Sue Carlisle is an enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. She grew up on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. She and her husband, Wes, raised their children in Montana and then immigrated to Alberta in 1989.
Sue published several articles in PAOC’s magazine, testimony, and wrote stories for the Canadian Book of Hope. She has written a column in the Indian Life Newspaper for 11 years. Indian Life also published her book, Walking with the Creator Along the Narrow Road, in 2013.
It is my honour to share my interview with Sue over the next couple of days.
Sue, we connected through our mutual friend, Dorene Meyer. Can you tell us how you got to know Dorene and how you became involved with the initiative to promote First Nations writers?
I met Dorene over the phone when she became editor of Indian Life. I had just started writing a column for them. I appreciated her interest in promoting First Nations writers along with her passion to share the gospel. I later enjoyed meeting her in person at a writers’ conference in Guelph, Ontario, about ten years ago. I haven’t had any contact with her except that I bought a couple of her books and applauded her accomplishments in writing novels that express the heart of the people.
You moved from Montana to Alberta and now live in Ontario. Can you tell us what brought you to western Canada and then on to Thunder Bay?
That is a long story! I am part Ponca, but I did not grow up near the Ponca people. I spent my early years on or near the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, which is an Arapaho and Shoshone reservation. Along with some Ponca heritage and the place I grew up, I liked First Nations people and wanted to have them in my life.
A link to the travel puzzle is that we spent nearly 20 years in Montana and belonged to a church that built a house in Lac La Biche, Alberta. That is a long story in itself. It is amazing how God can work bad situations into good ones for His purposes. We went there to housesit and ended up buying an accounting practice.
After a year, our church in Montana blew apart as difficulties began to unravel. We found ourselves in a country with no family or connections, but we felt like God wanted us to stay. Miraculously, purchasing the accounting firm is what gave us the means to stay in Canada. We began a new life, but we were very wounded and broken.
Some of this journey is continued in another question, but I asked God to take us someplace where we could get spiritual help. Within a couple months, we sold the practice, obtained new jobs, and moved to Prince Rupert, BC. We did not know anyone there, but we were in the mood for an adventure. The church we attended there was like a little hospital ship, and we healed spiritually and my husband also received a medical miracle. I thank God for Christian friends.
As soon as we got on our feet, the Lord led us to Saskatchewan. My husband wanted to get into ministry, so we went there to attend Bible College. I remember crying over Saskatoon because it was such a big city. I feared the traffic. So funny! I think the Lord prepared us for the next city, Toronto. We were there for eight years. it was a good time to settle into a healthy church where my husband became the business administrator.
A pastor from Toronto invited my husband to come and help his church. We worked at two different churches in the GTA and were there for ten years. I never got used to the traffic, but I loved getting to know many people from different nations. I wouldn’t want to have missed that great experience. We came to love multitudes of awesome people there, but our hearts still longed to be involved with First Nations people. While we lived in Mississauga, we had the opportunity to volunteer at a camp, primarily for First Nations children, located north of Thunder Bay. We went with teams for about five years and loved it.
My husband retired in 2013, so we moved here to continue helping our friends. The ministry is called NorthWind Family Ministries.
Do you get to spend much time with your eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren?
We enjoyed having our two grandsons and our daughter live with us for a few years. We had been young parents and young grandparents, so we had fun with the boys around. One is married and living in Saskatoon. The other is working in northern Alberta. Our two oldest granddaughters are married and live in Arizona. Two other granddaughters live in Kentucky, another granddaughter lives in Iowa, and our youngest granddaughter lives in Nova Scotia. I like technology. We keep in touch.
You have written magazine articles, a newspaper column, stories, and a book. Do you have a favourite project, other than your book, you would like to tell us about?
I am researching our family history and want to compile a story, including narratives from historical writings of the time. As an example, my great grandfather was in the 84th Indiana Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. I can follow the battles and know, to some extent, what he lived through. He wrote an autobiography and tells the love story of his grandparents in the 1700s. Again, I am thankful for technology.
Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to join me again tomorrow for Part 2 of my interview with Sue.