When Elizabeth met Elizabeth: An Innu Elder remembers the Queen's visit to Labrador

·2 min read
Elizabeth Penashue has long been fascinated by the Royal Family, and even has a collection of books and magazines about the Queen. (Ariana Kelland/CBC - image credit)
Elizabeth Penashue has long been fascinated by the Royal Family, and even has a collection of books and magazines about the Queen. (Ariana Kelland/CBC - image credit)
Ariana Kelland/CBC
Ariana Kelland/CBC

Elizabeth Penashue, an Innu Elder and activist, says she was picking berries when Queen Elizabeth's death was announced Thursday afternoon.

"We came home, about maybe 6:00, and then I turned on my phone. And my friend, she said to me. 'Oh, Queen Elizabeth. She died. Oh my God, she died.'" Penashue said in an interview with CBC News on Friday.

"I couldn't believe it. I was very shocked when I heard that."

After 70 years on the throne, the Queen died at 96 on Thursday, and her son Charles has succeeded her as King.

Queen Elizabeth visited Newfoundland and Labrador three times, in 1959, 1978 and 1997. Her 1997 trip included stops in Sheshatshiu and North West River, where she opened the Labrador Interpretation Centre.

A visit to Sheshatshiu

Penashue still remembers the excitement of the Queen's 1997 visit.

"When people know she's gonna come to Labrador, everybody [worked]  hard, everybody [worked] together," she said.

Penashue set up a tent on the beach in Sheshatshiu, where community members of all ages would gather for the visit.

"I try to make it nice, my tent," Penashue said.

"I ask him, my son Peter, I said 'bring Queen Elizabeth inside my tent,'" she said. Penashue remembers her son was doubtful. "'Oh mom I don't think… she's gonna come inside.'"

On the day of the event, her tent was full of children and elders, in addition to the crowds of people outside.

"I stand up. I opened my tent. I was very shocked. I was very surprised."

Queen Elizabeth went inside and greeted the people gathered there, including Penashue.

"Oh My God, I was so happy," she said.

"I said, 'Oh my, I never thought I would…see you and touch your hand.'"

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Penashue said she was also happy to have the opportunity to show the Queen pieces of Innu culture, and she recounted the meeting to now-King Charles during his visit to St. John's in May.

Penashue said she's fascinated by the Royal Family, and even has a collection of books and magazines about Queen Elizabeth.

"She was a very nice, very nice woman and she's so important," Penashue said.

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