The Amazing Mazie Baker

The Squamish Nation’s Warrior Elder

Kay Johnston

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.

After the war, the family return to their home on the Capilano Reserve and Mazie began working at a cannery where she packed salmon for eleven years. Mazie married Alvie Baker, and together they raised nine children, but the legacy of residential school for Mazie and her generation meant they were alienated from their culture and language. Eventually Mazie reconnected with her Squamish identity and she began 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.

“With empathy, compassion and a keen eye for the hard facts, Kay Johnston has crafted the definitive biography of Mazie Baker, a true champion for human rights who has been overlooked in the history books of Canada. This insightful narrative gives us a glimpse into the woman and the warrior who crusaded for justice and a brighter way forward for all First Nations peoples.  A book to be read and re-read.”
— Jacqueline Guest, Metis History Educator and Award-Winning Author, www.jacquelineguest.com

Kay Johnston’s portrait of Mazie Baker, a woman whose strength and sense of justice have transformed indigenous life in Canada, and the shape of the nation itself, is a proud testament to the power of listening well and letting the listening speak. Mazie’s quiet strength is perfectly captured here, in a text that quietly opens the beauty and strength of everyday life and conviction. This testament to the power of family, women and community is more than a story of resilience. This is a book about being centred and whole, and passing that on with deep respect.”
— 
Harold Rhenisch, winner of the George Ryga Prize for Social Responsibility in B.C. Literature for The Wolves at Evelyn.

“From her days as a cannery worker to her appearance before the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in 1999, while raising children, nurturing grandchildren, and providing sound counsel to many Band member, this book provides a vivid portrait of an inspiring and resilient woman, one whose voice continues to echo.”
— Theresa Kishkan, Author of Patrin and A Man in a Distant Field