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Testimonials of the Mission

Interview with Verna Perrault

Q. How did you come to know Roger?

V. My sisters told me about him. They came to my community in Ontario. We had a problem in my community. There was a barricade.

Q. Did Roger go to that?

V. Yes. I didn't know him but I guess my sisters told him who I was. He picked me out right away. I am one of the more outspoken Native people there. I was on Council. He recognized me and said I looked like Eileen. But we weren't trusting with anybody at that time. So I just saw him but no more than that. But I moved to Winnipeg 2 'l1 years ago and I started to hang around Eileen and him and I decided to give him a chance. So that's how I got to know him.

Q. When you were in Kenora and Roger came out, did you see him doing anything there?

V. He was just hanging around and no one seemed to be bothered by him. He was at the barricade. We had everything stationed there. We ate there. He was harmless.

Q. Was he there to help solve a problem?

V. I guess he was going there to help but there were so many people there ... he appeared harmless but, I guess they weren't trusting of other people. And basically he was non-Native.

Q. Do you think he made any difference to what was going on?

V. Maybe if he had kept coming back. But at that time, he didn't. There were too many people coming and going.

Q. Too much happening, eh? So that was the first time you saw him? That was how it happened, right?

V. Yes

Q. So, you've kept hanging around Eileen and Virginia ... and what is it that has convinced you to keep hanging around this man?

V. Well, they phoned me and they always kept an interest in me cause I'm different from them and I do things differently. I have different causes in life.

They keep trying to save me. They kept saying, "You should talk to Roger." Well, I did call Roger a lot of times but I just said, "Well, Roger, I don't think I'm doing anything wrong. I'm not hurting anybody. I'm trying to live a decent life. I have my own beliefs and my own traditional values.

I tried the Catholic Church. It didn't do a thing for me." I said, "I'm not hurting anybody. I'm trying to help people. And I'm trying to live a good life. I don't give up. A lot of people give up. I'm not judgmental and I think I'm o.k." But Eileen and them kept insisting.

Q. Why do you think they are doing that?

V. Well, cause I'm their sister, too and they care.

Q. Do you think they have something better than what you've got? Why do they keep doing that?

V. I don't know. I think so differently from them.

Q. Can you give me an example?

V. My ex husband always says, "Well, Verna, you're an idealist and you can't help everybody and ... " But, I said, "If! could help one person ... "           

Q. Right.

V. That's cause I'm really into Native issues. I'm not a militant, or radical. I'm not like that.

Q. What do you want for the Native people?

V. I guess, I don't know ... I wish that they would learn to live in both worlds and get educated enough to understand. Because we could still have our teaching traditions, our ceremonies. But we could also learn from the non-Native system. I've learned to live in both worlds. I've learned to juggle it. But there are a lot of Native people that are extreme .. .it's all or nothing.

Q. There's still a lot of anger there?

V. Yes. I think the same with religion. It doesn't matter what it is. They put that hand in hand with mistrust. They have a lot of mistrust for Roger. They can't accept that. To me, education is important because it opens up your mind ... your thinking.

Q. The people that you are working with ... do they think that they have the ability to make changes in the way that you want to make changes? Do they feel confident that they can do that?

V. Well, I think we have the skills and the knowledge because we work right in the community, right in their band office. These are non-Natives I work with. But they have myself and others.

We are trying to incorporate both worlds. We try to be flexible enough to understand both. Somebody way up North is not going to be a stickler for working from 8:00 to 4:30. You have to understand and be flexible enough. They are not all going to live by the policies and rules we have in the cities or urban areas. But we are trying to teach them the skills and knowledge to survive in the non-Native world, along with their own world.

Q. Is there anything that you've learned from being with Roger that has given you resilience or strengthened you in any way?            

V. Oh probably the fact that I suppose they accept me for what I am, cause I'm very open-minded and I'm outspoken and I have my views. But I feel I'm tolerant, so when I am with people that understand and accept me for what I am, I really appreciate that and I try to get better.

Q. So, you think that Roger has accepted you for what you are?

V. Well, he also helps me, like ... I do get lonely. I miss my grandchildren. Like, I have those normal feelings. And I can talk to him and he seems to understand, cause I guess I have a hang up about ... I'm quite honest and trustworthy. I'm very honest. Honesty is a policy I follow and when people try to question that, it bothers me. To me, I've always tried to be honest all my life, and be trustworthy. And it's got me into a lot of trouble ... to be honest, and to be open-minded. When people like Roger understand, it makes me feel like I didn't go through everything all for nothing. But he also, probably indirectly or without me knowing, he has probably helped me too. You know, helped me change my self, or whatever ... slowly, I guess, without realizing it. I always say jokingly, "Well I'm still single, no man will accept me or love me for what I am." And why should I change? It's just a joke. I choose to be that way. If somebody says, "Oh, Verna's looking for love!" That bothers me because it is not true. People don't really know me. But I can tell Roger these things and he understands.

He can relate and know what's wrong with this and that. I guess maybe that's why he's different.

Q. And you keep listening to him or going back to him because he offers that foundation, that faith?

V. Yes, as opposed to going to a priest ... even to an elder or a medicine man. They have specific stuff Even with medicine men or elders or healers ... they really have to know. There are some phonies. Just like some priests. There are phonies there as well.

Q. So you get the feeling of quality with him?     

V. Yes.

Q. You get the feeling he's sincere?

V. Yes. He's been there, done that, you know what I mean?

Q. Thank you. Anything else Verna?

V. I guess one of my problems is what I do and how I am. Maybe I still get a little defensive. I've worked hard to be where I'm at and I've worked hard to be strong and independent. If someone knocks that, it bothers me, you know? I think that's why I turned ... Eileen, lately has the posture to accept a lot of that about me and say, ''We still love you." So obviously, it worked for her. It changed her. It has obviously helped her in that way.

Q. Yes. Absolutely. Thanks Verna





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