|Rubina Yassie, like all the Sayisi Dene of her generation, was born into a life of hunting and trapping in the far north of Manitoba. Her mother was the legendary Betsy Anderson who passed away at 104 years of age. In 1948 Rubina married and the couple moved to Churchill. “My husband was good at living off the land and with the money from selling furs and casual labor we had all we needed.”
In the 50’s, however, the Sayisi Dene of Duck Lake were transported by plane to the barren shores just outside Churchill. Their new homes were a concentration of shacks by a cemetery. Unable to hunt and trap, experiencing poverty and discrimination, a sense of powerlessness pervaded their community. Alcohol became their mode of escape and violence ensued. The wave of despair soon engulfed Rubina and her husband.
The Sayisi Dene determined that in order to survive as a people they had to return to the land. Eventually a community was established at Tadoule Lake which became the final home to what is now the Sayisi Dene First Nation.
Rubina, now 76, is a hardworking, friendly woman. Her health is good except for a bad back. This ailment caused by a lack of calcium is common to the women of Tadoule. I greatly admire that she, like her mother, Betsy Anderson, and many of her generation of the Sayisi Dene, has endured so much yet manage to confront each day with optimism.