A former First Nations woman whose story is being retells through a new book says she has been unable to leave her mark on the country she called home.
In her new book, Karen materica says her life as a First Nations person, from childhood to adulthood, was shaped by a deep desire to help others.
“I’ve always been a caring person,” she told CBC News in an interview at her home in Prince George.
“My family has always been about helping others.
I always felt that we were connected to other people and that our lives were connected with others.”
Karen’s story was born in the mid-1950s, when her father, who was a lawyer, returned to the territory to work as a lawyer.
After his return, he went back to work in the bar, and Karen was the first in her family to attend school.
“It was the happiest time in my life,” she said.
“We went to every sporting event, we were all happy.”
It was also a time when the territory was struggling with its economic problems.
“The First Nations were just struggling, and the First Nations had no money,” she recalled.
“Our people were trying to make ends meet.”
When the economy started to improve, Karen’s father became a landowner and began buying more land for his own use, with the idea of turning it into a reserve.
“That’s how I met my future husband,” she added.
“He was also doing that.
He had a lot of money and a lot more than I did.”
Katherine’s mother was also raising three children, so she decided to study to become a teacher.
“So my mom started teaching at a secondary school, so I started in the fourth grade,” she explained.
“But I didn’t know how I was going to support my family.
So my mom just told me to go back to school and be a teacher.”
In 1956, when she was 17, Karen met her future husband, who worked in a restaurant.
“They were both from the territory, and I was studying, and they were both students at the same school,” she remembered.
“There was a big debate about what I should do, but I just said, ‘OK, I’m going to go with the whole thing.'”
The couple moved to the small community of North Vancouver, where they settled down and began working.
“All my friends were doing their own thing,” Karen said.
They started taking care of their two young children, but they couldn’t afford to feed them, so Karen and her husband made the decision to leave the territory.
“Then we decided that we weren’t going to stay in North Vancouver anymore, we wanted to go to a different community in British Columbia,” she recounted.
“And that’s when we started to see the land, and we saw what the land was.”
Kurtis, who has since retired from the RCMP, said Karen was determined to help her husband and other First Nations people move on.
“She was determined, and she would do whatever she had to to make sure that she was there,” he said.
She was born to an Inuit mother and a white father.
“In the early part of her life, she was very conscious of being different from the other people in the community,” he added.
For many First Nations, the story of Karen is a story of overcoming hardship.
“Karen was one of the first First Nations to be given a land title when she came here, and it was something that she didn’t really know what to do with,” Kurtis said.
“But she was determined.”
The two women’s stories echo across the territories and across Canada, with Karen’s experience being used as a model for other First Nation people, he said, adding it has inspired generations of young people to learn about their own aboriginal heritage and how to overcome adversity.
“If you look at all the young people who come up through the generations, and some of the First Nation children have gone on to become leaders, or they have become doctors, they have all been inspired by Karen,” he explained.
For Karen, the journey was often a struggle, but it wasn’t always about being successful.
“A lot of times, it was about wanting to be like everyone else,” she concluded.
“People told me, ‘Oh, you’re not doing too well, it’s your fault.
You don’t have any money.’
But I knew that I could always change my situation.”