RCMP in­ves­ti­gat­ing burn­ing of Innu el­der’s tent

El­iz­a­beth Pe­nashue hurt and dis­ap­pointed over ac­tions of others

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANETTE DOO­LEY

HAPPY VAL­LEY-GOOSE BAY, NL – Pain filled El­iz­a­beth Pe­nashue’s voice as she talked about learn­ing her tent had been burned to the ground in a wooded area near the North West River High­way.

“I was very, very sad,” the 73-year-old said in a re­cent phone in­ter­view.

“Some­times, I sit down and cry ... first time I heard what hap­pened, I couldn’t sleep ... I am a good woman. When I try to do some­thing, I work hard. Now my tent and all my chairs burned, and my stove gone ... ev­ery­thing I lost.”

The well-re­spected Innu el­der en­joyed spend­ing time in her tent, where she made tra­di­tional donuts and sold them to peo­ple com­ing through the area.

Pe­nashue said she was giv­ing the money she made from the sale of the donuts to her grand­child who is trav­el­ling out of the prov­ince to par­tic­i­pate in a sport­ing event.

“I was mak­ing a lit­tle bit of money, but it didn’t work,” she said.

Pe­nashue apol­o­gized dur­ing the in­ter­view for her bro­ken English. She left school in Grade 4, she said, be­cause her par­ents were hunt­ing in the coun­try and took their fam­ily with them.

Memo­rial Univer­sity awarded Pe­nashue a Doc­tor of Laws hon­orary de­gree in 2006. She is the sub­ject of a book, Marie Wad­den’s “Ni­tassi­nan,” and a film, the Na­tional Film Board’s Hunters and Bombers. Kanani Davis, Pe­nashue’s daugh­ter, said her mother was out of the area at the time the tent was burned and fam­ily mem­bers first thought that some­one had taken it down.

“Some­one told us that they saw an am­bu­lance and a po­lice car there. So we called the po­lice and they in­formed us that they were in­deed called be­cause there was a fire there,” Davis said.

Her mother was hurt when she re­al­ized what had hap­pened, Davis said.

“When we first took her up there and she could see all the soot and the ashes, she was re­ally dis­ap­pointed and kept won­der­ing who would do this,” Davis said.

Pe­nashue was par­tic­u­larly up­set to have lost a chair that she was keep­ing in mem­ory of her hus­band, Fran­cis Pe­nashue, who died in 2013, her daugh­ter said.

The chair was of worth lit­tle mon­e­tar­ily but was of great sen­ti­men­tal value to her mother, Davis said,

“Mom bought that chair on one of her trips with my dad. They took it ev­ery­where be­cause it was a lit­tle chair that you fold out. You could just take it in your hand and use it as a cane,” she said.

While she’s still shaken by the crime, Pe­nashue said she will con­tinue her work in keep­ing her Innu cul­ture alive and shar­ing her knowl­edge with others.

“I will keep go­ing. It’s very im­por­tant what I am do­ing. I try to help Innu peo­ple,” Pe­nashue said.

“I ex­plain to chil­dren both is very im­por­tant – school and our cul­ture. Kids, when I take them in the coun­try – to walk – they are very, very happy. Some­times, they say to me, ‘El­iz­a­beth, I don’t think about al­co­hol here. Or drugs. I’m so happy here.’”

When asked about the sta­tus of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the RCMP said it is on­go­ing.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion that could help with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is asked to con­tact the Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay RCMP at 709-896-3383. Any­one who wishes to re­main anony­mous, can con­tact Crime Stop­pers toll free at 1-800222-TIPS (8477), text TIP190 + your mes­sage to ‘CRIMES’ (274637) or sub­mit a webtip at www.nl­crimestop­pers.com.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

El­iz­a­beth Pe­nashue says she’s very sad over the burn­ing of her tent near the North West River High­way.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

El­iz­a­beth Pe­nashue’s tent was burned down re­cently, and she’d like to know why.

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