Sandy Point

I have been a Montreal Canadiens fan since I can first remember. Probably my French Metis heritage had something to do with it. All my elders were able to speak Cree, French, some English,  so it must be that French connection that got me cheering for the HABS.

I was born at Ft. San in the Qu'Appelle Valley in 1954, while my maternal mother Aldina Lariviere, nee Durocher, was being treated for TB. I was her first son, her fifth child out of an eventual thirteen kids. Nevertheless, I never really got to know any of my siblings well, with the exception of Leleep (John). We knew each other from childhood. The rest of my siblings were adopted or fostered away and I only met most of them later in life after we were all adults, so we lack the bonding that is evident amongst many families such as my adopted family, the Morins.
I was adopted by an uncle Joe Durocher who recently married Jeanne Morin and were settled at Sandy Point. I was bussed then flown to Ile-a-la-Crosse from there, I was delivered to Sandy Point by my auntie Mary Durocher and fiance Jonas Daigneault. From there on in,  I was re-acquainted with northern Saskatchewan; a small one-room log cabin was my first home. I spoke Cree mixed with Michif or French variations so I have since found out, I always thought I spoke Cree. Language is so important because that is our culture, that is what our Creator gave us to speak with, so I really enjoy my language and we laugh so much. Yet, we never really knew we were Metis in that literal sense; we knew we were apihtohkosan so we related to being Indian because we spoke Cree. I mean if you speak German, you must be German and if you speak French you must be French so if I speak Cree I must be Cree.  So now they say I speak Michif so does that make me a Michif and not Metis.   Anyway, that may be for a later day in court. Meanwhile, to this day I still have that close bondage to Sandy Point and all the pleasures and pains experienced during those youthful days. I try to keep in contact with uncles Leon Morin, Jules Morin, or Joe and aunt Christine Misponas as much as possible and I see all the other Sandy Point connections whenever our paths cross, which actually happens often. Here is a Wisakichuk Legend that I decided to create and my fellow Aboriginal men, please do not be offended. It is all meant for a good laugh.

As a child, I spent many hours on the long sandy point pulling little boats along the shore pretending to be fisherman, as my father was. Sandy Point had Morins on the SW side and the Gardiners on the NE side of the island. The Durocher and Misponas families married into the Morin family had houses between the two large families.  We were surrounded. I was raised as an only child so I learned to share with twenty-some cousins just on the Morin side. You see our grandma Marie Jean (Lariviere) Morin's sister Adelaide had Married George Gardiner. My grandfather Ambroise Morin and George had been buddies working and trapping together so I suppose it would be natural that they would court sisters. Now, I also have twenty-some more cousins from the Gardiner side, so the odds were stacked against me.

During this era there was no television, no telephones, just an AM radio stuck on the CFCW Camrose frequency or dad would put it on 1600 and we would listen to Isadore Laliberte the radiogram operator calling: 63 Buffalo, 31 Ile a la Crosse, you gatta copy? This was the source of the moccasin telegraph. We knew what groceries The Bay from Patuanak ordered, who was seriously ill or who had died; the radiogram was a lifeline for many people. As kids we had to create our own games to keep us busy so we played rubber ball, played in the trees, yes we had seen a few Tarzan movies at the mission. We played lots of Cowboys and Indians and nobody ever wanted to be an Indian because they never won. Thats just the way movies were made back then and they have prepetually stereotyped Indians as bad people until the recent past. So as young children attending school amongst the few white kids we knew we were part Indian because of the teasing. On our island we were the rulers and not too many white kids ever stepped on our island. The fortunate few were usually high school students and other young people who would sometimes stop overnight and camp near the tip of Sandy Point. We also were never allowed to bother them, to visit them, so we never met any face to face. During the winter months, many evenings were spent playing table hockey at either the Misponas residence or my place. We learned the seasonal hunting and food gathering customs from early childhood and many of us have practiced this todate.

Sandy Point was a busy little homestead with a matriarchial system; our grandmothers ruled the roost. We were raised in a very Catholic French way nonetheless. We had huge potato and vegatable gardens, every family had either a dog team or horses, some had both forms of transportation. Sort of what is now called a two car family. Everyone had an ice house where we stored huge blocks of ice for the next summer's commercial fishing business. It also kept milk, butter and other foods cool over the hot summer months. We would cut green wood in the spring so that it would dry over the summer and there would good firewood for the next winter.  There was always something to do like haul water, chop or bring in more wood into the house, or the worse chore of all, dumping the slop pail.

I love the north and shall always keep that connection no matter where my professions leads me.  I enjoy the outdoors, boating in the summer, skidooing in the winter and all the fun things that fall in between. In Sandy Point we lived six miles across from the village of Ile a la Crosse accessible only by water in the summer and over the ice come winter. During school years we had to live at the Metis / Non-Status  Student Residence operated by the local Roman Catholic Church. I spent seven years out of nine school years in that facility. At the best of times it was like seven years in prison. We lived in a regimental time clock dictated by Church functions. We had to perform alter boy duties, choir on Sundays, cleaning the church, etc.. Then we would perform in plays for a priest's birthday or for other visitors from the south. Being from across the lake we didn't mind these duties it was other problems such as being continually harrassed for speaking our native Cree language; I was further punished and physically trained to write with my right hand at school and this was upheld in my home. I did quite well in school. I enjoyed a good discussion so would usually argue myself out of a fight.

I was never a physcial sport type like in hockey or fastball but, I did pretty good in later years racing ovals on race sleds. I was expelled from school at age fifteen, I didn't even complete grade nine. Why?  because I revolted against a priest and a certain supervisor, who had sexually abused me on different ocassions. I told a few cousins at the boy's residence and we made posters about the abusers; the next day we got called to the principal's office and the priest was there because he ran the school. He told the principal that I was making trouble for the student residence and that I was telling awful lies. I went home to Sandy Point and followed my father's footsteps in making a living as a fisherman and trapper. The sad part of this story is that my parents didn't believe me and grandparents Ambroise and Marie Jean Morin very devout Metis Catholics died without ever believing my story. They refused to believe that a priest would abuse his flock. I never let it be a problem, I put it aside and continued on with my life. Eventually, I lost the closest person in my life, my adopted mother Jeanne Durocher in 1981 to cancer. She used to urge me to leave all these bad things behind and carry on with my life to learn, work and never to abandon my dad. My mother always was so proud of my academic acheivements and my dad would say school was good for nothing and that I was better off in the trapline helping him make a living for us. I enjoyed trapping and was quite good and successful at it, now, here I am thirty-two years later with a law degree and I can see the pride in my mother's face, just as if she was here with me today.

The provincial government made our parents and other families to move into the community of Ile a la Crosse. Also, much of the younger generation found work in other communities, or the mines; My first full time job was at the local Co-op store punching tin cans, stocking shelves, helping customers. Meanwhile, provincial land-use policies were being developed and enforced. Local governments became urban rather than rural municipalities so we lost control of the land. Northern communities were legislated into five kilometer radius governments.
Sandy Point apparently is leased land. When I grew up as a kid, I thought that land was ours. No one ever came asking for rent. I believe I have an Aboriginal right and possibly title to the immediate region. When all our families were relocated into the communities, no one was compensated for the move. We had homes at these locations. Horses, dogs and other equipment was abandoned or lost. But, our parents had to assume a long-term mortgage which many are still paying twenty-five years later (My dad being one of them and he just turned seventy-two). Bills for power, water and sewer, then later, phones, tv cable etc.. Our uncles have to pool their money to pay for the leases to keep the island.
The province has since raped the north of its valuable resources and now we are well into doing it to ourselves. The province has turned over responsibility of natural resources directly to the resource users. I don't know if it is good to have wolves herd a flock of sheep? But I will leave this for another day.

More photos will be added periodically as I find the time to work on my site.Here are a few photos of the Sandy Point Reunion from 1999.
Map of Sandy Point with more pictures.

I am presently working on a book which will be entitled "From The Trapline To Law School!"  Prepaid orders are accepted; send your name, telephone no., address, a twenty dollars cheque payable to Michael J. Durocher and I will personally mail you your copy as soon as it is complete. The price will be higher after printing is complete. Email me for my address, or other inquiries. Presently, the book is in the form of several hundred pieces of writings and at least fifty photos of northern Saskatchewan.  The book spans my forty-plus years life experiences of northern Saskatchewan and its development.
Email Mike    for more information. I have tons of laughter and thoughts related to northern development and I promised many friends that their quirks and quarks will soon be known by millions.

My brother Robert Cohnstaedt was adopted and lived in the Lumsden area near Regina and now lives in Toronto. He is an excellent stained-glass artist as you will see from his few samples.

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