Lucienne Nault Breland Pinichaw, La Poule de Prairie
In 1930 Lucienne Nault Breland was born, into the hands of a Cree Medicine Woman, in the Ochre River District, near Makinac, Manitoba, Canada. Her parents were Metis, a mix, primarily of Cree, Ojibwe, Sealteaux Tribes and French and Scott. Her father nicknamed her Pinichaw, meaning meadow hen. Lucienne was a victim of horrific racism, being called a “dirty half breed”. She was bullied so much by her teacher that she left school after grade 8. As a young adult, she lived in Goose Bay, Labrador where she inadvertently started a race riot on the US Air Force Base for dancing with a black man. He was arrested and she was kicked out of Goose Bay. This and many other experiences in Mexico, North Africa, and the United States led her to become a civil rights activist in the 60s and 70s.
She was also a women’s rights advocate. In the late 60s, she was called to school to pick up her daughter who broke the rules by wearing pants. She advocated so strongly that, not only did her daughter not get suspended, but the school policy was changed! She also advocated for reproductive rights and helped create Indiana’s first Planned Parenthood.
Lucienne had a deep relationship with life and Mother Earth. She was a prolific gardener. She loved her flowers. She was an Environmental activist. She helped create the first recycling program in the state of Indiana.
Divorcing in the 70s, she was shunned by many of her former friends. Life was not easy for a divorced woman without an education. She struggled with depression. In spite of this, she rose to the occasion and did her best to make a life for herself and her children.
She was an inspiration to many as a manager of a nursery where she taught people the love of plants, how to grow and work with herbs. She even wrote a cookbook.
An avid reader, she was a brilliant woman who could hold her own with anyone. She was the wisest, kindest, most honest and generous woman I have ever known. She never had a bad word to say about anyone. She walked gently on the earth.
She was proud of her Metis heritage and shared her knowledge freely. Many sought her wisdom and advice. She was an adopted mother to many.
How blessed am I to have been her daughter! Towards the end of her life, I joined a Native drum group. One day I was singing traditional songs for her and she told me that her father would have been so proud. If I can be even half the women my mother was, I will feel that I have accomplished much. And I pray that can I walk through life in such a way, that I can honour her and make her proud. I thank the Creator for her, the greatest woman I have ever known. RIP mama, love you forever.