Author: Kay Johnston
Book The Amazing Mazie Baker by Kay Johnston
In 1931, Mazie Antone was born into the Squamish Nation, a community caught between its traditional values of respect—for the land, the family and the band—and the secular, capitalistic legislation imposed by European settlers. When she was six, the police carried her off to St. Paul’s Indian Residential School, as mandated by the 1920 Indian Act. There, she endured months of beatings, malnourishment and lice infestations before her family collected Mazie and her siblings and fled across the border.
After the war, the family return to their home on the Capilano Reserve and Mazie began working at a cannery where she packed salmon for eleven years. Mazie married Alvie Baker, and together they raised nine children, but the legacy of residential school for Mazie and her generation meant they were alienated from their culture and language. Eventually Mazie reconnected with her Squamish identity and she began to mourn the loss of the old style of government by councils of hereditary chiefs and to criticize the corruption in the band leadership created in 1989 by federal legislation.
Galvanized by the injustices she saw committed against and within her community—especially against indigenous women, who were denied status and property rights—she began a long career of advocacy. She fought for housing for families in need; she pushed for transparency in local government; she defended ancestral lands; she shone a bright light into the darkest political corners. Her family called her ch’sken: Golden Eagle.
This intimate biography of a community leader illuminates a difficult, unresolved chapter of Canadian history and paints a portrait of a resilient and principled woman who faced down her every political foe, unflinching, irreverent, and uncompromising.
Kay Johnston is the President of the Shuswap Association of Writers and Festival Chair for Word on the Lake-a Writers’ Festival. She is the author of Spirit of Powwow as well as several short stories and poems in Kaleidoscope V, a Shuswap Writers’ Anthology. Johnston lives in Salmon Arm and spends her time writing, organizing writing events, and singing in the Shuswap Community Choir. She has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Victoria, and a B.A in English Literature from UBC.
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