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Matthew McKay Sr.
“MA KA DAY Kinew”
Matthew McKay Sr. was born April 30, 1945 on the Rolling River Reserve. His parents were Wilfred and Dorothy (Amyotte) McKay. Matthew was the oldest of fourteen children.
Matthew married Lillian on December 7, 1963 and they built a home, a farm and became known for their beautiful landscaping work. Together they had four children. He was always proud of each of them and was comforted in knowing that the children grew up to be educated and secure, with all three sons attending RCMP depot and Lana attending post-secondary. He was very proud of his son-in-law and daughters-in-law and he was looking forward to his 60th wedding anniversary with Lillian this year.
He started a long life of working hard at the age of 12 with work at Neil and Hilda Davies’ farm. This led to many jobs for different area farmers in the Erickson area. Matthew believed in hard work and providing for his family and he always held a job. He was humbled by the offer from the late Rolling River Reserve Chief Lionel Shannacappo to start driving a school bus. This became his main career for Rolling River First Nation for more than 30 years. It became his tradition to make candy bags or goody bags for his school bus route children on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. On the last day of every school year, he would stop his school bus at Joe’s Barber Shop and take the children in for an ice cream treat. To this day, some of these children remember him for this act of kindness. While a bus driver, he also spoke for the other bus drivers when they needed someone to speak to leadership for them. In the year 2000 he started to have difficulty with his health and he made the decision to retire from driving the school bus.
This provided him time to begin working with Chief Dennis White Bird on the land claims for Rolling River First Nation. Chief Dennis White Bird led the Elders in Treaty Land Entitlement consultations and negotiations and Matthew participated and spoke of keeping the future of the young people in mind. He was always interested in taking part in discussions for the betterment of the community.
Matthew was often a semi driver within the Province of Manitoba all the while growing and maintaining a hobby farm. Through the years there would be upwards of 30 head of cattle at once, numerous horses, turkeys, chickens, and sometimes pheasants. He was a crop farmer as well, he seeded and harvested crops mostly for his livestock. He loved his farm, that’s how his children learned the life skills of helping. Every one of the children had a job to do to help out, and they learned to work hard which was a value Matthew held close.
It was his love of horses that he became known for, becoming a horse owner at the age 12. For the rest of his life, he kept horses as he believed in the healing power of the horse and that they helped with support in the prayers. It was clear that he had a special connection with horses and he spent hundreds of hours with them. His favorite breed was the Appaloosa because he felt they reflected the traditional paints.
Matthew was a very spiritual man; he believed in prayer. He prayed for everyone daily and he believed in being positive about our community. He was always available to offer spiritual guidance and support.
Matthew spent many hours volunteering as an esteemed and dependable Elder for Rolling River First Nation and when honorariums were received, he would save them and sponsor events including the Rolling River Traditional Powwow Jingle Dress special for over 15 years.
Matthew was invited on many occasions to do opening prayers before gatherings and meetings and blessing prayers before meals. He provided language and cultural teachings for the children including nursery school, community events and youth gatherings. He enjoyed participating in the planning for the Rolling River First Nation Traditional Powwow, offered opening prayers and participated in pipe-ceremonies numerous times.
In the 1980’s, Joe Bird, Frank Wilson, Fred Huntinghawk, Mervin Huntinghawk and Matthew started up a Sports Day Committee and the Sports Day and Fish Derby became a regular event enjoyed by community members at Eagles Lake for many years.
This led to Matthew sitting on numerous committees including the Education committee, Southquill Health Services Committee, Band Farms committee and the Coalition of First Nations with Interests in Riding Mountain National Park. He was also selected by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to sit on an advisory group; he was honored to be asked as his family was involved with policing services for decades.
He believed in health initiatives including daily walking, he got a plaque from Southquill Health Services for walking in 2008, he also started a Ride for Diabetes. He was an integral member of the Rolling River Council of Elders and he dedicated hours to the preservation of language, culture and community betterment.
He spent many days camping and hunting in the East River area, Bald Hills area and he taught his sons and son-in-law these traditional lands; he always knew the most beautiful spots to sit and share lunch. One of Matthew’s last times on the lands he treasured, he went with Vincent and other community members to harvest tipi poles. He loved hunting and he shared this lifestyle with his sons, son-in-law and grandsons. Lake Katherine was a very important area to him as well and he enjoyed participating in its maintenance.
He believed in beautification of the family yard and he became known for his gardening, planting flowers, landscaping and planting trees skills. He grew perennials and knew how to preserve and successfully grow. Everything had its purpose and place for where it was, he knew where to plant. He would bring a vase and share his lilac flowers with Lana every year. He liked to harvest medicines including sweetgrass and sage and he believed the plants helped with our health. He taught his children and grandchildren how to preserve it, taking the time to explain the purpose.
Matthew was very proud of each of his grandchildren going further with their education as well and felt blessed and thankful to see the birth of his great grandchildren. Today his grandchildren are taking part in the traditional ways of life and language preservation that he tried his best to continue to teach them. Matthew enjoyed supporting the continuation of the languages, traditional teachings and traditional gatherings. He spoke Michif and Anishinabemowin fluently, he was a man who spent daily time in nature and was a pipe carrier. He took requests seriously, each time he was asked for support he would prepare; because he cared. He enjoyed traditional drum songs and was very proud of his family for learning songs and how to drum. He had a great love for all of his family and his nieces and nephews, he took pride in their accomplishments in their education and careers as well.
He was a teacher of respect. He took the last few times he was asked to public speak and do opening prayers as a chance to speak of the importance of diabetes prevention. One of his last wishes for the First Nation was a personal care home for the Elders so that they do not have to go live off the community.
Matthew was a humble man who loved his family, he always enjoyed family get togethers and holiday meals. He would prepare goodies and look forward to seeing his grown children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He had a great sense of humor and always had a sharp comeback. He had a certain look when he would joke around with people and he enjoyed making the grandchildren laugh. He also enjoyed trips to the Sand Hills casino and Southquill Gaming Centre and he was a loyal Lotto 6-49 and Lotto Max player. He was an avid Jets fan, enjoyed the Young and the Restless, watching the news and wrestling, and was the biggest John Wayne fan ever. At the end of every summer, he enjoyed traveling to Fort Qu’Appelle where he would gather dozens of sweetgrass for gifting the Rolling River community graduates each spring. He spent many hours traveling the highways with Lillian enjoying their evening visits together. Oftentimes they only had to say one word and they knew exactly what each other was going to say.
Matthew was predeceased by his mother Dorothy, father Wilfred Sr., brothers Frederick, Clarence, Louis, and sister Dorothy Rosella.
Matthew leaves behind to mourn his loving wife Lillian, sons Matthew Jr.( Joanne), Murray (Kim), Michael (Bonnie) and daughter Lana (Vincent).
Grandchildren Cody Matthew and Lianna. Brendan and Darnell. Aaron, Lance, Mary, Katherine and Amanda. Drayden and twins Devyn and Dylan.
Great-grandchildren June, Lianna, Cole, David and Chloe. Jack and Elizabeth. Mathias. Ziigwan.
Siblings Cecilia, Linda, Madeline, Hilda (Arnold), Theresa, Roderick (Bonnie), Evangeline, Wilfred (Linda), Marcel (Maryanne) and special niece Clarice (Brent).
Pall bearers are Lance McKay, Brendan McKay, Darnell McKay, Drayden McKay, Dylan McKay and Lloyd McKay. Honorary pall bearers are Dennis White Bird, Norman Peters, James Cote, Lambert Cote, Gordon Shorting, Brent Jacobson, Wally Kowalick and the Rolling River First Nation Council of Elders.
Special thank you to Southquill Health Services Medical Transportation driver Denis Roulette, Gordon Shorting and Barbara Levasseur. A huge thank you to family and friends for the love and support through this difficult time.
Matthew carried this on a card in his wallet:
“Lord, I have too much to do, but it’s all important.
Help me to set priorities so that I don’t feel lost in the pace and the pressure.
Give me the wisdom and energy to accomplish what’s necessary without wasting time or effort.
And help me make the best use of my day, remembering that time is a precious gift from You.”