My name is Alice Daphne March, named for my father’s mother. I grew up in Gillams, a small community in the Bay of Islands, within Mi’kmaq territory, on the West Coast of Newfoundland. Gillams is a beautiful place, with the mountains across the bay. We used to hang out at the Overfalls, the place where the fresh water meets the ocean. We would take lunch with us and go there for the day to swim and hang out when I was young. Some days I couldn’t go because I had to mind the store that my mom ran in Gillams.
March’s Store was the place that everyone hung out, people of all ages. It had pinball machines, a pool table and place to sit around the wood stove. Our store had dry goods, fish and buckets of salt beef and salt herring, as well as canned goods, vegetables, milk, butter and bread. Whatever you needed. It wasn’t the only convenience store, but it was the favourite because it had everything.
My father, Cyril Gilbert March, was born to Alice and Fred March and grew up right there in Gillams. He was a fun loving, kind hearted person, with a heart of gold. He could make any instrument sing; he played the fiddle and he was an amazing story teller. He could cut firewood, snare a rabbit and hunt moose for his family. We raised pigs and kept a garden that was mainly potatoes and other root vegetables. People called him a “Jackatar” because he had dark brown skin and brown eyes. That meant that he was considered to be indigenous. But he never spoke about that.
From him, I learned that the simple things matter: laughter, kindness, connection with others and that we are all part of Mother Nature. Living off the land, picking berries and being outdoors was what he loved. When he said “Sha Ma Sha” as his greeting, he would put his hands up in the air with a huge smile and his gold tooth shining and it made an instant connection with others. He never said what it meant, but for me, it expresses a deep sense of human connection. That phrase has become the guiding spirit for the work I do now.
Indigenous traditions focus on appreciation for all things around us: our people, the living world, the food we eat, all of it. This is important because this is what heals us, connects us and it is for the next generation to know that through all our struggles, this knowledge has carried us forward. In my life, as I have gone through challenges, the curve balls life has thrown me, and as I have travelled far beyond the shores of this island, I always remember what my father and mother taught me when we were out in the woods, or planting our potatoes, or working in the store. I learned from them that nourishing ourselves and being part of a community and doing service to others is where our goodness lies.
On this page, I hope to share with you what I have learned and am still learning, and how it connects us to the living world, our food, ourselves and each other.