Doris Thomas
Doris Thomas

Meet the Tribe - Doris Thomas, Senior's Head Cook

Jul 5, 2017

(Years of Service: 29 years and 1 month)

(The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is proud to highlight Doris Thomas as this month’s long-term service employee and share all the exceptional work she is doing on behalf of the Akwesasne community.)

Doris Thomas has the best job in the world and she gives plenty of reasons for you to feel the same way for her. She feels that working for the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Office for the Aging, also known as the Senior’s Center, for the past three decades has been a privilege. During that time, she has gained many wonderful memories and developed deep attachments to her work and the people she serves.

Her first position with the Senior’s Center began in 1988 with helping elders in the community’s southern portion with house cleaning and delivering meals. Having spent the majority of her young life growing up in the community’s northern portion, it took her some time to become familiar with the clients she was helping, but it was a learning experience that she wouldn’t trade for anything.

“It was hard at first, as I really didn’t know many of the elders,” Doris shared, as she reflected back at those early years. “Many of them knew my parents though and would share stories with me. They liked it when I would stop and talk with them, as they helped show me how they wanted their house cleaned. They were alone, so they appreciated the company.”

Doris made two runs each day delivering meals throughout the community with George David and Agnes Armstrong; which at that time included providing around 80 meals to the Akwesasne’s northern portion. Deliveries to the northern districts transferred to the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne in the years that followed, which provided her with an opportunity to also help in the kitchen preparing meals with Head Cook Arvella (Thomas) Cook.

It was also a time when the Senior’s Center was located in a small building next to the Tribe’s Community Building however, the facility still managed to hold special events that served over 120 elders. It required utilizing every room in the building to seat everyone, upstairs and downstairs, which made for warm conversations filled with many great moments and experiences.

Not all experiences were good however, as for Doris, “seeing elders pass was hard.” With each passing, she felt like our community was losing more than just a person, as many of them grew up with Mohawk being their first language. Having grown up without being a fluent speaker, she was able to gradually learn Mohawk through the stories elders told and the conversations that they shared with her. It made her appreciate every elder she had the privilege of spending time with at the Senior’s Center.

With Arvella retiring from the Senior’s Center, Doris was able to take on the position of Head Cook, which allowed her relationship with elders to remain strong through the preparation of lunch or a dinner. She loved the opportunity to do more for our elders and is grateful for the appreciation she received after every meal, which was used in preparing menus as they shared what they liked or did not like. One appreciation that she recalls most fondly was from a Massena elder, who continues to visit the Senior’s Center on occasion just to enjoy Doris’s spaghetti.

When Doris was asked what she thought was her most memorable moment or accomplishment during the past three decades however, she struggles to recall just one experience.

“Everything we did was an accomplishment, as there was always something new every day,” shared Doris. It’s also the enjoyment that elders get from sharing their company that, for her, “makes it hard to leave at the end of the day, so I try not to miss any work.”

On behalf of our elders, Niawen:kówa for your years of service Doris and for all the enjoyment you have brought to the Senior’s Center, through your cooking and your company.

PHOTO CAPTION: The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is proud to recognize Doris Thomas (far right), Senior’s Center Head Cook, for her three decades of work with Akwesasne elders. Seen in the accompanying picture with her co-workers (from left): Ceely King and Leona Thompson; preparing lunch for the Center’s clients.

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The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Council is the duly elected and federally recognized government of the Saint Regis Mohawk People.