The staff of Mahkwa Lodge, Lac Seul First Nation, were very excited to meet Althea Guiboche, of Winnipeg, AKA “The Bannock Lady” while on a weekend trip to celebrate the-end-of -the-season for Mahkwa Lodge, a grueling seasonal job for most of them, but also a very rewarding job in customer service. By way of the “Moccasin Telegraph”, Maeegan Linklater of Winnipeg told Chris Southwind, Sr. one of the managers at Mahkwa Lodge about Althea. In August, Chris and Althea agreed to join forces to make a hot meal possible for three hundred homeless in Winnipeg. The staff had wanted to engage in an activity that would be meaningful to them based on their traditional values while in Winnipeg.
On Sunday, September 16th under the friendly guidance and direction of “The Bannock Lady”, the staff went into a flurry of action in the kitchen of the Sergeant Tommy Prince Place on 90 Sinclair Avenue. It is a community activity center in the heart of the city. Althea was granted the space years ago for her and volunteers to cook there once a month to feed the homeless people. One could hear the familiar sound of the clanging of frying pans, cooking pots and utensils as the hamburger and spices were being prepared for the huge pots of chili, and giant bowls of bannock being kneaded to be placed in big baking pans. As the morning turned to afternoon, the kitchen was getting hotter but the staff continued to work tirelessly, and with lots of jokes and laughter - typical of Anishinaabeg.
“I had an awesome time with my coworkers. It brought me back to why I love doing what I do, working in the spirit of our traditional teachings, sharing in the spirit of giving. In my early years, I remember my family would get a moose, fish or ducks, and we would always share with others”, said Yvette Thomas, Head Chef, Mahkwa Lodge.
The hot food was carefully packaged into individual portions, packed neatly in coolers and transported to the corner of Main Street and Sinclair Avenue, in Winnipeg. The group quickly set up tables where the hot food was set up in a neat and orderly assembly line fashion. Promptly at three o’clock, homeless adults and some with their children and grandchildren came to line up to pick up their hot meal. The hot meal included chili, bannock, granola bar, bottled water, a fruit, with a pair of new socks as an added bonus. Some of them humbly asked for an extra serving to take to their loved one unable to join in the lineup due to a disability and many said kind words of thanks as they walked down the assembly line.
Charity Ningewance, Office Manager, “I really enjoyed this experience, volunteering to help another person enjoy a hot meal. As Anishinaabe people, we are taught early in life to share, to help others without expecting anything in return. So for me, I felt really good being part of this, doing what my parents and grandparents taught me. We all had fun working together with Althea and her regular volunteers. I would do it again!”
“It was a humbling experience seeing so many impoverished adults and children that were obviously hungry, it cost less than $2.80 per plate to provide this meal. The volunteer work of the Bannock Lady performs, restores my faith in human kindness and dignity”, said Chris Southwind, Sr.”
Mahkwa Lodge provided the funds to purchase the ingredients for the meal, and socks.