‘Rainbow Woman’ Georgie Mark inspired hope and happiness

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 13, 2017

The late Georgie Mark, of Morley, (Marazu Hmûga Wîyâ, “Rainbow Woman,” in her Stoney Nakoda language) knit me a legacy of hope and love to live up to in a sweater bearing an image of a white buffalo.
Photography by Warren Harbeck

Her name was Rainbow Woman (Marazu Hmûga Wîyâ in her Stoney Nakoda language), and like her name, Georgie Mark, of Morley, inspired hope, happiness and love among all who knew her. Georgie passed away July 5 at the age of 87.

How well I remember the first time Georgie and her husband John (d. 2010) honoured my wife and me with a visit to the 16-by-20-foot log cabin which was our first home at Morley some 50 years ago. It was evening, and we sipped tea, talked about family, and sang hymns. They loved singing hymns, and by the end of the visit they had talked Mary Anna and me into joining them in quartet and choir music at the local church.

It wasn't long before Georgie took Mary Anna under her wing, teaching her the proper stitching of well-sorted beads that characterized Georgie's celebrated craftsmanship. (She also shared with my wife a recipe for traditional bannock that I'm sure accounts for several inches of my waistline today.)

Over the years, as their children and ours grew into adults, we spent many happy picnics and graduations together. In the ’70s and ’80s when Georgie was in charge of the Stoney Handicrafts outlet along the Morley crossroad, there were many times when I'd be driving by and would pop in for “just a moment.” Then and there, in the midst of the day's work, she'd take the opportunity to mentor me in becoming a better, fuller person – a more grateful, patient, gentle and respectful human being.

Georgie exuded a sense of availability to others. Many of you may have experienced this when you stepped into her tepee at the Calgary Stampede Indian Village, where for years she endured thunder showers, cold nights, and noisy midways to extend hospitality amidst the fragrance of pine boughs and smoked hides.

Georgie became a rock of stability to the upcoming generation caught in the tug-of-war between cultures. Many young people addressed her as Înâ, “Mother.” In a day when the tyranny of the time clock tolerates no time for the listening heart, here was someone who made time.

For Mary Anna and me, and for the many who knew Georgie, she was a frame of reference within which we could better discern our own identities and gifts. She helped define secure boundaries within which we could spread our wings and add our own beauty to the greater picture of life.

Some years ago, at my wife’s suggestion, Georgie knit me a sweater bearing the image of a white buffalo – tatâga thkan in the Stoney Nakoda language. This was a name Elders had given me in the hope that I, too, would grow into a person who, like the white buffalo, would inspire hope among all I encounter.

Whenever I wear that sweater, it is a constant reminder of how Georgie lived up to her own hope-and-love-inspiring name. Îsniyes, Marazu Hmûga Wîyâ. Till we meet again … over the rainbow.


© 2017 Warren Harbeck

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