Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Life of Resilience: The Example of Elder Ralph Paul

Ralph Paul taken from
This week it is a two part interview with the very active and inspiring Elder Ralph Paul from English River First Nation. Over the course of 50 minutes we discuss his life from when at age 6 he was sent to residential school in Saskatchewan to his later years as a chief for his community. After a very difficult time away from his mother, father and family at Residential school he was eventually chosen to be one of the first Indians to attend a white school in the Battleford area. A Catholic priest believed in his abilities and felt further education would be profitable to him. Ultimately he graduated and was offered the chance to enter teachers college when he earned a one year teaching certificate and so began a very long career. During that time there were not a lot of options available for young men, teacher, priest, or book keeper, so Ralph felt lucky. Ralph has worked in schools in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Eventually in 1973 he was working in Thompson as a school counsellor. He was advising children to get an education yet he did not have much of an education. In 1974 he enrolled at the University of Manitoba for a Bac of Ed degree. He was one of only 13 Indian students.

He also married to a lovely Scottish lady and had two children and both have been very successful in their chosen careers. He learned form his wife how to care and love children because it was not something that you would have learned in Residential school. He in time became the best father he could. The question is why some people are successful even after the horrors of the residential school era. Why do some have an inner resilience and have been able to become successful. We discussed marital relationships and how a man and woman should not discuss politics, but focus on loving each other.

Eventually he moved back to his reservation after he had retired in early 2000s. After 8 years near the community he was elected chief. A position he held for 4 years before taking another break. There was along discussion about politics, chief, financing, funding, per diems, treaties and other issues that have been very hot in the media with a lot of misnomers and misunderstanding. Ralph felt it is important that a chief speak the truth and understand the needs of the people he represents. It is not a top down approach, but consultation and involving people in the governance and running of the reserve.

He told a number of stories about how the elders felt that are the signing of the treaties it would take 7 generation for the Dene people to surpass the Moonyas people of
. He feels we are in the 6 generation and it will be his grandchildren and my children who will be the most successful and truly rise to their full potential.
To Learn More (Interview and Podcast Part I)
To Learn more (Interview and Podcast Part II)  


Ouellette, Robert-Falcon. (Director) (2013 March 13). At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research. A Life of Resilance: The Example of Elder Ralph Paul [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from 
Ouellette, Robert-Falcon, dir. "A Life of Resilance: The Example of Elder Ralph Paul." At the Edge of Canada: Indigenous Research.. N.p., 13 March 2013. web. 13 March 2013. <

1 comment: