OJIBWE ELDER BIOGRAPHY
My name is Thunderbird Eagle Woman, and I am of the Thunderbird Clan. My GST name is Lillian Pitawanakwat. I am a mother and grandmother, and have worked for many years to renew our Ojibwe traditions, as a community worker and Elder.
I come from a family of eight boys and four girls. I’m the last of twelve children, second-last to be delivered by my grandmother, who was the midwife of our community, Whitefish River. She delivered many children into the fullness of life. She was the one who greeted me when I came into the world and gave me the name Granddaughter of Thunder Woman. She’s been in the spirit world for a long time. And yet she’s so very present for me, because she is my guide, my teacher. When I ask her things to this day, she answers me.
My grandmother had eighteen children. Of those eighteen children, only my mother and my uncle survived. The others succumbed to the great illness that beset us in the early 1900’s. And so my mother lost all her siblings except for one. She carried that grief all of her life, the grief of losing a family.
My mother is Ojibwe and my father is Potawatomi. The Potawatomi tribe, we’re called the fire-keepers. Being a part of the fire-keepers, I was given that task of nurturing the fires of the people that I come into contact with.
I grew up with a very strong spirit base that included an understanding of both the Catholic religion and Native spirituality; I walked with them at the same time. I do not differentiate between them because they complement each other. I was taught that the two can co-exist. So following Native traditions and being baptized a Catholic are both part of who I am. I am also a mother, and have been a wife and a community worker. I am all of those things. That’s the gift that I share. So I honour my ancestors and I share with you my gifts and my story and the teachings of those who came before me.