Another Damn Thing

A story from nehiyaw historian Alphonse Little Poplar’s memoirs

A young nehiyaw man stands in front of a wooden building on the prairie.
IndigiNews is publishing stories from Alphonse Little Poplar, recorded and transcribed in 1986, to share his incredible memories and gentle storytelling. Photograph submitted by Audrey Fineday.

Trigger Warning:  This story contains description of abuse while attending a residential “school.” Please read with care for your spirit and well-being. 

In 1986, Alphonse Little Poplar and Irene Fineday welcomed a family friend named David Doyle to their family land on the Sweetgrass First Nation. Mr. Doyle spent three months staying in a small building next to their home, over the winter. He spent his evenings interviewing Alphonse, recording these interviews on a cassette recorder. After leaving the reserve, Mr. Doyle had their contents transcribed. Unfortunately, over time all of the cassettes save for one were accidentally destroyed.

In June of 2020, Mr. Doyle gifted Eden Fineday, IndigiNews’ Business Aunty, and Alphonse and Irene’s granddaughter, with ownership and possession of the manuscript containing all of her grandfather’s transcribed stories. IndigiNews is publishing these stories so that Alphonse’s incredible memories and gentle storytelling may be shared with our readers.

Portions of this manuscript have previously been published in the Battlefords News Optimist.

There is another damn thing they used to give us at school. Early In the morning we would go to a chapel, a kind of a church inside the building. It was quite a long walk, damn near to the other end of the building, to the girl’s side.

Before we left our dormitory, there was a door that we had to go through to get out to the hallway. Standing there was a guy and he’s got a pitcher of the most awful tasting cod liver oil you ever saw.

That thing smelled like rotten fish and tasted worse. Some guys would damn near throw up when they smelled it, and if they did throw up they would get a licken. That’s why they didn’t throw up, otherwise they would have.

This guy that worked there, Joe Chicken, if he was your friend he would let you go; he wouldn’t give you any. But if he had no use for you, or had something against you, he would give it to you twice. If you didn’t agree to it, he would call the nuns.

“He didn’t take his cod liver oil yet, he refuses.”

Then they would get a licken, and they would still have to take another dose.

Dear cuzzins, if you or anyone you know is struggling with a visit with depression, suicidal ideation or attempts we want you to know help is available at KUU-US Crisis Line Society.

​Adults/Elders (250-723-4050), Child/Youth (250-723-2040), Toll free (1-800-588-8717), or the Métis Line (1-833-MétisBC). 

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