A Short Photo Biography
of a Mi’kmaw Woman
Lucy Marie Celeste Charles Pinn
AKA Aunty Loo & Nana
By Travis Pinn
Hectanooga 1912. L-R: Mother Maggie Labrador, Father Joe Charles, & Gigi
Gigi, as my brothers called my Great
Grandmother Lucy, lived throughout most of
the last century.
L-R: Gigi &
She was born and raised in Hectanooga, a
small timber village in southwest Nova
Her home in Hectanooga 1920.
L-R: Cousin Louise Bartlett,
Gigi, sister Elsie,
& mother Maggie
Her parents moved from their communities
of Barrington Passage Indian Camp and
Yarmouth Reserve so her father could earn
the means at the local sawmill to build a
permanent home and eventually pay for his
two daughters’ educations.
Acadian residents; the Charles family
refused charity and shared their resources
and skills with neighbors.
they would travel
to visit our
on the Yarmouth
L-R: Mother Maggie,
Gigi, & cousin
Her Father, while living apart from other
Mi’kmaq, instilled cultural pride in his
daughters and worked with other local
Mi’kmaw guides to pass on traditional
knowledge of the land.
Digby 1921. Gigi pictured in middle with friends
Gigi attended grade school in Port Joli,
where she remembers her father hunting
seal. She spoke Mi’kmaq, English, and
Yarmouth 1919. L-R:
Gigi & sister Elsie
One day in 1920, her mother,
Maggie, and some relatives
boarded a passenger ship
bound for Boston and never
returned. While Maggie’s
connection to her husband
and kids was not completely
severed, the circumstances
around her departure remain
Boston c. 1920s.
In 1922, Gigi asked her
father if she could marry
a young man she met
near their home. Joe
asked his daughter to
rethink the idea and sent
her to Boston to see about
her mother, Maggie.
Boston Art Museum 1922. Gigi
While in Boston, her
mother had met Carl
Pinn, an Army engineer
of mixed Native
American, African, and
Boston 1920. Carl Pinn
idea of the
home in favor of
L-R: Husband Carl,
son Lionel, & Gigi
Carl’s family was from Virginia.
While mostly African and Anglo, he
also claimed Cherokee ancestry, and
was said by his nephew to be
Monacan and his son to be Osage and
Doeg. One genealogist even claimed
the Pinns were
any case, he had a
and charm that
her 17 pregnancies
with Carl, only 7 of
would live to
Gigi’s children, Boston, 1936.
Back L-R: Lionel, Joan, & Dora
Front L-R: Wally, Travis, & Little Carl
Gigi holding daughter Dora
& son Lionel
While raising her
children, she worked
shortly at a chocolate
factory and for a longer
period as a nurse aide
in Jamaica Plains,
Jamaica Plains 1938.
L-R: Gigi & sister Elsie
Her sister, Elsie, brought her family to
Boston in the 1950s. With Gigi’s help,
Elsie started up the Elderly Program of
the Boston Indian Council in Jamaica
At different times,
to her homeland.
In 1940, she
helped bury her
In 1966, Gigi and her father were published
as sources in a book for their knowledge of
Mi’kmaw history and culture.
Basketweavers Digby c. 1900.
Back L-R: Friend Will Carty, cousin Rachel Pictou,
cousin Clara Pictou, & unknown girl.
Front L-R: Mother Maggie, aunt Fannie Pictou,
grandfather John Charles, & grandfather’s 2nd wife Mahilia
Grandchildren, Jamaica Plains 1958.
L-R: Kenny, Little Lionel, Little Lucy,
Gigi, & Cheryl Ann.
Though, her life was now in Jamaica Plains
where she raised her children and soon
looked after her 21 grandchildren.
Gigi’s children in
Jamaica Plains 1958.
Back L-R: Lionel, Jimmy, & Carl.
Front L-R: Chappy, Joan,
Dora, & Wally
She owned a
three-story home and
rented the bottom floor to a close family.
Her son, Wally, occupied the top floor for
some time. She lived in the middle floor
with her other son, Carl, who took care of
her in her old age as she lost her eyesight.
Jamaica Plains 1972. L-R: Gigi & granddaughter Nancy
After many years as family matriarch and
frequent bus trips to Bingo halls in New
Hampshire, she passed away at the age of 79.
At the time of her
death, she was said
to have had only
$80 to her name,
because she always
in need, even when
she was in need
Nevada 1981. Gigi
She loved to dance and hug her children,
anchoring the home with strong
Mi’kmaw values. From on down the
generations, thank you, Gigi.
Digby 1912. L-R: Gigi & father Joe
Boston c. 1984. L-R: Granddaughter Carol Anne, Gigi, and granddaughter Robin
Gigi’s family tree
The Land Bridge Theory
As told by grandson Little Lionel
As a child I recall vividly my dear Nana, Lucy Marie
Charles, sharing stories of our Mi’kmaq heritage.
Some stories stood above others. One in particular
had to do with the origins of our Mi’kmaq people.
The creation story as Lucy shared it. It was
complicated and detailed. There was Glooscap and
Martin involved; rocks, islands, fish and little people
too. The one thing that really stuck was our physical
manifestation. I can still hear her voice moving back
and forward between her native language and
English, “We came from the earth.” As a young
impressible child that made a significant impact on
me, “from the earth”. All I could relate it to was the
dying process, we all go back to the earth but
coming from the earth was a new, if not disturbing,
concept. She recognized my hesitation and
reinforced her proclamation whenever the subject
came up, “We came from the Earth”. The earth she
referred to was Nova Scotia, Canada.
As I grew older and she felt I was ready to
learn and understand more she added that
the Mi’kmaq people actually rose up from
the earth, made up of rock, dirt and minerals
of all kinds. From that earthly mixture came
the first Mi’kmaq and one of our first gifts
from the Creator was the ability to recognize
that which created us. We were also given
the gift of intelligence and wisdom. The
previously “disturbing” concept left me
early as a teenager and into adulthood.
Coming from the Earth was and is a good
thing. It roots us to our homeland, it gives
us our identity. Nana would smile with
pride and note the, “We are still in the same
place from where we came from, the same
good earth.” She would add, “None of the
other tribes can say that. They have been
pushed up and out of their homelands but
us Mi’kmaq are still here!”
Her pride, like her blood,
soaked through me. In time
it was a comfortable and
honorable thing to know
that my roots were as deep
and as real as the soil I
walked and the rivers I
swam in. Things were just
cool as they could be, that
was until the day the
college guy came to my
Nana’s house. He was there
to interview her. I am
thinking he was an
anthropologist or an
historian. He wanted to
talk about the Mi’kmaq
histories and legends. She
obliged the young man with
all his questions. I sat, as a
protector, at the kitchen
table with them.
Art by Alan Sylioy
At one point he asks about the Mi’kmaq creation story and Nana
shared the story I had heard all my life, “We came from the Earth”.
After she had finished the young man leaned back in his chair,
shaking his head in disbelief, rolled his eyes and stated, “Mrs. Pinn
that is only a children’s story and fable of your people”. He tossed
his pencil on to his notepad and went on to testify about the true
creation story, as he understood it. The Adam and Eve concept and,
more importantly, the land bridge theory. I shuffled in my seat as I
prepared for the worst, a tea cup being slung across the kitchen, a
broom coming out of the closet or a slap up side his intellectual head.
Nana never hesitated to reinforce her unyielding belief system on
anyone. The story of “We came from the Earth” has been handed
down from generation to generation, as long as our family has been
here. I have never heard anyone, with such conviction, challenge
her. This young man unknowingly was doing just that. He went on
to explain the scientific realities of the facts. The African and Asian
connection, the extended land bridge as well as the travels and
evidence of the coming of the Mi’kmaq to this place, he called the
new world. Nana just sat there. I was stunned. Occasionally she
would smile back at the long winded young man and nod her head
in apparent understanding.
After his over extended dissertation of
the land bridge theory he came to rest
and began to gather up his materials.
He seemed a little uppity about his
stance and evidence. It bordered on
disrespect but still Nana smiled in an
almost complacent posture. He
thanked my grandmother for her time
and noted that he was glad that he
could get her “squared away” about
the creation and the origins of the
Mi’kmaq people. He said his
goodbyes and as I was escorting him
to the front door, he turned one more
time to the aged elder and ask, “Do
you understand and accept the land
bridge theory now Mrs. Pinn?” In her
special way she replied, “Yes I do
young man, it all makes since to me
now. All that evidence and proof they
found along the bridge makes it real.”
My mind was stunned; my life long belief
system was shattered. My heritage and my
culture were in question, my spirit hurt! I
reached the front door of my Nana’s house
and as I open to free my life of this man who
had brought such an unchallenged revelation
into it, I heard my dear Nana’s quite voice
once again, “Yes, I believe in the land bridge
therapy, except for one thing…” The young
man stood outside the front door and turned
to hear her “exception”. “Write this down on
your paper”. She pointed with her finger,
“There was a land bridge but, we went that
way!” I looked for a moment and then began
to smile with understanding. I then turned
toward the opened-mouth young man just
outside the door and then simply close the
door in his shocked face. When I turned
L-R: Grandson Little Lionel, sister
around my Nana was heading back toward
Elsie, & great grandson Travis
the kitchen. “That was helpful,” she noted,
“I’m glad he stopped by.” I was almost
laughing out loud. The truth be told.
Special thanks to Elsie Basque, Lionel Pinn Jr, Marty Simon,
and Erica Plourde for their pictures and input.