COMING HOME AFTER ALMOST 20 YEARS
Florence Raddi never realized she had a cousin who was a rising movie star. But last week, when she met Eric Schweig from the "Last of the Mohicans", there was no question in her mind. He was her cousin. He looks like my uncle, she said shortly after coming face to face with Schweig in the Brass Rail Lounge. Raddi was just one of several relatives who Schweig met for the first time. He left Inuvik at the age of six with his adoptive parents almost 20 years ago. Schweig was the natural son of former Inuvik and Yellowknife resident Margaret Thrasher.
The name given to him at birth was Ray Thrasher. But at 6 months, he was adopted by a German father and French mother. His father was in the Navy and they moved from Inuvik to Bermuda. Schweig said his adoptive grandmother told him who his birth mother was. Than one day in Vancouver,where he now lives, he met Willie Thrasher on the street.The two got talking and before long Schweig realized he must be related to Thrasher. He said Thrasher hooked him up with his Aunt Agnes in Williams Lake, B.C. in the hopes of finding his mother. But three days later,his birth mother died and he was too late.
Schweig said he had a strange feeling that he might never meet his mother after a dream he had when he was 18. In the dream he was walking towards a house where he could see a woman that he knew was his mother but when he was 5 feet from the open door it slammed shut. I was crying when I woke up..it was so vivid, Schweig said. He doesnt know much about his mother but he has been told of her fondness for alcohol and that she looked after the homeless people in Yellowknife. I would have liked to have met her, Schweig said. He said the stories he has heard about her havent disappointed him.
Schweig hasnt found any of his brothers or sisters yet but he thinks if he keeps telling his story one of them are sure to hear it and get in touch with him. And while he will never meet his mother, last weeks return trip to Inuvik for Peter Gzowksi's Golf Tournament gave Schweig a chance to meet relatives and re-live some memories. After almost two decades,the trip back sparked some memories for Schweig, now 25. The memories are mostly of buildings such as the Igloo Church and Large Family Hall. Its strange, its like being in a new place, said Schweig.But some things are familiar. One memory the return visit sparked was his first, and only day, at Sir Alexander Mackenzie school. I was only there about two minutes and jumped on my desk and broke it, laughed Schweig.The teacher saw it and sent me home.
Last weeks trip also roused a desire to spend time in the region meeting his relatives, learning about the Inuvialuit and spending time on the land. Schweig admitted his knowledge about the Inuvialuit is limited to what he has read in books.That is why he wants to come back soon so he can find out what I am and where I come from. Its like reading about a roller coaster, he explained. its a lot more fun to ride it (than read about it.) Schweig, an Inuvialuit beneficiary, said he is getting the information on enrolling under the claim but doesnt want any financial benefits. Hed rather that go to someone who needs it. I try to be self-sufficient.
Schweig spent much of his childhood north of Toronto.When he was 16 years old Schweig left home and headed for Toronto. That is where he got his first start as an actor. He was walking down the street and a guy told him a producer was looking for Indians to act in a low-budget film. Schweig, figuring he could act, went in and then landed the lead in the picture. After that movie he got a video tape of his best scenes, found himself an agent and eventually wound up in the Last of the Mohicans. His role as Uncas,the leads brother, in that movie was his big break.But Schweig said acting isnt his life. Im not a career-oriented person, explained Schweig. I just do it for fun like my roller-bladeing.
He was heading for Los Angeles,after spending the night in Edmonton Friday,where he was scheduled to do a voice-over for an animated feature. Schweig said he has several different options right now and expects to be busy in late spring.
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ARTICLE FROM THE INUVIK DRUM, COPYRIGHT INUVIK DRUM
(Copyright Rose 99)