Summer time is great for meeting up with family. I have had several opportunities to see my siblings and their children over the past month. It is so much easier to visit with people when the roads are bare, the weather is warm and skies are clear. Although I enjoy winter for its scenic beauty, driving in the north from November to March is a dangerous prospect. Too many people are killed and maimed on our icy highways.
During my recent visits with family it was very satisfying to connect with everyone but it was sad in a way also because my mom and dad were not around to enjoy this time. Our father Marius Kataquapit passed on March 13, 2013 and this past month we commemorated the second anniversary of our mother Susan Kataquapit passing on July 23, 2016. It still seems strange and sad for myself and my siblings to gather without mom and dad around. I remember how much joy I took in reporting back to mom and dad about my travels, visits with friends and family and life experiences in general. Everything seems a little lacklustre since their passing. They just aren’t there for me to connect to anymore.
Native families in the north enjoy keeping in contact with family members and friends they remembered from their childhood. Summer was a time of gatherings and pow wows on the land so that we could connect with everyone.
Our parents and their generation of people were a bit different when it came to remembering family connections. They could easily make connections extending back three or four generations. Since families lived out on the land during the winter months, it was easier to trace back your small group of people to your ancestors. People spent more time on the land and it was more natural to pass on stories of great grandparents and the generations before them. I recall being astonished at how mom and dad could recall distant relatives and the lines they followed in our own home community and even into neighbouring communities in Kashechewan and Fort Albany. People had a better idea of where they came from in days gone by.
In our modern world, there seems to be more distractions to take us away from each other and our shared histories. I can track one or two generations of people from my own perspective. However, I only have some knowledge of my mom’s cousins or my fathers. It was good to be able to count on mom and dad to really understand family relations and the complex webs of second marriages, half siblings and orphaned children that made up our family trees. Decades ago our parents spent more time with family and friends on the land and they had a better and current idea of our family ties. In contrast I grew up in a time where I was ruled by school, church, work, television, computers and cell phones. I did not have the same live face to face contact with people that my parents had enjoyed.
I find myself relying on my older siblings to understand where everyone is in our family tree. In losing mom and dad I feel that my anchors have slipped away and my connection to our family history is a little more vague.
On the memorial day of my mom’s passing, it just so happened that I had an opportunity to visit with my sister Janie and her husband Brian. It was great to see them and we spent the majority of our time sharing what we knew about our family history. My older sister has now taken on the role of knowledge keeper and it felt good to be with her and remembering stories and people now long gone.
The sadness of the day in missing our parents was lifted when I had the opportunity to meet the newest member of our family who arrived earlier than expected. It made me happy to hold little Nathen Gregory Eli who was born early and arrived at five pounds and nine ounces on July17. His mother, my niece Julie Shisheesh and her partner Winston Noah were in some shock when the baby arrived with complications that required some extra care. However, they were grateful to the medical staff at the Timmins and District Hospital for all their help in bringing this baby safely into our world. Nathen will also be going home to meet his brother Weston and sister Bailey back in Attawapiskat. I give thanks to him for coming just in time to cheer us all up as the pain of losing mom and dad still lingers in our hearts.