June Friday-MacInnis Biography

By NLL Elder Dave “Buckeye” Garberson from interviews with June Friday-MacInnis
Additional by NLL Elder Greg “Gray Horse” Measor

We would like to introduce you to another very important person in the legacy of Native Sons & Daughters Programs. She is June Friday-MacInnis. June is the oldest living niece of the great Joe Friday, Ojibway Indian whose inspiration gave the program a Native American theme about 90 years ago. Joe Friday was her uncle as her father Willie, was one of Joes brothers.

Family Photo of June Friday-MacInnis
        Family Photo
June was born at Fridays Point on Bear Island on June 11, 1931. Bear Island is the Ojibway Indian tribal land preserve on Lake Temagami, Temagami, Ontario, which for reference is about 5 hours north of Toronto, Ontario Canada. She weighed only 3lb.,8 oz. and needed special care by the tribal birth women (called midwives today) as the doctor thought she would not survive. She and her mother got special treatments at home till September when they both started to get along better and (as they say) the rest is history.

Her Ojibway name is Abamageis, which means Strawberry Month which the month of June is considered. She is a part of the White Bear Clan recalling the old story of Chief White Bear taking into his family those women and children when their father died. White Bear did this many times for other families over the years as do the Ojibway traditionally even now.

Her education until age 9 came from her family, primarily her brothers and sisters who would read to her. Her ability to read was important when she finally started school in the Christian grade school then completing high school.

She married in 1947 after her then to be husband got back from WWII. June has 3 boys and a daughter (who died 9 years ago). She has 6 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.

Photo of June Friday-MacInnis receiving the Joe Friday Award
        Receiving the Joe Friday Award
For many years she has taught the Ojibway language, traditions and history to interested children and young people as those ways and words have gone to pass with younger generations. She has lived in North Bay (an hour below Temagami) for a number of years at a senior center where she had been very active. She has struggled for the past year or so as she fought lung cancer and this has kept her in a wheel chair and walking with walker mostly. Her lung is scared but she is doing well now. Currently, she does a lot of reading and knitting, knitting all kinds of clothes and things that she mostly gives away for gifts to community centers and friends.

As a result of her health, June has not been to Temagami and Bear Island for last two years. Says she might go in mid-summer this year (2014) but right now (late April 2014) it is still winter up there with 40 inches of ice on the lake so travel to the island by boat is impossible until the ice melts.
June has written a series of stories about her family and history. She has a friend looking for a publisher and may get something done about that by her birthday. She was joyful and proud that we would remember her and keep in contact with her. I told her we would all pray for her health and finding a publisher.

Photo of Uncle Joe Friday
Uncle Joe Friday
Additional: In July 2006, several National Longhouse elders and some of their children journeyed to (and lodged on) Bear Island on Lake Temagami and visited the North Bay home of June Friday-MacInnis for several days. We were told that we had been the first people to visit the island from the program since Joe Friday was laid to rest in the spring of 1956. June and her family are extremely proud and honored that National Longhouse would want to carry on the legacy of what Joe Friday had inspired and helped to create so many years earlier. They opened their doors to us as if we were family. During that trip, National Longhouse presented June Friday-MacInnis with the Joe Friday Award, in honor of her and her family’s contributions to the legacy of NSD Programs.