Item is a recorded audio interview with Justa Monk.
00:04 Moran asks Justa when and where he was born. In Fort St. James, Nov. 20, 1942 in his father’s home. Moran asks about Justa’s mother’s family and her relationship to Eddie John. His mother had a big family, 2-3 sisters, and quite a few brothers. She was from Portage and his dad was from Babine Lake. Both ended up in Tachie after meeting in Fort St. James and marrying in 1924. Their marriage was arranged: a long time ago that is how marriages were made. His parents were born in 1900 and married in 1924. His mother was married before and had one child but this first husband died. The child’s last name was Maurice. After getting married, his parents moved to Portage to work on his father’s farm acreage outside the reserve. When Justa went to Lejac in ’54, he was accused of being non-status by Dept. of Indian Affairs and tried to kick him and his brother out of Lejac because this farm was off reserve. In 1954 the Monks moved back to Tachie after all his older brothers and sisters got married in Tachie.
4:35 His parents lived away from Tachie for about 30 years. They moved back to Tachie after working in Fort St. James, Douglas Lodge and Nakalak Lodge on Stewart Lake. Bridget wondered who owned the lodge back then? Justa says it was owned by Harry McConnachie. Justa’s father worked at this lodge as a guide.
5:03 Justa was the baby of a family of 11. Justa was born in 1942, when his mother was 42. His mother was born Feb. 18, 1900, his Dad May 15, 1900: so they were both about same age. They were married 67 years. His Mom died March 17, 1992. She was still sewing slippers at age 92. Bridget Moran talks about taping Granny Seymour as part of her social work when she was 111-112 years old, and how Granny had sewn Bridget a tablecloth.
6:30 Justa stayed at Lejac for 4 years. He couldn’t read, or write or speak English when he first started school. When he first arrived he had to surrender his home clothes and asked his brother, in his own language, why they were taking his clothes. A priest, Father Clanahan hit him on the ear and told him not to use that language here. He never forgot that day. He stayed from ’52 to ’57 and left in September 1957. They didn’t want to let him go because he was one of the best hockey players at Lejac. He took off into bush and went to his auntie’s place. They chased him for 2 weeks steady. He left because he was sick and tired of 2 things: working all the time on the farm and not learning anything in school; and second, praying 10-20 times a day. The schoolchildren changed clothes on Sundays, into Sunday clothes: a sweater and a pair of pants to go to church. He has nothing against religion, he is a practicing Catholic, but he was made to pray too often at Lejac. One thing he found with Lejac, was that they taught him what was right and wrong – they disciplined the children. Lejac did discipline people, but they didn’t totally punish them (with physical force). He worked at Lejac after he quit school with Adrian Johnnie. They would work there for 3 weeks then return home for 5 weeks. This job didn’t provide high wages but it was work and he had money.
10:18 When Justa left Lejac, he worked at a mill. He was 14 and underage, so his brothers signed for him so he could work. When he left Lejac in 1957, his father told him to go back but he didn’t want to. Justa had RCMP officers after him but with his brothers’ help he kept hiding. When his dad knew Justa wasn’t going to return to school he told him that if he was man enough to quit school, he was man enough to be on your own and start work. So his parents moved back up to North Arm to the lodge, and left Justa in the Fort. He was underage, and couldn’t get a job, until his brothers Teddy and John signed a consent form for him to work in a mill. He worked in the mill for 7 years from ’57 to ‘63. From ‘63 on, he worked with his dad at Nakalak Lodge for another 7 years. He worked a lot around white society and then into the Indian nations.
11:45 Justa talks about his trouble with the law. In 1967 his brother John came over and asked him to come and drink with him. His dad told him twice not to go but Justa didn’t listen. They were drinking rum together and the last thing he remembered was playing record player on the table. Later that night, the cops came and picked him up. He asked them why they were picking him up. The cops asked him if he knew what had happened. He said he didn’t know what they were talking about. They then told him he had stabbed his brother. He didn’t believe them. They had to get one of his sisters to come and explain it to him. That was in ’67, he was about 20 years old. He took it rough. He did time for 6 months or so in Prince George. He wanted to commit suicide but had a 24-hr guard placed on him. The prison also had his lawyer and priest to come and talk to him. When he was released, he went home and his family accepted him back but he still felt awkward and had every intention of killing himself.
14:07 He went back to jail. He was told to stay away from the hotel. His friend went into this hotel, but Justa stayed outside about 50-60 feet away. A cop came by and told him he wasn’t supposed to be near that place. He asked him what was ‘near’ and the cop said about 50ft. Justa told the cop that he wasn’t going in, but the cop told him he was violating his parole anyway. He didn’t argue with the cop. He went back with his lawyer in front of the judge. Because he didn’t go into the hotel, he didn’t get charged with violating his parole, but was told he had to leave Fort St. James so he moved up to Dawson Creek and went back to school.
14:47 He stayed 1½ years in Dawson Creek to do his upgrading. He didn’t know anyone there. At that time he got $34/month for incidentals like cigarettes: room and board must have been paid for separately. Nowadays kids get something like $2,000 for going to school. It ($34) wasn’t much in ‘67-‘69. In ‘69 he got a letter from his brother Teddy saying their parents wanted him home. Justa had a common-law wife at that time. She had moved up to Dawson Creek with her kids. She had kids from another relationship. Life wasn’t easy then. He couldn’t get any part-time work. He had no choice but to move home after the letter from his brother. His parents were getting old. It wasn’t an easy life he lived.
16:10 From ‘67 on it was awkward. He didn’t know how he coped. Sometimes he just wanted to be alone. After he moved back home, he got a cabin on Stewart Lake - one his dad used to own. His dad transferred it over to him. He’d stay up there and just think about things. He had a lot of good jobs offered when he was young. When he was guiding, he had a guy from California offer him a guiding job in California. This guy said he would send Justa home twice a year to see his family. He was single then but he rejected this offer. In ‘70 when worked at BC Rail, they wanted him to move to Williams Lake and Kamloops to be a crane operator. He rejected them too because he wanted to be with his parents.
17:26 On Jan. 2, 1971 the band hired him as maintenance man. In ‘72 when the chief and staff there quit, they asked him to be band manager. He said he didn’t have the knowledge. They came back to his house twice, on the third time Justa agreed to give it a try but gave them no guarantees that he would stay. He said he didn’t know how he’d be an office boy when he was more an outdoors person, but he gave it a try and since then he has never looked back. From there Justa went from band manager for 14-15 years, to chief and band manager at times. When his brother (?) resigned as chief, he stepped in as chief and band manager. That was the toughest year he ever had. He was on nerve pills and sleeping pills. Dr. Mooney said if he didn’t slow down he was going to die. On June 14, 1986 when he broke out in rash again from bad nerves, he asked the council to let him off for 6 months or so for a rest - they wouldn’t let him, so he quit. He stayed home July and August and had no intention of working anywhere. He was going to go to his cabin and draw UIC. But on August 16, Eddie called him and told him he had to be in Prince George by August 18 as the Carrier Sekani Membership Assembly passed a motion and wanted to hire him as their General Manager. His wife said it was up to him, but she also suggested that he should take a year off. But he decided it was his own people picking him and he didn’t want to refuse them. So they moved down to P.G. and he was General Manager from August 1986 to July 1988 when the Tachie band wanted him back up there. When he moved back up to Tachie he was given the position of Coordinator for Teasely Forest Products, the sawmill they were building on the reserve. They also looked at him as Vice-chief, which he worked at part time on a volunteer basis from 1988-89. In 1989 he became Vice-chief and in July 1990 he was elected Tribal Chief which again meant he had to move down to P.G. for 2.5 to 3 years without his family. He was living out of motels for about a year.
21:44 He married his wife in 1972. She had 6 or 7 children from the previous marriage. She was a widow. They were going together before that. In ‘67 she had his child. Her name before marriage was Theresa Austin. They only had 1 child together but they adopted 1 girl and 1 boy. The girl was Theresa’s grandchild after Theresa’s daughter was killed. They legally adopted her when she was a few weeks old. Then Justa’s niece had a boy in Kamloops and wanted to give the boy away. He wanted a boy badly so he took the child.
23:12 Justa speaks of one of his daughters who was, at the time of the interview, being assessed for placement into College Heights Secondary in Prince George. She was supposed to go into grade 10 but as there was a lot of difference between reserve school in Tachie and public school in Prince George, she had to go for testing.
23:53 As Chief, Justa had a three part mandate: to educate the public about land claims, to work on land claims, and to stop Kemano II. Public education on land claims was a priority and he spoke to many organizations. However, his main focus at that time was Kemano II as it was going to destroy their way of life. The previous chief had done nothing about it for two years. Justa hired lawyers and started going to court. His lawyers lost the first round at court, won the second, and lost the third and that’s where it stood at the time of the interview. Other administrative priorities included: education, drop outs within the CSTC area, housing, social problems (drugs and alcohol). There was not just one issue, but many.
26:23 He never thought he would be in politics. He thought originally that he wanted to be either an RCMP officer, or to join the army. He never thought he’d be a chief. He went to a recruiting office, one of his friends was accepted. His knee was weak from previous sports injuries so he was rejected as was another one of his friends.
27:54 Justa has been working since he was 14. He was 49 at the time of the interview – that’s 35 years of his life spent steadily at work - except for 1 year when he went to school in Dawson Creek. Justa said the last 22 years were where the excitement was. From ‘71 to the present he’d seen lots of changes. In some cases better, in others worse. He gives for example the guidelines of the Department [of Indian Affairs?]. When reading the guidelines regarding housing and education the system has gotten worse – it has gotten stricter. Construction is also too costly now – you can’t build economical housing anymore. Communication with the department, however, has improved. Housing and social problems on reserve are now worse – more drugs, alcohol and free money. Justa stresses that social assistance is going to damage his people if they don’t do anything about it. His way of thinking proposes an alternative funding arrangement so the band can change the way social assistance is distributed so that his people can’t get money for free. The council would be able to make their people do something for the community in exchange for this money. Fort Nak'azdli band is doing that. The administrator there has brought welfare recipients down from 90% to 10%.
32:02 Bridget mentions it is her birthday today (69). She then tells Justa that they will have to talk about what he thinks (re: how to write the book). Justa says he wants to recollect everything. Bridget also mentions the wealth of information in the many journals he has kept over the years.
33:02 His time at Lejac was exciting for him. He was a favourite pupil at Lejac, because of his sports agility.
33:24 Bridget asked him if he had had trouble with alcohol. He says yes, that was the reason he got into trouble. He would work 5 days a week, but on weekends he would party with his brothers and a few friends. His parents worried he wouldn’t make it due to his partying. He started drinking at Lejac with stolen mass wine. Eventually he came to a point in his life when he was Band Manger where he wasn’t taking his leadership seriously. He would bring a thermos filled with beer and 3 packs of cigarettes to the office just to get through the day. After one of the elders talked to him about his self destructive ways, he began to think about his life. That was in 1984-85. So he started slowing down. As well, once his adopted little boy had grown up enough to see him drinking, he had told him to quit, so then he really started slowing down. And lastly, after he became Tribal Chief he knew he had to change his ways so he could be a positive role model for the young people. Quitting drinking was tough though as there were times he just wanted to drink, like when young people in his band died.
36:41 Bridget said she’ll write an outline of his life for her publishers to see what they think and then they can decide from that. She had his phone number and promised not to give it out to anyone else as it is unlisted. He mentioned he was going to go out hunting but his wife was always home. Bridget said she probably won’t tackle this project until the New Year as she had a new book coming out: A Little Rebellion. They could then work out an arrangement: 50% – 50% on royalties and he would have final say on what would go into the book. She told him he has to be prepared to really tell everything.
38:12 Tape ends mid sentence.
45:50 Interview with Justa; Mary John and Theresa Monk are there too
46:11 Bridget asks about Joe Hansen, Justa Hansen’s brother. Joe was at Camp 24 – a mill camp where people from Ft. St. James would go to work in the summer and live in the shacks. Justa spent a weekend at this camp taking care of Joe Hansen when he was very old and dying of TB. His mouth used to dry out so badly, Justa would use bear grease on the outside and inside of his mouth, and that’s when Joe told him that in the future when he gets married he was going to have kids and be a leader. He told Justa he helps people; and never to laugh at the poor, or crippled or blind, and that if anyone else was laughing to just walk away and not to laugh with them because they will suffer later on. This is what the elders advised him. Many issues the elders talked to him about are now happening and are guiding him in his leadership. Jim (?) Joseph told him the same thing on his death bed. He told him in the future he was going to be a leader for a long time after he dies. Justa was named after Justa Hansen who was his godfather, and Justa Hansen used to tell Justa how to help people and what to do out in the bush. His elders spent a lot of time with him and shared their knowledge and wisdom with him. Some of the predictions – people dying out of alcohol is now what he’s seeing. Back in 1970, late 60’s, he was told in the future he would see young people from here to Ft. St. James dying out from alcohol. He is seeing this now. One of the biggest opportunities he had in life was to hang around with his elders: beginning in 1971 when he started working for the band.
51:00 His used to hang out with his elders (he lists many) and cut wood for them and give it to them free. The elders were just like parents to him and he was welcome everywhere with his elders.
52:13 Bridget asks if Justa will become chief here. Justa says he doesn’t know and that the young people around here have different ideas and don’t know what true leadership is. He presumes he will become chief but he can’t predict anything. Theresa: young people don’t look at what is good and what is bad. Bridget: do you think there is any real challenge to your leadership? Justa: there are some young people, but they don’t have leadership experience. He is positive he is going to get in. He’s received phone calls from chiefs asking him to be chief to his people part-time and then to also be tribal council chief part-time. He says staff is very important in any leadership, good staff listen to grassroots people. Same with leadership, they must listen to the grassroots people. With a good set of staff you don’t worry about anything.
54:48 He wants to complete the Kemano II deal. He made a commitment. On that basis he’s confused as to where he wants to be, he has a week to finalize his position. He knows if he runs as tribal chief he will get in. Archie Patrick supports his leadership and thinks he was the only one to keep people together. He also thought Justa really should have been given time off when he had asked for it. Justa talks about the deaths in his family that had caused him to quit the tribal council when he did in May (‘92?) Justa believes with the right set of staff he could do it.
56:37 Bridget: She has heard from so many native people and elders that until there is healing for the residential school experience, the other social problems won’t be solved. Justa doesn’t believe this to be true. The social problems exist regardless. As of 1992 the younger generation has no discipline, no clear direction, it is hard to talk to them without them swearing back at you. He cannot blame Lejac – there was some good and some bad. You look around today at the guys in leadership and they were all from Lejac. The social problems, you measure it from the time we left Lejac the social problems weren’t there. There was no real alcohol problems- just a few of us, no suicide, not as many deaths as today. People have put it in their minds that Lejac is where the social problems started from. He wouldn’t use Lejac as an excuse. It isn’t just Lejac though, some residential schools may have been worse. He was there for 4 years and only got punished once for something he didn’t do.
1:00:06 The beginnings of solutions for social problems: substance abuse, violence, suicide start with elders, the parents and the youth themselves. If he becomes chief, there is going to be an elders council and a youth council and they are going to work together with the chief and councillors. That is the start. Together they will search for solutions. Elders to share what they went through. He has many elders that can do this - if he can get them out of bingo! He has the 5-6 youths too. He would take 2 youths who are into substance abuse, 2 from the school and 1 from an urban area and tell them to make a 1 year commitment to talk about social problems and listen to the elders and bring them to meetings and make them sit there and listen. They would then go back and share what they learned with their friends and other students.
1:04:08 Bridget: Speaks to and about Mary John’s work with her people in Stoney Creek to deal with alcoholism in her community. Mary dealt with it from family to family but got burnt out. Justa: that’s why you have to work with the councillors, you can’t just depend on the elders as it will burn them out. Mary: you have to work with the councillors. Mary and Justa talk about trouble in Stoney Creek with the Council, and how you have to listen to your elders. Eddie has also never used the elders. Change must come from elders - sharing of the past and the intention of the future. Chief and councillors must be right there too as they are the chosen leaders. Eddie John is current chief. Mary: Eddie just has title of chief but is never here. (not heard: ? is acting as chief) Justa: he’s not feeling well he just had cancer and is very tired still from the treatment.
1:07:56 The local school on reserve teaches Carrier culture – they teach language and potlatch. Justa was not sure if they were still doing it. When he was band manager they started it and they would ask him to come watch the little kids hold a little potlatch. He really enjoyed that. They’ve done a lot in regards to whole culture. He used to get money for elders to teach children how to do skins.
1:08:57 Justa receives a phone call and speaks Carrier. Bridget speaks to Theresa and Mary in background.
1:09:54 From 1967-69 Justa went back to school in Dawson Creek to upgrade but hasn’t been back since. He is more a self taught politician. He has learnt from reading. That’s why there is so much difference in leadership nowadays. You take a young person coming out of school or college and they think they come home to be chief and change the world overnight. He worked at the grassroots level first, he was maintenance man first, then band manager, then chief and then tribal chief. He started at the grassroots level and that is why his intention is to improve grassroots support. He doesn’t impose on his people, they have to tell him what they want. He may only advise on how things might work better in the future.
1:11:40 Because of his broad experiences, he is going to hold a workshop for new councillors on leadership and responsibility, how to listen and respond to things. He’s going to do this when he is chief or tribal chief again.
1:012:21 There are 15,000 people in Carrier Sekani, 22 occupied communities, and 14 bands.
1:13:08 He likes to work, he’s used to it. Ever since he was 14. He remembers when he ran away from the bus in September that was to take him back to school from Fort St. James. His dad told him if he was man enough to quit school he was man enough to work. That’s when he made up his mind to work.
1:14:09 Before Lejac he lived in Portage. He really enjoyed this life. They didn’t have anything fancy, even sweets were rare. Since 5, he remembers hanging around his dad who had a farm and would help him from 4 o’clock in the morning. He loved driving the horses to plow the garden. His dad taught him a lot about surviving in the bush and what not to touch and what to touch. His dad told him not to chop trees, if you need it, if it’s dry use it. His elders told him don’t touch anything you don’t need.
1:15:47 He was the youngest in the family. The next sibling to him was his brother Teddy who was about 2 years older. He got shot. He went on an island from Tachie to pick up his cheque from a guy who had a guiding outfit. This was just after Justa returned home from Dawson Creek after receiving a letter from Teddy asking him to come home to be with his aging parents. Teddy went out and didn’t come back, he was in his 20s.
1:17:42 Justa didn’t get to Lejac until he was 10 years old as his Dad didn’t want to send him. There was a guy - Lee Cochran, DIA – he and an RCMP member talked to his dad and told him Justa had to go. Most of his siblings went to school at Lejac for 1-2 years. Jimmy the eldest didn’t go to school at all. Bridget: By 7 most children were sent to school or had the church and cops after them. Mary: Maybe because Justa was a bit more isolated in his community he was left alone awhile longer. Justa was up in Portage and you could only get up by boat and if the water was rough you couldn’t get up at all.
1:19:08 Justa had a very good childhood. His mom and dad were both very gentle people. He was never hungry. He didn’t have fancy clothes like he’s got nowadays but he never went naked. He also had very good experience at Lejac compared to other people. He was the leader of the boys. He would lead them to class, or to the dinning room. That’s when his leadership started. The school principal and priest chose him to do that job and he got paid $1/week. Mary: also had a good experience at Lejac, although she was homesick and hungry. Justa was homesick during the first year as he didn’t know the language. He had to depend on his brother Teddy and other friends. After that he was fine. It didn’t bother him to go back. But in his fifth year, when he was going into grade 7, he was 14 and his brothers convinced him he didn’t have to go back so he didn’t.
1:21:40 He wonders If he did complete his school if he’d be another Indian lawyer running around. Justa always wanted to be in RCMP or join the army. In 1962 he went to Vancouver to enlist but wasn’t accepted because of a bad knee.
1:22:09 When he was working in P.G. Justa missed Tachie very much. So he would often get up early and work late – because if he was busy he was occupied and not so homesick for his family. He never appreciated living in a city much. For last 5 years, there had been talk about moving the CSTC tribal office to Stoney Creek or Vanderhoof but every time this was brought up there were some reasons why couldn’t move office: airport in PG and resource people in PG. Justa doesn’t agree and believes Vanderhoof to be the centre point for their people. City life doesn’t suit him. Bridget comments on how the house he shares with Archie in PG is very different than his home in Tachie.
1:24:48 Bridget: They will have to keep in touch. She asks him if he still wants a book written about him? She tells him to talk to Mary as a book changes your life a bit.
1:25:05 Mary: She says it does, but she likes to have more people getting these stories.
[Break in conversation due to stopping of tape recorder? Conversation resumes mid-sentence. Perhaps they are speaking of the watchmen?]
1:25:16 Justa: His auntie’s husband would check every house once and awhile. Sylvester Basil was an orphan who used to stay with Justa’s parents, but he always wanted to be mischievous and make home brew. His sisters didn’t like home brew and he didn’t like it, and they didn’t want to see their parents drink either... So these guys would chop up their tents. They never did answer them but used to be really scared of them. The church chief used to work together. Mary: Lazare is a Church chief now. Church chief’s look after the spiritual part of the people. Theresa: like a church leader. Justa – they talk in church about what is wrong and right and how to trust in the Lord.
1:27:02 Justa doesn’t drink at all now. He had too much in younger days. He had a couple of beers on the Easter Monday after his mom died. Before that it was 3 years ago. Prior to that he had been slowing down 5-6 years earlier maybe more. When he was chief and band manager and used to drink in the early 80s it got to him so badly he would bring a thermos of beer to the office. That was the only way he could keep us his energy. He came to realize it was harming him.
1:28:50 He used to receive many complaints as band manager. He kept daily diaries, where he would write down these complaints but identify the complainant. Bridget wanted him to dig them out. By winter Justa should know if he’s chief, tribal chief or nothing. He wants to share his abilities with all his people, not just this community. If he gets back in, he’s going to start a youth conference using the elders. Bridget: In society’s that have recovered it was the use of the elders that had done it.
1:30:40 Wendy Grant (Musqueum Band – Vice chief of BC) told him sad story up at Nakalak Lodge last summer, when they were talking about the future of how they were going to take over the DIA and self government. The story was about how her band and her community totally lost their culture…
1:31:11 End of tape mid sentence.