MacKay years ago while researching the book "Our Stories Help the Northern Lights Dance."
I had the privilege of interviewing Flora and she was the one who told me that in Cree they call Venus “Ogeenanz” for “Leader Star.” Holy cow, we had fun. She kept getting up and getting me bannock, tea, cake. It was a feast. I was so lucky that she knew Cree, Chipewyan and English. I got all that I needed for her page in the book. All this time, she kept serving me: coffee, more bannock, cookies. It was an embarrassment of wealth and I kept telling her that I wanted to serve her, but she kept saying, “You’re busy. Thank you for coming to see me.”
I was being with pride. How blessed was I to share the most wonderful afternoon with Flora. Her daughter showed up at around 4:30 and was there to get her mom for an appointment. I stood and thanked Flora and introduced myself to Flora's daughter. I then started to get dressed for the long walk back to where I was staying. I could hear Flora and her daughter talking in Cree and Chipewyan, it seemed, and I knew they were talking about me and laughing. I said to her daughter, “Hey, what’s this?” I teased back. “What are you guys talking about—my flat nose, er nah?”
She laughed and said, “No. My mom is just so proud that the new priest came to see her first out of all the Elders.”
I looked up from tying my Kamiks and said, “I’m not the priest.”
She said, “What? Then who and the heck are you in my mom’s house?”
“I’m Richard Van Camp. An author. I’ve come to interview your mom for a new book we are working on to honour the Elders.” I showed her a pile of my books and gave her a few so she wouldn’t think to call the cops on me.
Flora’s daughter said quietly, “We’ll just let Mom think you’re the priest. Look how happy she is.”
We looked and Flora was beaming.
Bless you, Flora.
I was so proud to have shared time with you.
Richard Van Camp
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