Meet Mark – Chapter 2: Lessons from Mother Earth 

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada


Text on screen: The Financial Consumer Agency presents Money Break: A series on financial wellness, Coffee Edition 

Birch Bark Coffee Company

Chapter 2 Lessons from the land

What summers on the reserve taught Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow about life, providing for a family and personal finances.

 (Mark shows photos of his mother.) 

Mark: This is my mom. I don’t know if this was – I forgot to ask her if this was actually high school or her graduating teacher’s college. 

(Mark sits in a chair in an office.)

Mark: I lived in two worlds because when I was really young…

(Mark shows a photo of his mother and grandparents standing outside their house.)

Mark: … my mum moved off the reserve.  I don’t recall everywhere. I think they lived in Toronto for a little bit and then Ottawa mostly and then I kind of lived in the non-aboriginal world but I also lived in the First Nations world, in the community. To put it into perspective…

(A map of northern Ontario reveals the route between Ottawa and Birch Island.)

Mark: Birch Island Ontario from Ottawa is about seven hours away so there was a lot of traveling. I spent an extensive amount of time in the community when I was young growing up. My parents used to drop me off with my grandparents.

(A photo of Mark as a young child shows him smiling in front of a lake surrounded by forest.)

Mark: I think in the era that I was raised in I wasn’t really taught about RRSPs. I wasn’t really taught about saving money. It was just, you lived your life and as a child, as a youth we just grew up having fun, playing with our friends. I wasn’t really – I wasn’t brought up in a world of understanding finances.  

(Mark shows an old photo of his grandfather in front of a log structure.)

Mark: Way back when, I knew my grandfather had a trap line. I knew my grandfather – it was a tough struggle that the way my grandfather raised money was through trapping.

(Mark shows an old photo of his grandfather standing in the snow with an axe in his hand.)

Mark:.So that’s how he provided for his community, and then opening and closing cottages.  That’s how he raised the money for his family to be able to eat; a lot of fishing. The staple was a lot of fish. You wanted for nothing. It was such a healthy lifestyle. When you sat down and ate, it was food that was right from Mother Earth, right there in the community.
When we ate, whether it was fishing – we went out fishing in the morning, we came back, we provided. So we had fish fries.  There was nothing ever about money. Everything was right there off the land.

(An outdoor scenery of a wooded area with a body of water appears.)

Mark:  And as long as you respected it, you really understood that Mother Earth could really provide for you without all this fast pace, looking at our watches and oh, we have to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. It wasn’t like that back then. If you were hungry you ate. When the sun went down and it got darker, oh, it’s time for bed. I think those were probably the most enjoyable times I’ve had, waking up in the morning with my grandmother making bannock and blueberries, the smell of it just resonates with me and I just remember those memories and, they’re both deceased now but I really miss them a lot and that time I spent with them. It’s important to me, they were good people and they lived a simple life, and I think that a lot of people could learn from that. 

(Mark crouches near a fire pit at along the Ottawa River with the Ottawa Parliament building in the background.)

Text on screen: Continue Mark’s Story in Chapter 3. Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow hits tough times and learns life lessons about money while travelling the road to entrepreneurship. 

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