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Rosario Lloret: From Madrid to Dogrib

People of the Peace

When it comes to moving places, you couldn’t get much more dramatic than what Hudson’s Hope resident Rosario Lloret went through.

Lloret grew up in Madrid, Spain, a city of five million people, home to Spanish royalty, world-class museums, and a long reach in European history.

But 11 years ago, she moved to the Northwest Territories, to a community 10,000 times smaller, where even the smallest things were considered a luxury.

Lloret said she wouldn’t trade the move now. She learned about a new type of people she greatly enjoyed, one that she would never have experienced even in cosmopolitan Madrid — and these experiences formed the basis of her first novel.

On a trip to Mexico, Lloret met her future husband, who was also travelling at the time. Rather than stay in Madrid — where he didn’t know the language — they decided to move to the Northwest Territories, where at the time he was become the senior administration officer of a small community.

“I knew from the beginning that it was not going to be easy because the Northwest Territories is not an easy place to live,” she said. “The weather was a big one, and the long nights and the short days.”

For comparison’s sake, the coldest recorded day Madrid ever experienced was in 1945, at -10 degrees Celsius.     

And whereas you could find a lot of Gucci or Prada in Madrid, the standards of consumer excellence slightly changed for Lloret.

“We had a small grocery store and only once every now and then fresh produce came,” she said. When that happened, a flurry of phone calls and activity came in a race to make sure they could actually get that fresh produce.

But people really make up any place that you live, and for Lloret, she found a unique connection with the Tlicho First Nations people.

(These people were also called Dogrib, which is an English translation of their name.)

The Tlicho first signed a Treaty with the Canadian government in 1921. A Dene First Nation, they relied - and continue to do so - on trapping and hunting to make their living.

 In Europe, people knew about the existence of First Nations people in North America, but it took a slightly different tone than what home grown people knew about.

“We contemplate like as if all of them were shamans, as if they were all magic people,” she said.

What she didn’t know — and would soon learn — was the difficulties experienced by First Nations people since that time, including the difficulties of residential schools, the loss of culture, and the drastic changes they went through since the arrival of (earlier) Europeans.

“I find it absolutely astonishing, how a group of people had to undergo, especially in the North in 30 or 40 years, an evolution that for the rest of the planet took thousands of years.”

Lloret also took time to interact with the elders, some of whom could not speak in English, and required translators.

For Lloret, this was a new type of storytelling.

“For me, you’re talking to them and it’s magic connection,” she said. “Its very difficult to speak like that with a white person ...You’re never speaking with a white person who is totally present with you a 100 per cent. With me, my communication with the Tlicho person is mores spirit to spirit.”

This level of involvement also extended to the interactions between other elders. While many people are used to continuous conversation, when an elder spoke in a gathering, others would remain silent for a short time afterward, simply to process what was said.

“I was absolutely mesmerized with their vitality, their presence, their union with the planet, their capacity to reinvent themselves after so many things that happened to them,” she said. “I feel privileged to be able to have shared their culture and to be welcomed by them and to embraced by them.”

Eventually, though, Lloret’s husband, Tom Matus, got a job as the CAO of Hudson’s Hope, and that required another move. Still, Lloret didn’t leave these experiences behind.

In the past, Lloret had written books of poetry and short stories in Spain, and unpublished novels.

She decided to continue her literary career, and make a novel drawing upon her time in the North.

Lloret also decided it to write it in English, something she described as a “big challenge” as English was not her first language.

The novel, “Wolf In A Beaver Coat,” describes the experiences of Jimmy Whitefox and his son, Amorak. The novel details both Whitefox’s experiences. For the elder Whitefox, this involves widespread change in his community, from a more traditional lifestyle to a new modern reality. For him personally, it involves a trip away from the community due to sickness, only to return as a young man with trouble adapting back to his community.

For Jimmy’s son, it involves a somewhat darker path, as he must face a struggle to survive the harsh winter conditions of the Northwest Territories with only a decrepit snowmobile on a trip back to sell bootlegged alcohol.

“It is a novel that’s, of course, about the First Nations and about their travels through change,” said Lloret. “It’s also about healing and families, about forgiveness about how as we evolve in life we learn how the things that hurt us before are nothing,” she said. “How we can focus on love, and be much happier. It is my tribute to the (First Nations) presence on this planet and the many many things that I learned from them.”

The book, published by smaller publisher Tight Rope Books, has gotten some positive reception, with copies in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

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