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Pioneer Leads Way for Future Generations

Bonnie Keese*

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER 2001      v31 n01 p18  
*Bonnie is the Eldest Grandchild of Late Senator Alphonsine Lafond.

In Memory of Senator In Memory of Senator “Alpha” Mary Lafond 1926-2000

Chair of the Saskatchewan Indian Nations Senate Alphonsine "Alpha" Mary Lafond, passed away on August 17, 2000. Alpha was born on March 7, 1926 to Georgina and Bernard Venne of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. She spent some of her childhood on the reserve where she learned many different traditions from her mother and grandmother. When she was seven years old, Alpha was sent to St. Michael's Indian Residential School where she remained until she was sixteen. While attending St. Michael's Alpha learned much about the Catholic faith and remained dedicated to the church for the rest of her life.  Many of Alpha's lifelong friendships were made while attending school. After leaving the school she moved to Saskatoon to work and later moved to Vancouver. Alpha worked in various positions within the private sector and often spoke about her experiences as positive and encouraged her family to travel and become aware of new ways of living.

Alpha returned to the reserve and married Albert Lafond with whom she had seven children. She lost one daughter, Mary Gail, as an infant. She raised her children and worked at the band level promoting education. It was Alpha's desire that her children be educated at the nearby town school rather than have them sent to residential school. In 1960, her oldest daughter, Carol, entered grade one at Marcelin School and the rest of her children attended there as well.

In 1960, Alpha Lafond was elected Chief of a First Nation in Saskatchewan. Before and after this, she sat on the Band Council. Alpha was dedicated to helping those in her community by various means; her home was the first on the reserve to have a telephone. Community members would often call on Alpha with a variety issues to resolve.

In the 1970's, Alpha was the first Indian woman justice of the Peace. When she accomplished something, she would always give recognition to her family and community members. Around this time, Alpha's life took on another course - Grandmother. Her grandchildren were important to her and she always welcomed us into her home with love.

As well as a political figure, Alpha was a family person. She was extremely close to her sisters, Eva and Irene; their children's achievements were as important to her as her own children's. Alpha also had two brothers, Emile and Harry, as well as another sister, Mary, who lived in Vancouver whom she loved dearly.

Alphas children remained close to her by calling or popping in on Sundays for church and the delicious dinners that followed. After dishes were done and Alpha had her rest, a game of Pay Me would take place with her sister and who ever else happened to be around, all sitting around the table focusing on the nickel jackpot. Alpha also joined the Marcelin Seniors Centre and often participated in their Friday night card party, which she often referred to as "old fogey" night.

In 1987, Alpha's life was changed when her youngest daughter Judith Lynn was killed in a car accident. Judy left behind a six-month old daughter Kaila Marie. Alpha committed her life to raising Kaila. Her sister, Irene, aka "The Nanny" often helped Alpha raise Kaila with much love and discipline.

Though she had a toddler at home, this did not keep Alpha from continuing in the First Nations political arena. Her role

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Pioneer Leads Way for Future Generations

Bonnie Keese*

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER 2001      v31 n01 p24  
changed from tireless promoter of education to advisor to leaders of First Nations. In 1988, she received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit. In 1992, Alpha was appointed to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Senate; an honour she was very pleased to fulfill and traveled energetically to meetings across the province and country. Alpha sat on the board of the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre and dedicated much of her energy to the promotion of the Centre. She also worked closely with the Saskatchewan Indian Women's Secretariat discussing the various gender barriers she faced through her life of political endeavors. In 1999, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Women of the Dawn.

In the last years of her life, Alpha sat at the Treaty Table on behalf of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, offering her knowledge of the Treaties. She often would finish meetings and stop by to visit her newest grandchild, Alphonsine, and sit and have tea with her son George and her daughter in law, Mary Ellen. Alpha loved family occasions where all of her family was present: daughter Carol and her children Bonnie and Kevin Kreese, Bev Lafond and Bill Leask, son Robert and his wife Marlene, son Allan and his companion, Bonnie and his children Dustin, Jody and Albert Stoney, her youngest son Dean and his companion Yvette and especially her special granddaughter, Kaila. Discussions around the table were always very educational; topics ranged from world events to how well the Petequacay Blades or the Muskeg Lake A's looked this season.

On August 21, 2000, people from all walks of life joined the family celebration of her life. The Lafond family is touched by the support of the extended family, friends, community members, colleagues and past and present political leaders who came and paid their last respects to Alpha. I doubt she realized all the lives she touched. She will be missed.