The Amazing Mazie Baker
The Story of a Squamish Nation's Warrior Elder
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / Native American & Aboriginal
Oct 01, 2016
6 x 9 x 0.3 in | 320 gr
When author Kay Johnston first met Mazie Baker, she came to know her as the reigning queen of bannock, selling out batch after batch of fluffy, light frybread at local powwows. She soon learned that Mazie, a matriarch and an activist, had been nurturing and fiercely protecting her community for a lifetime. In 1931, Mazie Antone was born into the Squamish Nation, a community caught between its traditional values of respect-for the land, the family and the band-and the secular, capitalistic legislation imposed by European settlers. When she was six, the police carried her off to St. Paul's Indian Residential School, as mandated by the 1920 Indian Act. There, she endured months of beatings, malnourishment and lice infestations before her family collected Mazie and her siblings and fled across the border. Once in Washington, the Antones weathered the Depression by picking fruit and working in the shipyard. After the war, the children were old enough that the family could safely return to their home on the Capilano Reserve. At sixteen, Mazie began working at a cannery; she packed salmon for eleven years, all the while learning to defend herself from supervisors and fellow packers foolish enough to make her a target. Mazie married her sweetheart, Alvie Baker, and together they raised nine children. Part of the legacy of residential school was that Mazie and her generation were alienated from their culture and language, but through her children, she reconnected with her Squamish identity. She came to mourn the loss of the old style of government by councils of hereditary chiefs and to criticize the corruption in the band leadership created in 1989 by federal legislation. Galvanized by the injustices she saw committed against and within her community-especially against indigenous women, who were denied status and property rights-she began a long career of advocacy. She fought for housing for families in need; she pushed for transparency in local government; she defended ancestral lands; she shone a bright light into the darkest political corners. Her family called her ch'sken: Golden Eagle. This intimate biography of a community leader illuminates a difficult, unresolved chapter of Canadian history and paints a portrait of a resilient and principled woman who faced down her every political foe, unflinching, irreverent, and uncompromising.