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Six Nations Woman Was Keeper Of Band's History

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  • Six Nations Woman Was Keeper Of Band's History

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    This message is reprinted under the Fair Use
    Doctrine of International Copyright Law:

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    I probably should have put this in Memorials, but this woman's story is so interesting I felt it would fair better here.



    Six Nations Woman Was Keeper Of Band's History

    By Susan Gamble, expositor staff

    Local News - Thursday, March 24, 2005 @ 01:00

    Joyce Smoke Sosteric, the living memory of Six Nations, died on Wednesday.
    She was 70.

    A descendant of both Pauline Johnson and Joseph Brant, Mrs. Smoke was highly
    respected for her status as the first North American native woman to receive a
    university degree.

    But for most local natives, Mrs. Smoke will be remembered as the keeper of
    the band’s oral history and the one who knew hundreds of old family connections.

    “She had an incredible memory,” said her son, Maurice Smoke. “People would
    literally come from all over the world to tap her brain because of what she

    Because so much of native history is in oral stories and traditions, Mrs.
    Smoke was invaluable as a local historian and genealogist.

    Born in 1934, the daughter of a traditional Clan Mother — Nora Hill and her
    husband Daniel Hill — Mrs. Smoke was of the Seneca Tribe and the Snipe Clan.
    She grew up immersed in the indigenous ways of her people and hearing stories of
    the old ways repeated around the family fire.

    “Many stories were told by my Grandpa, my great-uncles, as well as their
    friends, my Grandma and great-aunts to younger family members like myself,” Mrs.
    Smoke wrote in an article on the Iroquoian Code Talkers.

    “All the grownups were genial and their stories were good-humoured and caused
    much laughter and good-natured joking for all. We small ones stayed up longer
    to hear more.”

    Mrs. Smoke’s grandfather and two of his brothers served in “the Great War”
    by using their native languages to confound the Germans as they sent radio
    messages on the front lines.

    After telling the story of the brothers and how they coincidentally became
    fluent in German when their father was chief of Six Nations — which made them
    invaluable to the war effort — Mrs. Smoke caught the attention of an American
    television producer named James Vandemark.

    "We're doing a TV movie based on the life of Joyce Smoke's grandfather,
    Simeon Gibson, and his brother, John Hardy Gibson," said Vandemark from Rochester,

    "It's an amazing story that Joyce related to me."

    No date has been set for the production but Vandemark said it's in
    development with CTV and an Alberta production company.

    “It’s too bad that she’s not going to be able to see it,” said Maurice

    Mrs. Smoke wanted to become a doctor, but pregnancy and her burgeoning family
    waylaid her plans.

    In the 1960’s, with four small children, she and her husband, Angus,
    divorced. Mrs. Smoke enrolled in McMaster University and, at the same time, became the
    curator of Chiefswood, the home of her ancestor, Pauline Johnson.

    She became an avid spokesperson for native history.

    “When we were growing up,” said daughter Sheila Smoke Adolth, “I remember we
    were always being toted off to banquets, universities and TV stations where
    mom was lecturing or participating in something about Pauline Johnson or Six

    “She was very community minded and wouldn’t hesitate to talk about Six
    Nations. That was unusual for that time.”

    Mrs. Smoke instilled in her children the importance of honesty, a good
    education and hard work.

    “We grew up in a time of prejudice but she never let us hang our heads,”
    said her daughter. “She was adamant about being proud we were Indians.”

    After graduating from university and moving to Brantford, Mrs. Smoke became a
    social worker for the Children’s Aid Society here, but her daughter said
    that, in her heart, her mother was a social worker far earlier than when she was

    “We were always taking people in, even when we didn’t have anything. She had
    a kind heart and was open to all kinds of people.”

    She worked for the CAS for about 20 years before retiring.

    “I was always very impressed with her enthusiasm for studying the history of
    the Six Nations,” said Expositor columnist Kit McDermott.

    “She was quite a historian and really knew a lot and was eager to learn more
    and do more. I admired her.”

    Mrs. Smoke suffered sudden kidney failure that hospitalized her briefly
    before her death.

    She is predeceased by her husband, Michael Sosteric, and one grandchild.

    Mrs. Smoke leaves behind her four children — Daniel, Sheila, Angus Jr. and
    Maurice — nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

    She will be buried in a native ribbon dress in a traditional longhouse
    funeral service where non-natives will be welcome.

    Visitation will be held at the Styres Funeral Home in Ohsweken on Friday from
    7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

    The funeral service and burial will be at the Onondaga Longhouse Saturday at
    11 a.m.

    “She was a very brave woman,” said her daughter. “She didn’t cower.”
    Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic

  • #2
    Thanks Blackbear for posting there - although I did not know her personally, she obviously paved the way for many others - I know she will be missed.

    Her family is in my prayers.
    Everything is gonna be alright!

    Be blessed - got love???

    This b me.....


    • #3
      I did'tn know her personally either but wish I had.
      Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic


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