My family lived on Snake Island. My step-father, Harold, my mother, Bea, and I relocated there from Georgina when I was four years old, in 1948. Harold, or Scobe as everyone on the rez called him, served as the first caretaker of Snake Island on behalf of the band council. We lived in a four-room house that he and Clarence Porte built by hand. Like every other house at Georgina, our small home lacked running water and electricity. Eventually our family grew to include three younger brothers, Mike, Tom and George. When we were still very young, early in the fall, we would all load into our small outboard boat for the trip from Snake Island to Georgina for the annual fall Anniversary celebration. I didn’t understand what the church anniversary was for but I knew that it included a lot of games for both kids and adults, as well as a community feast in the Hall, and a dance.
When the weather was good – sunshine and little wind – the trip between the islands was like a magical ride. Our little boat with a 5 hp Evinrude would ride on top of the smooth, glassy water. We were all by ourselves a mile or so offshore the whole way, no cottagers or fisherman on the lake, just the six of us, watching the sun glinting on the calm water, and pointing quickly to any small or large splashes in the water caused by lake trout that might have surfaced near us as we continued our journey. Of course, if the weather was bad, the crossing was too dangerous and we stayed home, sad that we were missing the good food and good time at the Anniversary.
When we arrived at Georgina, our father knew exactly where to land our little boat. It was on the shore a little north of Archie and Bertha ( our Little Gran)Blackbird’s small house. When the boat was pulled onto the shore we made our way along a little path that ran nearby Archie and Bertha’s house to a small cabin that Scobe inherited from his brother George. We only used the cabin when we were able to make the trip to the Anniversary so it was like a special cottage for us. I can’t remember it entirely but I do recall the special cosiness of four of us being tucked into one bed by my mother, something that we all thought was extra-special. The next day we’d all head for the grounds by the Hall to watch and participate in the games and competitions. One memory that stands out is the log-sawing contest that my mother and Elaine McCue competed in. Both women were very young and strong and they quickly showed they knew how to handle a saw as well as anyone.
Of course, the main event for me, at least, was the community feast in the basement of the Hall. Tables were covered with freshly caught fried trout and whitefish, baked and fried scone, potato salads, and other foods, enough food for everyone to eat as much as they wanted. The women in the kitchen seemed to work all night making sure the fish never ran out. For me growing up on Snake Island without neighbours, the community feast was wonderous occasion – everyone seemed to be there, talking and laughing, and enjoying the tasty food, and reliving the games and competitions earlier in the day. When everyone had eaten, people moved outside into the cooler autumn air, to get a breather before the dance in the Hall. Because we were just children, my mom and dad gathered us up and under a harvest moon with a million stars twinkling in the sky, we walked to our small cabin happy to have made the lake trip to another Anniversary!