Louis Goodchild – 1959 Speaker
1959 Speaker of Biigtigong Nishnaabemwin
Louis Goodchild comprehended the pressures of his times which were eroding the very essence of our collective Biigtigong Nishnaabe being. He understood the threats against our collective identity and against our existence as a Nation. Being fully aware, as well, of the traditional knowledge he carried, Louis thus made a decision to struggle against these threats by ensuring that this knowledge was documented and made available to the generations to come. Louis spent considerable time contemplating how he was going to accomplish this. He acted decisively, once his decison was made, in writing his autobiography and participating in the recording of our stories. He was safeguarding our connections to our core values and beliefs – our Biigtigong Nishnaabe language and our Biigtigong Nishnaabe practices. By directing his actions in this manner, he was deliberately and effectively providing for us a more stable foundation upon which our future generations could then more solidly build and strengthen our Nishnaabewwin (our “Native-ness”).
He worked in a variety of areas: hunting, fishing, trapping, logging, guiding, fire fighting, policing, dog teamster, and prospecting. His experiences took him away from Biigtigong for extended periods, but he always returned home. His knowledge of the land was extensive and his stories paint vivid images of his experiences. Louis wrote primarily of his own personal experiences. In his memoirs, he consistently acknowledged his sources of information; he left nothing to gossip. He respected the knowledge which was passed-on to him and expressed a clear understanding of his responsibility to pass-on what was shared with him.
Louis was a visionary and a man of action. The hundreds of hours he spent documenting his life story was done for his family and for the “rest of the Indians to come.” He respected his role as an elder and understood the responsibilities which this placed upon him. Always willing to share and help out, Louis continues to contribute to the lives of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg. His love for our language and for our ways as Biigtigong Nishnaabeg was the motivation for his actions. His determination to document what he believed was important leaves us with the responsibility to carry on his work.