Helen, 93 years old, was born in Cross Lake to Batiste and Fanny (nee Hamilton) McKay. Helen was very young when her mother and father died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic that swept the country. Her paternal grandmother, Mariah, took on the responsibility of raising her.

In 1930, Helen married Johnny Ross and a few years later began to raise a family. In those days people would help erect a log cabin for each family and after construction, would travel to another location and start again. Helen and Johnny spent much of their time together on the trap line. But as their family began to grow Helen would often remain behind at their cabin attending to their children’s needs. Helen recalled fondly, “Johnny would leave plenty of food when gone which might be for two weeks to two months if he was travelling all the way to Utik Lake. He, like all trappers of his day, used a dog team when he traveled."

During the summer months Johnny was a commercial fisherman. Helen reminisced, “That way of life has been destroyed. There was an abundance of fish — not anymore. Nothing like before. We would catch a lot of fish just before the ice would begin to form. We would store it for two months while the ice hardened, then go back out and ice fish.”

Her son, Daniel, summed up life then and now. “Mom and dad taught us to be self sufficient. We all learned how to hunt and fish from them. Growing up we never noticed being poor. There was always wild food on the table. We were a happy family. There was no welfare back then.”


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Helen Jane Ross
Pimicikamak Cree Nation (Cross Lake)
Image size: 11 x 17 inches
Edition size: 275