Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis
Coming to Thunder Bay

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Review by Ottawa Poet Margaret Cunningham

                   The Autobiography of a Lesbian Cree 
Written by Ma-Nee Chacaby  with Mary Louise  Plummer

 This book is a “Must Read”.  It will appeal to anyone  who is concerned about the welfare of  Native Canadians and are afraid to tackle the subject of Lesbianism ,as  I was. In a gentle and extraordinary way, Ma –Nee’s life opens the reader to a deeper understanding of both issues.

 Ma-Nee began life in Ombabika, a remote area near Lake Nipigon,Ont.It is now also referred to as “ The Ring  of Fire”in the region of Nakina  and Armstrong.  She missed the opportunity to learn to read and write and learn English because she was out trapping with her step-dad when the authorities came to take the children to the Residential Schools. Her mother beat her frequently and she was sexually abused by men in her community. She came to the conclusion that her life might have been much better if she had gone  to a Residential School. 

Her beloved Grandmother was her salvation.  From her she learned spiritual and cultural traditions.  Her Grandmother forecast that her life would be difficult as she was a two-spirit woman. This meant that she  carried both  a male and a female spirit inside.

At the age of twenty, Ma-Nee with her children , moved to Thunder Bay to escape a vicious and brutal husband. It was quite trek. During this journey, she and her children walked  35 miles in order to catch the train to Thunder Bay.  Good friends helped her get settled there but her alcohol addiction continued to deepen.

Confronted with the possible loss of her children, she went to A.A. When she had recovered, she trained and worked as an alcoholism counselor. She raised her own children and fostered many others despite the fact that she was visually impaired.

She came out as a lesbian in 2013 and helped lead the first gay parade in Thunder Bay. Ma-Nee Chacaby  is an exceptionally gentle woman. She overcame many hurdles and endured  unbelievable hardships and torture.  In the end ,however,she uses her experiences to help countless others.

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