This one is to my Cree brothers in the North…
I received a message from Angus Miles this morning, who is from Fort Severn, asking if I wanted some caribou meat, fish and Labrador tea, a diet of longer living.
Angus is a good friend whom I keep tabs on through Facebook because he posts pictures of his adventures on the wild Cree prairies, so I like to think of them, but often called the barren lands, a word that does not best describe its beauty. If you have not had the chance to visit one of these communities sitting along the northern edge of our province than you should add it to your bucket list of things to do.
It is a vast land of flat lands with caribou, moose and polar bears, just to name a few species, roaming freely giving a valuable source of nutrients to each other and the people.
The Cree people have been in the territory as long as the sun has, sometime before the trees sprouted and their Creator gave life to the rivers. They know the paths and trails through the land and rivers to which maps aren’t necessary, just their sense and experience.
Their language is a unique God-given dialect to which their stories and prayers are better understood, a soothing tone of whispers that can be heard if you are close enough. Their history is a tradition of living off and protecting the land, using the resources they were provided, thus, becoming experts and professionals in the art of hunting, fishing, trapping and guiding. I once watched an old friend, Doug Kakekaspan, who has since left this world, navigate the mighty Severn River, with the map of his memory, a stranded hunter I would have been without him.
I listened to his many stories of moose jumping over him while he did his business and watched him analyze the rocks we pulled from the rivers, this one is 500 years old and this one is 1,000 years old he said, making me laugh, a shared one I will never forget. I laid with him under the northern lights as he listened to sounds I could not hear but see in his smile at a place called Rocksand that sits on the mouth of two worlds.
He knew the land beneath us, but also understood the trees and rivers around us. A knowledge I didn’t have but vowed I would learn, an inspiration rooted in culture and revealed in prayer.
A spiritual teaching whether it was meant to be or not, a sacred relationship between the people, land and wildlife. One I never understood until we sat together and watched three bull moose swim by our camp, heads bopping in the water to a joyful rhythm of the river current. We leave those ones alone, he said. A teaching from a keeper of the land, a message understood years later.
So, tonight I will enjoy my caribou meat thanks to Angus and dream I am in Fort Severn under the northern lights, a set of them unique to that particular place in the world, bright colors in waves illuminating a clear night sky, stars in the millions and the sounds of wildlife on the distant horizon. The laughter from stories told about my good friend Doug, a man missed but remembered and honoured by the traditions carried on by his loved ones, like myself.
I will never know the land as well as he did, but love it as much? I already do.
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