Mary Mabel Joseph was born under a tree by a lake in her father’s traditional territory. Her mother brought all her children into the world by herself. Mary Mabel’s chief name is Timberwolf and she belongs to the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Her family grew up on the land, building their own cabin and traveling by a team of horses. Timberwolf recalls as a young girl bringing her father his lunch when he would be working out in the field. It might be a mile away, but she’d walk out there and back—she was never worried or afraid of bears or other animals.
Timberwolf grew up having to be strong. Living off the land required it. The whole family worked hard for everything. Her parents taught her how to behave, how to live in a good way. They cared for her and protected her. When a priest, an Indian agent, and a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman came down the road to their farm looking for kids, her father said no. He stopped them right where they were and wouldn’t let them take her away to school. Timberwolf grew up in her family’s circle with her language. She has been sharing the language with her people for over 40 years. It is one of her great pleasures to teach the language, making moccasins, and hide tanning and other cultural knowledge.
Timberwolf is a generous woman. She credits her mother and father for her inspiration. Her mother was a great counselor and helped her raise her children traditionally. Her children listened to their grandmother and as adults today, Timberwolf says that they still follow her counsel. She wants to pass this on to young people in her community today and have them think about how they are going to live their lives and conduct themselves.
One of the traditions that Timberwolf is reviving, is supporting and strengthening her house group with the giving of names—supporting people who work hard to step into chief names.
Before she was given her name, she suffered the tragic loss of a son. Her mother saw how profound her grief was. So, she gave her daughter her name—Timberwolf, in the Feast Hall. Her mother had received that name during a time of her own grief. The name was passed on and the strength of the name holder with it.