Lynne Sherry McLean is a band member of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and also has blood ties to Alderville First Nations, so the voices of both Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe are the constant melody line in all of her works. Sometimes it is the background music, sometimes it is an "in your face" traditional teaching; and then sometimes this voice is merely the whisper of the deep reverence for Mother Earth that she shares with most Indigenous peoples. Due to her vigorous participation in the growth and development of First Nations people, Lynne is considered a leader in her community. “I express and manifest my calling to preserve the healing qualities of indigenous knowledge through my art of being a writer, and through my belief in unity across the nations.” Her first novel to be published is called “Where Mary Went,” which set to be released May 31, 2010, by Theytus Books, and is available for pre order now online at Chapters.Indigo.ca.
“I did not grow up with other Indians living around us. ‘Indians, ‘ that’s what we were told we were back then.” Lynne lived with her other siblings in small town Thorold, where she remembers that they were the only visibly native family. “Four of us survived it,” she says in reference to the suicide of her brother when he was only 23. “Nowadays,” she says, “I am walking in times when it is actually “cool” to have this very same blood, but because there is still much healing needed from a wounded past, the native people of North America sometimes perpetuate that which was done to them by pushing each other away from the fire,” in reference to the government resources that are mandated by treaty rights. “I was born in 1959 and I survived with my pride and sense of self intact because I learned to sense my own path, and yes, some of that involved the ability to fight. I will not let anyone else diminish who I think I am. I believe in unity through mutual respect for each other’s belief system, the sharing of healing, and I don’t believe any of us truly gets there without the other, while I also believe in the sovereignty of each nation as they existed pre-contact. This is what I teach in all that I do.”
Lynne graduated from Niagara College with a Social Service Worker Diploma when she was 22. She was the first in her entire family history to have not only graduated from high school, but to also have achieved post secondary education. In her family, of which she is the eldest sibling, they now boast several university graduates, and now it is the norm in the youngest generation. She was 21 when she married her high school sweetheart. In 1997 she was widowed, and had to finish raising their three children, whom were seven, nine, and twelve, on her own while working full time as a Social Service Casemanager for the Government of Ontario, and now the Region of Niagara. Lynne remarried five years ago to a man with Anishinaabe ancestry and they live on the shores of Lake Erie in Ridgeway, Ontario.
Lynne expresses that she wishes more people would understand that sharing their gifts does not diminish, but rather, multiplies them. She has served two years as a a Board Member for the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre as well actively volunteers for community events. She has also served, to project completion, as a member of the Focus Group for the 29 week Domestic Violence Awareness Events Project / Kizaay Anishinaabe Niin (I Am A Kind Man) series, facilitated by the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre. Lynne has her Black Belt in Shoto Kan Karate, and I doesn’t hesitate, when asked to voluntarily share these teachings with young people seeking a path to the reward of peaceful power in the four directions of life: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. All of Lynne’s children, young adults now, are forging their own paths back to the traditional teachings My three children are all, in their own way, forging their unique paths back to the traditional teachings they hear calling in their blood, and all of them have chosen careers in the helping services. “I am proud.”
Lynne has been employed by the government as a Social Service Casemanager for over twenty years now, and she feels it is her duty to facilitate the knowledge and sensitivity of her employer and coworkers in providing good customer service to our First Nations community. She said that the Region of Niagara has been a accommodating host to her requests to provide symposiums to her work group, and resource material about local First Nations community partners. In Ontario, the Lieutenant Governor, in partnership with the Ontario Provincial Police, promotes an annual “Book Drive for Northern Aboriginal Youth.” She supports this initiative by ambitiously canvassing her contacts and community to participate and share the healing by purchasing and donating an impactful book, and she picks up books from people who cannot get their book purchases to the OPP station. Most recently she has been a party in the conception of an initiative to unify local native human services and mainstream community partners in the first annual Gathering at the Waters Pow Wow. “It was a first, and firsts are always learning adventures, but we on the committee were overjoyed that, along with most of the local native agencies, BOTH of the Niagara Boards of Education were major participants.
Lynne says that she walks the teaching that the world needs both man and woman medicine, thus the reason, that many of her activities are joint projects with her husband. “Though I have benefited from the work my non native grandmothers did to create something closer to equality in mainstream society, post-contact, my native grandmothers had already been enjoying this status. Much dysfunction in native families is a direct result of contact with a patriarchal society, and ultimately their residential school project.” Currently Lynne and Rick are studying the Ojibwe language. Much of the community service in which she participates is in partnership with her husband Rick McLean, whom incidentally is also considered a First Nations resource person with his employer, the Government of Ontario. Together they strive to stay abreast of political issues while balancing this with seeking spiritual development. Their house is a one minute walk to one of the great lakes. “I hear Lake Erie whisper and roar every day, and it is a dream of mine to see her radiant because she is respected once again. I believe this is because women are the keepers of the water.” In the summer of 2007, Lynne walked her shores with the Josephine Mandemin, Ojibwe Women Water Walkers, to do her part to raise awareness that the lakes need healing. “I believe that there are critical secrets to healing Mother Earth that the indigenous peoples of the world hold, and mainstream must pay homage to this, or all of us are at risk.”
Lynne values and respects the teachings of her Elders. They have suffered from invalidation for too many generations, and now must be approached with patience, compassion, and respect. She spent the first years of her life living with her parents in her grandparent’s house, and the following 26 sitting at the feet of her grandmother listening to her stories. She says that, here first book, “Where Mary Went…” along with her ambition and skills as a teacher and friend, are the fruit of this blessing. When she started the book in 2004, she made the choice to start working part time so that she could answer the calling to be a published author. She accomplished this in 2007 when Theytus Books offered her a contract, and then she began the two year editing process. It has been 6 years since she cut her hours to half, and she always retained the right to a full time job with the Niagara Regional government, however, she says, “Now it is too late. I have downsized in every way possible because I am still compelled to write stories. I live in a small house; I drive an old car; I create my own clothing styles; I camp up north instead of fly somewhere south for vacation; I burn wood all winter and I rarely eat out, but I am happy. Though a job with the government is security, and I do enjoy social services, my children are raised now, and in fact, if Creator has it in mind for me, I want to work full time as a writer.’
When Lynne first made the decision to share half of her full time job and pay cheque with another employee, to free up time to write her first novel, she discovered she had uncapped a fountain of creativity. Over the past six years she has created a body of works, that include drafts of two other novels, a collection of short stories, a two compilations of spoken word. “Where Mary Went,” was only the first she has queried the market for publication. Lynne is now busy researching and writing “Where Gmiwan Went…” which is the companion novel to “Where Mary Went….”
“An artist is always in a state of becoming. I have tried on different styles however it is my favourite to write about growth and development of the soul being human through the use of drama, whether that drama plays out in a book, a short story, a poem, or a song. I am here, on this walk, no different than the rest of us I suppose, to share my gifts. Personally I am compelled to do this through storytelling. I think it is in my blood.”