The Story of a Nisga’a Survivor
Josephine Caplin (Jo) was born into a world marred by maternal abandonment, alcoholism and traumatic epileptic seizures. In grade three, she was apprehended by child services and separated from her protective brother and her early caregivers, her father and uncle, who were kind men with drinking problems. Placed into many alienating and lonely foster homes, Jo would not see her family again until she was fourteen. Throughout her life Jo fought symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome, abuse by sadistic men and the collective horror of generations of ancestors forced into residential schools, causing many to believe Jo was destined to repeat a hopeless cycle. Yet she did not surrender to others’ despairing expectations: against all odds, Jo fought to create her own cycle full of hope and growth.
Born of a Métis-Canadian background, author Janet Romain delicately and proudly tells the story of her heroic friend and explores the tragic aftermath of Canada’s residential schools and the effects of colonization. Jo is a courageous woman who determined her own fate and reclaimed her life. Not My Fate: The Story of A Nisga’a Survivor is her struggle to move past a legacy of hardship toward a life of peace and forgiveness.
Janet was nominated for the Jeanne Clarke Local History Awards. The following is a review written by Myta Blacklaws, the Local History Committee Chair.
“Not My Fate: the Story of a Nisga’a Survivor
By Janet Romain
I am delighted to introduce “Not My Fate: The Story of a Nisga’a Survivor” written by Northern BC author Janet Romain and published in 2016.
“Not My Fate” is Janet’s telling of the courageous story of Josephine Caplin (also known as Jo) as she journeyed through life in Northern BC from Prince Rupert to Endako, Fort Nelson and places in between. Jo was born a Nisga’a citizen, yet lived off reserve throughout her life. Her story is at times uncomfortable as it explores the many traumatic experiences and barriers that she faced as she strove to determine her own fate. Yet this woman’s strength, bravery and unending resolve to not only survive but also to thrive inspire and captivate the reader as they share in her successes and triumphs.
This story is poignant and pertinent in our current societal climate of the Truth and Reconciliation process. Through Janet’s telling of Jo’s experiences important topics such as residential schools, alcoholism, child protective services, adoption, Northern BC pipelines and the Idle No More movement are broached, compelling the reader to engage not only in Jo’s personal story but also in the larger realities of these subjects. This memoir is both personal and political in its intonation and will serve as a testament to current and colonial occurrences in the years to come.
Janet’s book opens with a dedication “to all those who refuse to be defined by the hardships of life” and this is exactly what Jo’s story demonstrates.”
Photo by Kelly Bergman of Janet at the Awards Ceremony. Although she didn’t win she was honored by the nomination.