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A fiery goodbye

Carl “Bo” Curotte was known as a fighter.

He fought for his people’s rights. He was a rebel with many causes and believed that the old ways were the right way. He was a traditionalist who spent half his life learning about who he was and what it meant to be Onkwehón:we.

“He fought for his community. And that is the thing, we weren’t raised traditional, but he taught himself all of the traditions,” said his younger sister Christine.

Curotte passed away on October 20 at the age of 68. He succumbed to cancer. He leaves behind his son Angus, his partner Mary Sky, his siblings and countless friends. His parents were Jimmy and
Mildred Curotte.

“We were a family of fighters,” said his sister. She recounted that after their father passed away, her older brother stepped up to the plate and got a job as a caddy to help provide for the family, which also included his siblings, the late Ronnie Curotte, along with Deborah-Lee, Dan and Christine.

“We had a beautiful childhood. It all came flooding back to me when I came home (to Kahnawake), and we were talking about our past,” she said.

“I followed him everywhere as a kid. He was two years older than me. Once, he went to my mother and said, ‘get her to stop following me!’” she said, laughing. “I would see him going with his skates, and I was right behind him.”

The siblings would constantly get into shenanigans, but had so much fun together. She said that in the last few months of his life, they would spend hours reminiscing.

After quitting school, Curotte decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. He fought in the Vietnam War and was away for three years. He was later honourably discharged.

He loved being a marine, and he was buried with full military honours.

In the 1980s, the veteran lived in New York City before returning home to Kahnawake.

After having his son at the age of 37, Curotte embarked on a journey of self-discovery and learned as much as he could about his culture and traditions.

“He helped everybody in this town. Everybody knew him that way. He would help people, and he would do anything he could to help people. People would call him and tell him that they were depressed or upset, and he would invite the person over to talk,” said Christine.

His partner also spoke about his generous nature and reiterated that he spent his life helping others in any way that he could.

“He was a good man. I cared a lot about him. We got along great. We were really happy. He was always joking,” said Sky.

The couple were only together for four years, but they were deeply in love.

“I miss him a lot right now. He loved people. If he could help anybody, he would. He always felt sorry.”

Sky said that on one occasion, there was a woman with three young children shopping for groceries, and when she arrived at the cash, she didn’t have enough money to pay for everything.

Curotte, who was behind her, paid for all of the groceries. “That is who he was. He helped,” said his partner.

Curotte asked his childhood friend Paul Delaronde to perform the ceremony after his passing. He said he was honoured.

“One thing I always admire about Bo was that when he put his mind to something, he went after it. He was someone who cared for his people. And he cared for other Native people,” said Delaronde.

“He was open-minded. He also thought about the non-Natives, people of all races, colours and creeds. He had so many friends. He shared so much of his experiences and the knowledge he acquired with his community.”

Trish Kirby, who works at Sunny Side Diner, said that her days always began with Curotte.

“He was a long-time customer to Sunny Side Diner. Some days he got there before I did. He always had a joke to share. Bo and Mary came to breakfast every day. And sometimes back for lunch. And they had a reserved table along with their friends,” said Kirby.

“It was an understanding to all the regulars that that was Bo’s gang’s table. Their table was always full of laughs. Mostly because of Bo’s jokes. He had a great sense of humour. He will be missed.”

Christine will be donating toys for Christmas to the Kateri Food Basket in Curotte’s name.

Additionally, she is currently planning a free dinner for elders in partnership with Sunny Side Diner in honour of Curotte, a true renegade who will be missed by his people, even the ones he liked to argue with.

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