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MNO citizen and children’s author Pat Lamondin Skene pens memoir “Swiftly Flowing Waters”

Press Release

June 27, 2024

Storytelling has long been integral to Métis culture, yet their voices were often marginalized. Today, Métis are reclaiming their narrative power, sharing their unique stories with their community and beyond.

Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) citizen-author Pat Lamondin Skene was raised in Britt, ON with family ties to the Georgian Bay Métis community. Pat took inspiration from her childhood experiences growing up along the Magnetawan River for her new children’s book: Lights Along the River. Her other new publication is her own personal memoir, Swiftly Flowing Waters. Both books were published in May 2024.

A citizen of the Credit River Métis Council, Pat spoke with the MNO about her personal journey and finding her voice as a writer.

Where were you raised, what was your life like while growing up?

I was born in 1945 and grew up in Britt, Ontario on the Magnetawan River at the mouth of Georgian Bay. My father’s family has historic ties to the Georgian Bay Métis community. I am from the Métis family lines of Solomon and Berger/Boudoin, with ancestors that go back to the earliest fur traders. My grandfather and several ancestors were lighthouse keepers at the Gereaux Island Lighthouse on Georgian Bay for many decades.

My childhood was immersed in a Métis way of life, although at the time term Métis wasn’t used. Our surname was changed to hide who we were, and our ancestry was openly denied. But we still lived a Métis way of life – the food, the story circles, the berry picking, the focus on family, the music, the family picnics, and our strong connection to land and water. It was just the way we lived.

Before becoming an author, what was your career/background?

At sixteen years old, my first job was a telephone operator for Bell. I was with them for 10 years, then I was hired as a loan officer at CIBC when I moved to Vancouver. I stayed with the bank for 25 years and retired as a Vice President in 1998.

A big part of my story is my climb from sliding down coal dumps in Britt as a child, to becoming a female executive at one of Canada’s major banks. I lacked the credentials of my colleagues with a university degree, but I made up for it in hard work and determination. I found my way into the executive ranks in an era when the banking industry was dominated predominately by men. I retired early to begin a new career as a writer and enjoy a softer side of life. Since then, I’ve published 8 books for children, a memoir, numerous short stories, and several newspaper and magazine articles.

What inspired you to write your memoir?

I’ve had a very adventurous life and wanted to leave a legacy of my experiences. Several years ago, after surviving breast cancer, I began to write my stories. I was interrupted to become a caregiver for my husband who, after a long struggle with bladder cancer, died with MAiD (medical assistance in dying) in 2019. I held his hand during the process and watched the beating pulse in his neck come to stop. It was traumatic – we were married 42 years.

It took the profound experience of grief and coming face to face with the finality of death to make me think more deeply about the path I’d been on. Finding myself alone for the first time in my life, and in the middle of a pandemic, I immersed myself in my writing.

What are some of the themes readers can look for within the book?

The Magnetawan River, where I grew up, means “Swiftly Flowing Waters” in Ojibwe. The river, with its strong currents, rocky rapids and changing conditions, is a metaphor for my life. I think the main themes in my story are resilience, reflection, and reclamation. It was during the writing of this book that I learned why I stayed in an alcoholic relationship, why I denied who I was and why I couldn’t move on after my husband’s death. It’s the story of the experiences so many women go through, quietly, and ‘just deal with it.’

Did you experience any challenges when writing this memoir? What are some of the benefits or highlights you experienced during the writing process?

The biggest challenge was immersing myself into the painful parts of my life. My deep dives into the past gave way too many moments of introspection as I looked back at those years from the eyes of a septuagenarian. It was like a picture in a puzzle. Each piece fit together and made more sense with the others tucked in around it. As I looked further into my family history and my early childhood days on the Magnetawan I came to better appreciate and understand why we lived the way we did. A few years ago, my niece completed our family history, showing our deep Métis connections. As I began to do my own homework, I kept finding myself weaving in and out of the stories of my ancestors.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring Métis authors?

I’m hopeful that by telling my story, other Métis writers will come forward and tell theirs. I believe that talking to each other through story, helps us to learn from each other and become stronger. By speaking the truth out loud, we can help to change the narrative and debunk the stereotypes many of us grew up believing.

The MNO wish Pat the best of luck with her new books, and we thank her for sharing her story with the MNO community. Marsii, Pat!

“Swiftly Flowing Waters” and “Lights along the River” are available for purchase now at most bookstores and online websites.

Lights along the River
Orca Book Publishers, 2024, for ages 6-8.

This book is based on the true story about Pat growing up in Britt without electricity, telephones, or indoor plumbing. It shows children what life was like before the ubiquitous world of electronics we have today. The beautifully illustrated scenes in this book have been recreated from pictures of Pat’s childhood home, family and actual events that occurred in Britt, circa 1962.

Swiftly Flowing Waters – a memoir
Plumleaf Press, 2024

Swiftly Flowing Waters is a raw reflection of Pat’s life of courage, hard choices, and resilience in the face of tragedy.

Pat spent a lifetime catching up to who she needed to be. Growing up in a Métis family, she had a background shrouded in secrecy and shame. It would take her decades to discover the truth about her indigeneity and rejoice in what she found.

With a young child in tow, Pat left an alcoholic relationship, and found herself without a home, a job or money. Against all odds, she achieved corporate success in the banking world, found love again, and enjoyed a life filled with accomplishments, much joy and world travel. After 25 years, at the pinnacle of her career, she left the executive ranks in search a new life outside the boardroom. Along the way, Pat became an author, survived breast cancer, and lost the love of her life when he died with MAID.

Pat tells her story in Swiftly Flowing Waters, with grit and a sense of humour, to help break through the heartache and frustration. Throughout her remarkable journey, her courage and spunk will resonate with readers and inspire us to get onboard and cheer her on.


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