The Mayor, the Chief and the Irish Immigrant

24 Jan

It sounds like one of our Paddy Irishman jokes, doesn’t it?  We all walk into a bar/get on an airplane/work on a building site….I’ve no doubt it would end up being politically incorrect….

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the Mayor’s State of the City address in downtown Saskatoon.  It was the tenth address given by Mayor Don Atchison since his election as Mayor in 2003, and about five hundred people attended.  It was hosted by the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce in TCU Place, and I went with Jo Ann as part of City in a Box.  I had my own business cards to hand out, and I was decked out in make-up and high heels.  I felt almost business-like.

We drove downtown, tottered across the icy car park in our impractical shoes, hung up our coats and started to mingle.  I smiled and chatted and handed over my cards, and realised that most people wanted to talk to me about Ireland, their Irish ancestry, their previous holidays in Ireland and their planned trips to Ireland.  I issued the requisite rain warnings, and accepted everyone’s sympathy regarding the prairie winters.

We helped ourselves to our buffet lunch and then sat back and listened to the Mayor’s speech.  Halfway through, he began talking about Chief Bear, who was in the audience, and the success of the Dakota Dunes Golf Course that is part of the Whitecap Dakota First Nations land in Saskatoon. I was riveted, particularly when I realised that he was gesturing in our direction when he spoke about him.  I swivelled my head surreptitiously, and eventually deduced that the Chief was part of the table in front of me.  Disappointingly, he was dressed in a suit, but I suppose full ceremonial robes might have been a bit too much to hope for.  As soon as the speech ended, and everyone stood up to leave, I hissed at Jo Ann “I have to meet the Chief!”.  “Oh!”, she said, a bit taken aback, but then she rose to the occasion and collared him on the way by.  “Hello, Chief Bear”, she said, “this is Barbara Reidy, from Ireland, and she’d love to meet you”.  I shook his hand and gabbled a bit, and all the time he was looking at me quizzically.  Meeting Chief Bear is not really a big deal in Saskatchewan, I gathered, and my enthusiasm was slightly bizarre. Jo Ann thought it was hilarious, but I’m still happy to have startled him – it’s a bit cool to be able to say “Oh, yes, Chief Bear of the Whitecap First Nation? I met him when I was at lunch with the Mayor”. Here he is:

When the speech was over we mingled some more, and then ended up speaking with the Mayor’s wife Mardele, who is really lovely.  She was telling us stories about christening a ship in Japan, and the unexpected protocols and pitfalls that it involved.  They have five children, all grown-up now, and so we could compare stories of life in those trenches.  She managed to terrorise me with tales of the teenage years; I think there will be a steep and pothole-strewn learning curve coming up for us over the next few years.

Anyway, here’s the video of the Mayor’s speech as it appeared on the local news; if you look really closely at it, Jo Ann features as it rolls towards 2 minutes, and part of my head (in all its silver glory) is visible on the left.

2 Responses to “The Mayor, the Chief and the Irish Immigrant”

  1. kathy January 25, 2013 at 10:53 am #

    “City in a Box???”

    • cibnr January 25, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      It’s a destination service that we were lucky enough to avail of when we arrived – Michael’s employer hired them to help settle us in – we had lengthy Skype conversations and emails with Jo Ann before we left Ireland, and then when we landed in Saskatoon, she collected us and spent the next few days driving us around to do all our paperwork, shopping, grocery shopping etc. It was amazing.

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