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A Busy Life For Indian Lady

Joan Beatty

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      MARCH 1974      v04 n03 p22  
Joan Beatty writes of Deschambeault's "Nookum" who is loved and respected by all who know her

Deschambeault Lake - In her late seventies and known to everyone around the settlement, Indian or white, as "Nookom", Mrs. Angelique Ballentyne of the Peter Ballentyne Band lives with her daughter, Mrs. Florence Custer, and two grandchildren, Susan and Alec, in a new typically constructed Indian Affairs home.

"Nookom" who lived for a number of years in a small log house built by one of her sons, said, she found their new home strange and awkwardly "roomy" at first.

After her second husband, Peter Ballentyne, who was grandson of the first Chief of the Band, died, she trapped and sold furs for many years.

While the Evangelical Mission at Deschambeault was still open for services, she never failed to go to church every Sunday although she had to walk about a mile to get there. Even now barely able to walk because of crippling arthritis, she never misses going to Holy Communion and services held regularly at the local Anglican Church.

She still goes and buys groceries at the local Co-op Store with the monthly pension she receives. Usually one of her many grandchildren will help her and sometimes pulls her on the sleigh, sliding down hills, which she finds extremely funny.

"Nookom" doesn't speak the English language fluently but can usually get a message across with the few words she does know and is surprisingly not shy to use as is typical of most Indian, people.

Even though her eyesight is not very good anymore, she still does a bit of bead work and is one of the few left who can make beautiful baskets made out of birch bark which she decorates with tree roots dyed in various colours. Over the years, her baskets have been in strong demand and still are.

During her lifetime, she has delivered many babies and is still one of the first to be called upon when someone in the settlement has a baby or becomes seriously ill. Many times with her presence, she has brought comfort to those who lost loved ones.

"Nookom" often recalls the days her family used to move from place to place, trapping, fishing, and making camp where there was food available.

Many times, her grandchildren and great grand children will set around her fascinated with the stories she tells of the olden days when there were no stores, no ski-doos or roads, and only birch bark canoes and the peddler, who along with his trades, might bring news of a cousin or a friend.

One of everyone's favourite times is when she talks about "Widigoo", a man who had a bad dream and turned into a werewolf, killing and eating people. The only ones who could defeat them were the ones who were blessed with super human powers. "Widigoo" was afraid of the Bible," Nookom said.

With all the hard as well as good times she has lived through, "Nookom" is loved and respected by everyone who knows her for her wisdom and guidance and steadying force she provides to the community of Deschambeault.

In the center is Angelique Ballentyne with her grandson, Alec Person to the left is one of her daughters, Florence Custer, who she stays with, and to the right is another daughter, Sophie Sewap
In the center is Angelique Ballentyne with her grandson, Alec Person to the left is one of her daughters, Florence Custer, who she stays with, and to the right is another daughter, Sophie Sewap.