Role Model of the Year
November 18, 2011
It has become a great annual tradition when the Allison Bernard Memorial High School (ABMHS) student body selects a Mi’kmaq elder to be the recipient of this year’s role model of the years.
This year’s 2011 “Role Model of the Year” was 77 year old, Veronica (Flo) Young. Celebrations were held at the ABMHS Cultural Center on November 3, 2011.
Flo was born in Whycocomagh on November 4, 1934. She came from a family of 6, 2 brothers and 3 sisters. She is the last surviving member of her immediate family and is the youngest daughter of the late Andrew Philips and Elizabeth Bernard.
She was born and raised in Whycocomagh where she met and married Veteran William Fred Young. Together they had 14 children. They lived in Waycocomagh for a while then they moved to Eskasoni in 1960.
In the early 1970’s, they moved to Malagwatch where they continued to hunt, fish, trap and gather medicine. Flo also worked as a migrant worker, picking blueberries and gathering potatoes in Maine every year with her family.
Flo’s lifestyle was working hard outdoors such as trapping, Christmas tree growing, oyster farming. She was also a fisherman, lumberjack, farmer, janitor, cook and basket maker. She is also known as a Mi’kmaq healer. She also went around selling Christmas wreaths, clothes poles, axe handles and baskets all over Cape Breton and Newfoundland. You could say she is jack of all trades.
In 1984, her husband of 33 years died. Soon after Flo went to work as a housekeeper for NADACA then was later promoted to cook. She continued to work until her retirement at the age of 69.
But anyone that knows Flo, she cannot keep still. Today she teaches youth about living off the land through herbal medicine, fishing along with the art of basket making.
Currently Flo is an elder advisor for Eskasoni, Waycobah and other Mi’kmaq communities. She also works closely with Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources and goes every year to Hunters Mountain with the youths. Flo has also presented to various universities and has assisted a number of Mi’kmaq researcheres on traditional cultures.
Flo is also a member of the Eskasoni Elders Group and can be found each year traveling to Quebec for St. Ann’s Day. When she is not playing Bingo or double up, she is usually at home making a basket or trying to remember the names of her 40 grandchildren and 50 great grandchildren.
Today, Flo encourages young people to learn the things she learned and help children learn and understand our cultural ways and language. No matter what age, she said, “We must keep the Mi’kmaq culture alive.”
Eskasoni School Board Director, Elizabeth Ann Cremo, had firsthand experience in working with Flo and the youth, ” When Flo interacts with the youth, sharing her passion for our language, culture and traditions, they learn from her willingly, excited to be seeing our amazing corner of the world through her eyes.”
Cremo added, “Flo takes her responsibility as a role model very seriously and is always available to teach our students their culture, language and traditions. She takes genuine interest in the youth and is happy to share her time and knowledge.”
Eskasoni Band Councillor and son-in-law, Barry Francis who spoke on behalf of the Eskasoni Chief and Council said, “Flo Young is truly an inspiration to each and every one here today. She has overcome many obstacles in her life but has remained strong in her Mi’kmaq beliefs and teachings.”
In his speech, Francis told the entire student body, “For many generations Flow has shared her wisdom to those who want to learn. From basket making to Mi’kmaq medicinal plants, Flo Young represents just a handful of elders that still know the rich Mi’kmaq traditions and customs. We are fortunate and grateful that Flow continues to pass down the knowledge to our next generation before it is all forgotten.”
Flo was overwhelmed with emotions that day. She said in Mi’kmaq, “I am grateful they have selected me, I am amazed and very happy today and I thank them very much.”
Flo wanted to let the youth know how hard it was one time ago growing up and raising 14 kids, “You had to work hard, it was hard. You had to provide food and clothing, had to make a living, you didn’t depend on band office, you had to earn it, and you had to work hard.”
Today, Flo’s work ethics can be seen through her children and how hard they work for their family and community. She said she is proud of her children and what they have achieved in life.
Eskasoni School Board Director, Elizabeth Ann Cremo, praised the students for this year’s selection, “I am amazed at the choice our students have made in choosing their role model of the year. Job well done students, you have chosen wisely.”