Woman who dances jingle at dawn
How long have you lived in Red Cliff?
“63 years. I grew up at Roy’s Point just up the road. I Moved down town Red Cliff in 1978.
I have 8 brothers and 1 sister. I just lost three brothers. One in 2002, one in 2018, and one in 2020. We are a very close knit family. My mom, Dorothy Peterson Charette Duffy 06/03/1932-03/11/1996 was a single parent, my father Marvin B Charette Sr
10/02/1929-12/08/1963 passed on when I was seven.”
What do you consider your greatest life achievements?
“I have two biological children and three southern children. I also have 10 grandchildren. I love them all very much and my extended family. My son, Adrian Baa passed in 2018, forever 38. I was married in 1991 to my love Willard Sr. and he passed on Valentines day 2001. I was a single parent with Adrian.
Around 1983 I attended WITC and participated in Medical Ward Clerk Program. There were two women I will always be grateful for. They put their love, trust and confidence in me: Arlene Basina and Thelma Bresette. Daily, they would make sure I was up, took my son to a sitter and made me go to school with them. December 1984, I began working for our tribe with the Indian Health Service, where I continued to work for 35 years, retiring in 2020.
Humbly and respectfully I say that working for our tribe was one of the most humbling and fulfilling positions I have ever had in my lifetime. Not only did I purchase my home, with my late husband in 1995, but in 2019 I paid it off, so with dedication, perseverance, accountability, and confidentiality, the sky is the limit.
When I was in school I was a single parent and I drank heavily and I would consider myself an alcoholic. Due to my self-awareness I began to go to ceremonies in 1985. In 2007 I quit using substances. I remember when my son was here. He, my daughter and myself were talking, we were talking about alcohol, and I told them I didn't quit drinking for them, they both looked up at me, kind of shocked, and I said I quit drinking so I could take care of you, the smiles that came over their faces, was pure joy and love.
I love my Spirit. When I take care of my Spirit, my Spirit takes care of me.
I was on the tribal council and I am a cancer survivor.
Four years after my husband passed, I met the man who I am with now, Bobbers, who I love. We have been together for 16 years."
What are ways in which you have worked to keep language and culture alive in Red Cliff?
“Ceremonies, pow wowing, role modeling. I talk to my children about the language. I talk to my children about who they are and where they came from. I use the seven grandfather teachings in my daily walk, I believe we all have a spirit, and that we have a relationship with all of life. When we talk about culture, for me, it could mean keeping my mom’s memory alive by making her stuffing, which she taught me and teaching my daughter and my nieces how to make it.
Culture is preserving and protecting the land, water, and air. I teach this to my children and grandchildren."
If you could give the next generation of women one piece of advice, what would it be?
“Keep on keeping on. Try to stay focused, positive, and determined. Remember, we all have a spirit and we need to nurture it, especially our children’s spirit. It takes a community to raise a child.
“Keep enjoying life and celebrate it. Rely on each other, keep our doors open and keep the coffee on. It takes us individuals to bring that back.
It’s always important to love one another.
I believe that Creator gave us a responsibility, and that is to take care of one anther, it takes a community to raise a child. I believe he gave us, as Indigenous Peoples, the responsibility to take care of our Elders, our Children, Grandchildren, the Earth, the Sky and the Waters.
If I could offer any words, I would say never give up. We all make mistakes, we learn from them. Every day is a new beginning. Take your life learning experiences and transform them into your daily living.
The biggest thing that has helped me, that I would offer to you, is to practice, live your faith, whatever it is. Which for me is offering my asema with prayer to creator. That’s the only thing that is guaranteed to me in life, is my faith in creator and my asema/
Thoughts from the community
“Over the past few years, I have seen a depth to her strength through tragedy and losses that she has learned to live with. She has never shown defeat even at times when the world would have totally understood, yet she has shown dignity, love and respect always. Carolyn’s fierce devotion to the community and her passion for the water is deeply moving and inspiring. She has shown by example what a true Anishinaabekwe is…always take the high road she tells us. I am honored to call her a friend.”
-Miigwech (thank you), Anna Merritt
Carolyn's commitment to the community has been inspiring. She continues to teach the younger generations about what matters to an Anishinaabe and how to take care of themselves. She continues to teach me and my daughters about Jingle Dress dancing and about what it takes to be present while doing healing dances.”
“Carolyn always has a smile for her community. Her enduring ways of helping others is like a endless flowing river.”
Poetry by Midge Montano
Dedicated to Harriet Balber
Red Cliff Reservation
Miigwech for the many teachings of Life,
You are my Mother, Grandmother, and Friend,
Your heart is bigger than Lake Superior,
Miigwech for your visits, and your laughter.
The Creator has sent you the greatest gift of knowing what is it to be humble, Respected Elder
The creator has sent you the great gifts of teaching Love, Honor, and Respect, for all who wishes to receive it.
Midge Montano, March 20,1994