105-YEAR-OLD FLORA WEENOSIS ONE THE OLDEST LIVING FIRST NATIONS

Chief Bobby Cameron (L) and Chief Bruce Morin with 105-year-old Flora Weenosis.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nation’s Executive, Elders, Senate, Veterans and Staff extend their warmest regards to Chief Bobby Cameron’s maternal great-kokum Flora Weenosis, who turned 105-years-old last week.

Weenosis was born on Big River First Nation on March 15, 1912, just one month before the sinking of the RMS Titanic off the Atlantic Coast. She never learned to speak more than a few words of English, but she speaks fluent Cree and has lived an independent and traditional lifestyle until just a few years ago.

At 101-years-old she broke her femur and has required care since then.

Weenosis has had ten children in the course of her life, though she lost a few as babies since they had no access to a hospital. Her husband passed away before the kids were grown, so she basically raised, fed and clothed them single handedly. She has never worked for anyone but her family, selling her handmade baskets and beadwork to earn money, and providing the rest with her own labours. Her work ethic is total.

“I became a workaholic because of my mom. She taught me how to make moose hides, birch bark baskets, moccasins. She said ‘there’s no such thing as laziness. All of you kids are gonna grow up working.’ It’s hard work but it’s good exercise. I know how to make all kinds of stuff because of my mom. We just love her,” said Rose Morin, one of three living children of Weenosis.

But that’s not to say mom doesn’t know how to enjoy herself, says Morin. She tells vivid, funny stories. “It was like watching a movie,” she said.

Lately Morin has begun recording the old stories of her mom and uncle so they can be preserved for posterity.

Weenosis has always danced to the beat of her own drum. She held on to her language and traditions throughout a period where the Canadian colonial system was expanding in full force. The FSIN recognizes Weenosis as a torch bearer for her people.

Even as she aged she has retained that spirit of defiance, says granddaughter Carol Morin.

“In her 70s she bought herself a truck. She had no license, but she loved to drive it around. A few times she got pulled over by the cops but they just told her to go home,” said Carol. “We’re very blessed to have her for so long.”