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O’Kute, Devida Rosanna (Rose Pickens)

rose pickens

April 29, 1930 — July 21, 2020

It is with sadness that we announce the sudden but not unexpected, peaceful passing of Rose on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, our loving mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister and aunt, at Willow Creek Continuing Care Centre, surrounded by loving staff.

Rose was born at Wood Mountain Lakota Sioux First Nation, Sask. on April 29, 1930 to Caroline and Walter LeCaine who was believed to be a descendant of Sitting Bull. Rose was the fifth of 10 children and had many fond memories of her early childhood on the reserve. Her parents worked hard on the farm as well as growing a large garden and raising a large family. They all helped out on the farm; Rose did chores and learned to cook, clean and sew at an early age.

Her father, Walter, was respected for his traditional knowledge of the Sioux culture and spoke Lakota fluently. He was the Keeper of the Sacred Medicine Bundle, “Medicine Man,” on his First Nation. It was important to him to share the knowledge of this language and songs which he sang with his drum at home and at the Sundance ceremonies in Saskatchewan and Montana. These customs were discouraged by the Indian agent at the time. Speaking his language and practicing the sacred ceremonies were not allowed. He would take the family to Poplar, Montana where there were hundreds of First Nations from other tribes gathered for Sundance sacred ceremonies, prayer and fellowship with extended family and friends. The Lakota and other First Nations passed on their knowledge and history orally for generations.

Walter was a great storyteller as well. His surname was LeCaine which was apparently given to him by a North West Mounted Police officer and around the same time, when he began hauling fence posts by horse and wagon to southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, the name O’Kute was given to him by the trader. This practice was done because white men could not pronounce the Lakota language or translate to English. As often happened, the names of First Nations people whose names were translated to English were not accurate or respectful in many cases. For whatever reason, Rose’s last name was O’Kute and the rest of her siblings were either O’Kute or LeCaine even though they all had the same parents.

It was when Walter was hauling fence posts to southern Alberta that he met Rufus Goodstriker from the Kainai First Nation and they became friends and eventually blood brothers. They were both healers, “Medicine Men,” and shared their knowledge of traditional healing with herbs, healing rituals and prayer.

Her mother Caroline was a beautiful seamstress and also made hundreds of beaded necklaces and moccasins over the years which were highly valued. She was a beautiful, strong, French-speaking Metis woman. Rose loved her parents and grieved their loss as long as she lived.

Rose was always hard-working, a trait she inherited from her parents. When she was nine years old, she was taken away to the Catholic residential school at Lebret, Sask. When she arrived, she spoke French and Sioux, but speaking those languages was not allowed and by the time she left the residential school, she only spoke English. With the loss of language, the culture was also lost. Because she had learned to cook, clean and sew, Rose said she was used as child labour, working in the kitchen and mending clothes as she was not provided the opportunity to learn to read or write.

When Rose was 14, in 1944, her father arrived to take her home “to help on the farm” but it was most likely due to the war as the school was struggling to feed so many children. In 1949, Rose got a job at a Chinese restaurant in Assiniboia as a waitress where the owner taught her math by learning how to count beads. She was rooming with an aunt in town who taught her how to read and write. She was very good at her job, and because of her love of people and outgoing personality, she could talk to anyone. 

On May 14, 1953, Rose married Ernie Pickens in Assiniboia. Rose loved music, especially old country music, Wilf Carter, Johnny Cash and The Carter Family. She loved singing with her sister Lee and there was always singing at house parties they went to! Someone recorded some of the singing on an old cassette recorder as well as some recordings of her father Walter’s Lakota songs and drumming. Rose and Ernie had four children in Assiniboia and in the late 1960s they moved to Moose Jaw. Ernie went to school to upgrade and found work. Rose worked at St. Anthony’s Nursing Home in the dietary department. 

In 1972, they made the decision to move to Fort Macleod where Rose’s sister Margaret lived. Her parents decided to leave Wood Mountain because of turmoil on the reserve. Walter had the support of his good friend Rufus who lived south of Fort Macleod. Rose’s sister Pauline and her husband Cecil (Ernie’s brother) and their five children also moved to Fort Macleod. Once settled, Rose started working as a custodian at G.R, Davis school. She also cleaned houses for several families and was also widely known for her expertise as a seamstress. She made countless alterations, clothes, quilts. Her sewing machine was going from the time she got home often until midnight. She was best known for her Star quilts having made many of them over the years, derived from the traditional Star quilt used by medicine people of various tribes of North America. Believed to have originated from an Ojibwa tribe medicine man, the Star quilt was first widely used by the Sioux and eventually by other tribes throughout North America. It is said that the medicine man used powers of the stars during healing ceremonies. Painstakingly made from trade cloth, a prayer was said for each stitch sewn. Word spread quickly and Rose had many clients from the Kainai First Nation for her Star quilts and ribbon shirts. If she didn’t have a pattern, she’d make one herself. Rose’s favourite saying was. “There’s no such a thing as can’t.” 

Rose did have one activity she enjoyed more than anything: going to bingo with her sisters Margaret and Dorothy Goodstriker. Dorothy would drive them to every game in Fort Macleod and many in Lethbridge. Rose’s nickname was “Lucky” because she won a lot of jackpots and made a lot of money.

In 1981, Rose and Ernie separated, an amicable split, and she and her youngest daughter Teresa moved to Brooks where Rose’s brothers Joe and Clifford lived with their families. She worked as a custodian at the high school until she retired. She had many friends in Brooks. It was while living there that Rose ran for and was elected as a councillor for the Wood Mountain First Nations along with her sister-in-law Janice. This was probably one of the happiest times of her life. She and Janice travelled all over Saskatchewan and the U.S. attending conferences and workshops, having many adventures and laughs along the way. Rose always enjoyed meeting people, and this was an opportunity for healing from the past. She received guidance and healing from many elders and reconnected to her culture which had been interrupted while in residential school. Rose attended several workshops at the conferences and received certificates for “Reclaiming Our Community Spirit Training” in Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask., “Community Based Justice — Health and Social Development Workshop” in Regina, “Wellness and Women” conference at the University of Oklahoma, and “Applied Suicide Assessment Skills Training” in Saskatoon. Rose never spoke of these accomplishments in keeping with her humble nature. Rose enjoyed several retreats at Mount St. Francis at Cochrane with Janice.

Although she was denied compensation for her experience at residential school during the truth and reconciliation process, she recently received a land claims settlement for land stolen on the Wood Mountain First Nation which was long overdue. After Ernie passed away in 1995, she returned to Fort Macleod to be close to her daughter Carol and grandson Leon.

Rose was an experienced mover. She quickly became reacquainted with old friends and wherever she went she had many friends. Her friendly personality and positive, happy disposition were some of her greatest assets. She had a gift for making anyone feel better by being around her. She was tenacious when she set her mind on something, there was no stopping her. She was passionate about sewing and anyone lucky enough to receive a Star quilt can testify they were truly magnificent works of art.

Rose’s determination served her well as she became older and suffered her first stroke in 2002. Luckily, her doctor was standing beside her when it happened and called for an ambulance right away. She went to the hospital in Lethbridge where she received a clot buster within two hours and recovered well. In 2006 she had a hip replacement; all that walking had taken a toll on her body as Rose had never learned to drive. In 2009 she needed a pacemaker for a low heart rate and in 2015 she had her second stroke and never fully recovered. However, after spending four months in the rehab unit at the hospital in Lethbridge, she moved back to her apartment in Fort Macleod.

After a short period of time it became difficult for Rose to manage on her own, so she came to live with Ed and Deb in Claresholm for two months until she got a bed at The Willow on March 24, 2016. Those two months were difficult for Rose. The stroke had affected her word finding ability which she found frustrating when she’d speak the word she intended to say, but it was replaced by one that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. She became depressed but with encouragement, she regained some of her word recall but when she used the wrong word, her sense of humor, which had been a saving grace for her through adversity in her life, returned. Although moving to The Willow was difficult for her, true to form she made the best of it. Her complaints were valid, however, she was always grateful to “the girls” and “the men” as she called the staff. She was a favourite among them, winning them over with her personality and giving spirit. Her confidence returned and she made a few good lady friends with some of the residents. Rose was able to remember most things which was a blessing and always remembered her family’s birthdays when they came along. She loved her family more than anything else in this world. 

Rose is survived by her children Bill (Sandy) Pickens of Sherwood Park, Ed (Debbie) Pickens and Carol Pickens of Claresholm, and Teresa (Ron) Heath of Sylvan Lake; grandchildren Leon, Rebecca, Alexa, Gabriel, Avery, Aaron and Mariah; 12 great grandchildren; sisters, Irene (George) Poitras of Lebret, Sask., Pauline Pickens of Fort Macleod, Lee (Barry) Sproule of Exshaw; brother Clifford (Margaret) LeCaine of Brooks; several in-laws from the Pickens side of the family and numerous nieces and nephews. 

Rose was predeceased by her parents Caroline and Walter LeCaine; sister Margaret Baird; brother Joe (Janice) LeCaine; sisters Valerie, Mary and Doris; brother Willard; grandson Cory Pickens; brother-in-law Cecil Pickens; as well as numerous relatives on the Pickens and LeCaine sides of the family.  

Knowing Rose has gone on to her next journey in the circle of life to be with her ancestors and Wakan Tanka (Sioux Creator), is of great comfort to her family and those she left behind who will meet again as the circle of life continues. 

Rose’s family wishes to thank the staff at Willow Creek Continuing Care Centre for their care and for loving Rose for us these past four months of COVID-19 when we could not be there. We know she was a favourite of many of you and had the best of care. Even though it was heartbreaking not being able to be there with her, we appreciate the hard work, dedication and diligence of the staff for keeping the facility free of COVID-19. 

There will be no funeral at Rose’s request. If you are able and so choose, donations to Willow Creek Continuing Care Centre, CARES Animal Shelter in Claresholm, Fort Macleod Handibus, the food bank in your community or the charity of your choice would be appreciated.

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