Cynthia Munger is one of the hardest workers in the village of Fraser Lake. Her upbringing and personal conviction have helped many of the residents there and many of them are much healthier because of her work.
Despite her First Nations ancestry, when she was very young, Cynthia Munger was a pale, blonde and fair-skinned child. This led her grandmother to be afraid that one day Cythia would be taken away by social workers.
“She was always working right beside her grandmother,” said Peter Luggi, Munger’s brother. “Her grandmother was very protective.”
Her grandmother, Mary-Anne, who raised Cynthia when her parents were unable to, had seen one family in Morristown, B.C. lose their adopted non-Native child. The family had been looking after the child for over 10 years as per the request of the child’s mother. But when her biological family from the United States found out, they took the others to court and eventually took the child away from them.
“When it was all finished, they were so sad that they had to give up the child,” said Mabel Luggi, Cynthia’s sister. “We were always afraid the same thing would happen to Tiny.”
‘Tiny’ is the nickname given to Cynthia, back when she was so much smaller than all the other children.
Peter Luggi, Munger’s brother, told the Omineca Express a story of how when the social workers came to the house one time, saying that they had seen a small child there. They heard Cynthia crying in another room, so they asked about the baby but Mabel was thinking quickly and slapped the smaller brother, David, and pushed him out into the hall. So Cynthia’s grandmother just said, “It was my son crying” when really Tiny had been pushed out through the window and hidden in the bush around the house.
Peter went on to describe a childhood where every time a new car drove by the house, the kids would bolt and hide in the trails or surrounding wilderness.
“So when Cynthia came to us, every time Indian Affairs came we had to hide Tiny,” said Peter. “Every time the Ministry came we had to hide her. They knew she was living there, they kept asking questions but mom and dad just kept lying.”
Peter Luggi Senior, Cynthia’s grandfather, was involved with the ministry and so every time they came over they would have to keep quiet about Cynthia and the community members kept quiet as well.
When Mary-Anne finally told the social workers that Cynthia was living with her it was only after they had signed agreements that she would not be taken away from her family.
Peter Luggi Senior and Mary-Anne raised the children to be hard workers for their community. Each one of them is heavily involved in the Stellat’en first nations and you can see the connection between them all when they are together.
Out of a childhood of fear and repression grew a woman who spends her time growing food and teaching people how to sustain themselves. Cynthia, in her work with the community garden, takes bags of vegetables, soups, salsa, smoked and dried meats, everything that families with no means might need to take care of themselves.
Munger is in charge of organizing the garden and organizing the collection and delivery of the produce. Munger always makes sure to go around and drop off care packages to feed the elders in the community. She also makes sure that anyone with children or anybody with a physical or mental disability gets some extra food every week.
They target the elders and the families they know have children, as well as anyone on disability. This way the food goes to the people that need it most.
She is also a Carrier and Culture Teacher from Stellat’en First Nations. She is also the community health representative at the health centre as well as working to prevent diabetes in the community.
Munger has worked as a care aid, a community health rep and is dedicated to eradicating diabetes in her community. She said she gets her inspiration from her family who suffered from the disease.
“I care very much about this community,” Cynthia said. “The most important thing is teaching the next generation.
Cynthia even once taught children at Mouse Mountain elementary how to make Carrier Blankets with different symbols to represent family members.
“Out of all the girls Cynthia was the only one who took on everything,” said Peter Luggi Junior. “She took on the harvesting, the drying of the moose and fishing and drying salmon.”
“If we want fish or moose that’s who we go to,” added sister Mabel Luggi.