From children’s games to Red Seal mechanic
Joe Gibot is the kind of guy who makes you jealous of how he spent his childhood. When asked about his favourite childhood memories, he recounts one adventure after another, from being out in the woods making up games — like using bark to pretend to buy and sell dried meat — to floating birchbark boats tied to a string.
Joe grew up, of course, and those days playing on and around the Peace River in places with names like Marlip’s Creek, Rocky Point and the Coupé dam are gone. But the carefree memories remain — memories full of freedom to explore and enjoy the country that is still his home.
Today, Joe is a successful heavy-duty mechanic who gained Red Seal certification in 1976 – something of which he is very proud. Since then, Joe has always been employed or apprenticing and, like many successful Mikisew members, able to make a living near his home.
Joe’s pride in his Mikisew past is as strong as his childhood memories. He thinks it’s important that Mikisew continue to support their heritage and he believes speaking Cree plays a critical role in preserving it.
“I think it’s important that you can have a good conversation with the Elders,” he says, since talking in Cree about the challenges they face is especially tough for older children who did not have classes in the language, don’t hear it at home, and have to make a real effort to practice it.
Joe believes in language and communication as a way to stick together as a community. Gathering for events such as Treaty Days or the GIR Elders Culture Retreat are important, he says, because people don’t visit and spend time on the land the way they used to. He urges young people in particular to spend more time communicating face to face rather than through their phones.
Communicating also means being able to address tough challenges such as water. Joe believes that the days when the Peace would flood and change the whole face of the landscape are gone, but he hopes it’s not forever. He believes in our Nation, that we can keep together and find a way to let water have that freedom again — to be the boss and dictate the ebb and flow of nature.