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Family, sobriety and parenting: an indigenous woman tells her story

We continue our series, ‘Turning Points’: stories produced, directed and told by indigenous people from Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories, part of an empowerment journalism project in partnership with the Global Reporting Center. Tonight, we hear from Louise Beaulieu, who speaks about being placed in a religious residential school, losing her language and culture, and her struggle with alcoholism.

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  • Michael Hill:

    We're continuing our series, "Turning Points": stories produced, directed and told by Indigenous people from Yellowknife in Canada's Northwest Territories. It's part of an empowerment journalism project in partnership with the Global Reporting Center.

  • Louise Beaulieu:

    Yes, good morning — my Mum needs an appointment to see her doctor.

    She's getting old, she's 95. She needs somebody there. I'll go visit her, do laundry for her, cook for her.

    Okay, I'm going to make some bannock.

    We're still working out a lot of things but it's a lot better than 30 years ago. Yeah.

    After I got out of residential school I was angry at my Mum for a long time. I said I…I blamed them, I guess. Seven years old and I don't know why they'd send me there. They were all strangers to me. Nuns were all black, dressed in black. I lost my language, my culture, yeah I nearly lost myself.

    I just measure my flour.

    When I was 13, 14, I wasn't getting no support from my parents too so I ran away. I was homeless for a long time. I watch people drink, I thought they had fun. I had older friends, you know? They went to parties, I went with them. That's how I started drinking.

    I used to go to jail, I used to go to drunk tank, I used to go on the street like on a schedule, you know? Many times. Cause of alcohol and unhealthy relationship with that person I was with, I had my children taken away. I was homeless for a long time. And I didn't know how to be a parent. I had to learn, learn pretty fast to be a Mum.

    Okay.

    I tried many times to sober up. I went for treatment in the last twenty years, you know, I went for treatment. It never worked, because I didn't want it to work.

    It's not easy to change. You know, it takes… took me many years to sober up. You know, it's not easy to sober up, you know? And I did it, anybody could do it.

    It should be done. Oh yeah! Right on. It's hot! Kay, it's done.

    Eventually, I forgave my Mum. And I'm closer to her now.

    Today I'm having a better relationship with her.

    She tells me old stories about her when she was young and she taught me how to sew. Yeah, I pass it on to my girls. I got three daughters.

    And my oldest daughter, she loves sewing now. She does some beadwork now. Yeah, she's doing some beadwork.

    You know, it makes me proud. At least I taught them something. You know? At least something, you know, I taught them. And she loves it. Every time I pick a bead, you know, it's keeping away from my addiction. I go further away from my addiction and I go closer to my Mum. Yeah, that's the way… I guess that's the way I like to think about it now, yeah.

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