Day 1 of my Family Re-union Trip. A Tiring Success…

This is a quick blog which means I will not have time to proof read, yes, another disclaimer. We left Thunder Bay yesterday, just my sons, Aunt and I. It was a nice drive and one that looked hot, the kind of heat, to which you can see its hazy mist floating in the air, the kind of heat that the moose hide from. That is what I was thinking anyway as I passed my hunting area, wondering where those guys were hiding or how they looked rolling around in the swamps, away from the bugs and heat.

In our travels we made a pit stop in Shoal Lake, pigged out on some powwow food and visited with many old friends I hadn’t saw in years. I also visited with my in-laws and reminisced about the days of fishing and hunting on the open waters behind them. We listened to the drum and watched the young ones dance around the Arbor, youthful legs and hearts optimistic about the world in front of them found in the circle around them. We didn’t want to leave as the feeling of family was found within the circle as if we were all holding hands sharing stories and laughs.

So we woke up today on the border of Ontario and Manitoba in a hidden corner of nowhere watching the sun rise outside our window. My baby is still asleep, a sign that our drive last night was a tiring one, but a nice one in which he got to visit with his baby brother and sister and friends. So I guess it is time to wake him up, eat some grub and hit the road to meet up with generations of Fox family, who are just as excited as we are to get there.

I like that we are all descendants of a generation that struggled for us, one that could foresee that we would be the positive change to their people at a time in their lives that optimism was difficult to imagine, almost impossible to see. It will be nice to see traces of our Ancestor’s humour, smiles and story telling as we all gather for a short time, but one important in that it will provide me an essential guide to carry on answering many questions I had about yesterday. Day 2 of my Journey continues…

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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 1000 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 3 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 honored 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.

 

 

Penasi Golf Tournament for my Brother Darryl…

Today we celebrate the life of Darryl Fox. It has been 11 years since he left us and I can still see his gentle smile and hear his quiet demeanor. He walked a path that was content with giving help to others through lending hands, an unconditional love natural to him, that most work a lifetime to attain, a compassion usually learned and developed over time. An avid hunter, fisher, golfer and lover of animals. He carried with him many stories of the land told through humor, memories revealed through practice of the traditions he left with us to carry on.

A brother gone whose spirit remains, existent in little ones like my son Kairn who cares for animals the same way he did and my other son Darryl Jr., who creates smiles through his witty sense of humor. Much like our trap line in the North they miss, but haven’t been to, but feel they have, they miss their uncle who hasn’t physically cared for them, but both feel he has. An amazing concept of our Ancestors dancing as spirits from generation to generation, a connection and relationship to which they will live with throughout their life bringing meaning to honoring their Ancestors.

As the pain matures and tears turn to smiles and loss turns to celebration, we accept that cancer and disease is a part of life existent for reasons we don’t understand, but lessons are taught that life is a gift to be opened each day, something our loved ones gone physically but here spiritually, would want us to do. A gift and life lesson to appreciate that the world wakes up every day with a different plan, but the same optimism as we should.

In saying that, the sun is up and I will honor my brother’s memory by not just playing golf, but sharing a day with family and friends while envisioning him hunting, trapping and fishing on the muddy banks and shores of our heavens with an endless playlist of Coldplay and Goo Goo Dolls, his all-time favorite tunes. Our loved ones are never gone or forgotten but always remembered and honored and I see him in my sons every day, their growth is from the push of his spirit, a love found within them that will express itself over time.

A Requested Blog About my Son. One read by him Years from Now…

My 10-year old son saw my article on CBC and read it. He asked if I would write about him. So this is to you my boy. You were born during my first year of University, technically my 2nd, but the year prior I had just lost your uncle, my brother, a good man; and I would be content to say the year was a waste. The loss of a loved one is never easy because the human condition is structured in such a way we attach to others, spiritually. You will find this with the love you have for your mother, brothers, sisters, the woman you one day marry, your children and of course your old man, but remember those who find that love for their people make great leaders.

The loss of that attachment is a painful one, an empty space attempts to fill the void of the loved one whom once stood before you and made you smile, laugh and helped you dance around your greatest fears, a dancing partner gone, existent somewhere between a memory and prayer, teasing you in your dreams. An unfortunate but necessary part of life, a reason to appreciate today and those in it because life has a funny way of making you think that once you have a grip on it, you actually don’t.

This was the way my life was when I lost my brother and I wandered aimlessly, attempting to avoid the obstacles rather than defeat them, then your mother informed me you were on your way. I was told that Anishinaabe children choose their parents and that I should feel blessed and I did. I pictured you a youthful, playful and somewhat rambunctious spirit anxiously waiting to meet his father, confident he made the right choice.

You were due on a cold Winnipeg night, the roads I travelled to get to you were slick with ice and the Arctic winds from Churchill made their way through the prairies bouncing off the homes like waves hitting rocks. If you ever watch waves collide against rocks or a drift of wind so cold in its power, you will see the power of Mother Nature, sometimes mean, taking lives when she wants, many lives lost in those winds appearing deceitfully graceful.

At that moment I would pray to her and ask her to get you here safely and I made a life long promise to her that I would protect you. A promise I have kept so far, one that did not come for free as she wanted something in return. You see my boy, my relationship with her is now a rocky one at best, a past we share in which I went against her wishes of returning me home.

A time you may remember when I was caught between two worlds, fighting to remain and walk this world with you, at least until you didn’t need my guidance anymore. This story I will share with you another time, a time when you can understand the concept of life and death, both of which I have experienced and the latter experience carrying with it a reason I have yet to discover, one that will reveal itself in time, we call those teachings.

When you arrived in our world you were tiny, with a full head of thick black hair, a beautiful trait making you unique to me and dark brown skin that would determine where you came from, a land of beautiful songs, a drum beat heard in the womb, one needed to feed the air into your lungs. Your dimples were the first I saw, which helped turn a nice smile into a beautiful one, dimples that your wife will love and admire because her children will carry the same.

The giggles and cries were one of the same, a language you spoke we didn’t understand, only understood in the world to which you came from, the learning of our language would take you years. Our first summer was spent together and I stayed home with you, much like a mother would I fed you and rocked you to sleep while singing to you. I sung you little lullaby’s and held you, just a little bundle in my arms and the reason for everything amounted to those moments, the reason for my hurt and loss was for the right to be your father.

At the age of 10 you and I have endured more than most fathers and sons have because much like I, you almost had to experience the loss of someone you were attached to, you would have been left with a lifelong void, something you didn’t deserve. So I am grateful we are here together as we embark on this journey, one that includes my career and your upbringing in a generation that is changing the social fabric of our Nation, one to which you will be a fundamental building block, one to which you will succeed and the reason for your success will be the love from those who love you most.

You and I were united when you granted me the honor of being your father and our only duty is to make this work, give each other guidance, love, companionship which in turn will lead to an abundance of treasures on a journey in which we search for truth and try to understand principles that can right the wrongs or correct infractions against a Nation to which we were born.

Thus, our strongest bond is part of a larger brotherhood, in which a tradition of teachings guide Anishinaabe values that will help us stand proud and one day when we float toward the sunset on the Sachigo River, our traditional land; we will discuss the accomplishments and obstacles conquered and we will do it as father and son, an attachment of spirits never broken, continued in all worlds, not just this one.

 

North American Indigenous Games and the Power of Sport…

I left home at a young age, home being Bearskin Lake, Ontario. A playground for God’s children, a piece of land wedged between snake shaped rivers, deep lakes with mystery wandering its bottoms and a wildlife content with providing our stories. A place for the retiring mind where our dreams can rest, where a life will reach its end, a place I will return. It is the peak of my mountain in life, a mountain I will conquer having looked down on all my successes as I watch my final sunset and wish the best of luck to those beginning to ascend, those about to see what I saw but in a different light, a better one.

Like a child taken from his family, a part of me lost something when I was taken from my land, a way of life I will need to re-learn, however, I had gained a knowledge in sports that can be taught no other way except to play. I was given a chance to play a game I grew to love, a game that found a heartbeat within me, revitalizing a spirit of broken generations, a breath of fresh air found in the cold air and rinks I was immersed in.

Hockey was a resurrection, it was a teaching that taught me the feeling of pain, hurt, love, insecurity, confidence, adversity, teamwork, knowledge, toughness, discipline, dedication and hard work. Essentially, life lessons, valuable principles that built a foundation of success, no matter what I chose to do with it. It also allowed me to form friendships and bonds I would not have found elsewhere. It was a bridge between my world and that of others, a brotherhood needed to succeed as a team, family values needed to win.

I once played with a guy from Miramichi, New Brunswick who admitted that before he met me he didn’t like Indians and that I was the first one he met, his father was a lobster fisherman in the Burnt Church dispute. We became best friends and golfed almost everyday, but backed each other up on the ice more than once, I don’t know who was tougher between us, but I know we grew to love and respect each other, which in turn changed his outlook on my people, we still talk to this day.

I played with a guy from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, a red headed quiet fellow, who took me for dinner one night and admitted to me he was half native. I had no idea and he showed me his mom’s status card, a beautiful Plains Cree woman, smiling at me a painful smile, telling me stories through her son, a son who loved and missed her. Her status card he carried in his wallet all his life, looking at it daily, reminded of who he was, praying for strength to be proud, a prayer often unanswered, one he needed my help with. He is one of many I remember and always will from my journey.

The power of sport is like the power of prayer, it is like the power of the land, it is a seed planted in the heart and soul of those who engage, growing and expressing itself through the spirit of our children and our youth who will become leaders not just of tomorrow, but now. Sports, whether it be hockey, golf, baseball, basketball or swimming, is a lesson in growth, teamwork and overcoming adversity with hard-work, it is a necessary instrument in the development of a Nation, much like Education, it needs to be harnessed, encouraged and supported by all people of all ages, Native and Non-Native, those who believe in a better society and better country, one to be proud of.

So as I sit and listen to the many little warriors fighting for gold in Regina, Saskatchewan at the North American Indigenous Games, I sit with pride, knowing some Bearskin Lakers, Shoal Lakers, Treaty 9’ers and Treaty 3’ers compete, but most of all, proud because the fact that an entire generation of leaders are developing principles so valuable they cannot be explained, we can only wait to see the outcome. A generation that does not climb a mountain of life like I did, but builds it, that is called innovation. Our only duty as their guardians is to promote and encourage, then watch them flourish, a revolution of leaders developed from the power of sport.

Keewatin- Tsilhqot’in- My Kokum and Her Land….

As a Lawyer I am often asked to provide legal analysis or opinions on the law, setting it out and providing my razor sharp in-depth view of what the law is and how it applies to the issue, the issue being the question that needs answering for my client. OK Razor sharp in-depth view, that is not humble at all, actually humble lawyer is what you call an oxymoron, I am kidding, humble is my foundation, well my Kokum’s foundation, I like to think she lives within me.

Recent Supreme Court decisions regarding the land have brought attention to the Anishinaabe landscape and in that respect, I would like to tell you without any legal jargon, which is how I like to try and keep my blogs, what the land means to me, an Anishinaabe lawyer from the North, a great hunter/fishermen amongst his people, a great navigator and traveller, whose stories will be told and bannock making contests will be named after. (Just Kidding about great hunter).

As you may have noticed the land is an obsession to me, an obsession not developed over time as I aged, but something within me, a passion and desire to need or want, a dream dreamt day and night, a thought that rises and sets with the sun. The land I believe is an extension of all of us, a place of being to which we came, soon to be ashes spread and once fires burning, but always a part, in our past, present and future.

Recently, I have discovered that I have always missed the land, since I was a child I dreamt of the fire, I could smell and taste the campfire bannock, see the charred kettles over boiling with tea, prepared geese on sticks rolling just above the flame and my kokum slicing meat like with the swift movements of an Artist painting, a butcher never looked so gentle.

Nighttime was my favourite, when the calm spirits entered the land, sung us lullaby’s and told us stories of the North, Kokum would sing with them and her voice echoed throughout the land, loons and wolves would join often and in that moment was magic, a connection between this world and that one, doors opened just for a moment, a frightening event, when the shadows started tip-toeing along the tree-line, gentle spirits are the dancing ones my kokum said, holding me in her arms.

So what is the land to me as an Anishinaabe, a Northern one? the land is my Kokum. Gentle, kind, caring, loving, but awesome in her power, a united front of grand-mothers who never left us but fulfilled their duties in this world by providing us with their teachings to protect a home they can be found, a home we can learn life’s greatest lessons. Land, Home, Kokum, no difference, but that is what my land means to me…

Shoal Lake My Home

I saw some pictures of the Shoal Lake event yesterday and read the articles and like a boy missing my father as a kid, I missed my home. Although my mom originates from the territory, it was not until I met the mother of my children that I got to re-build my relationship with the land. I would spend years fishing the lake for walleye, watching Eagles drop squirrels and snakes into the water, managing to break free from the grip of their claws, if that was not a will to live than I don’t know what was.

I used to see wolves dance along the treeline when I did my ice fishing hoping and praying I would leave some fish for them and I drove by bears on islands relaxing beneath Shoal Lake’s rainbows, basking in the sun and their imagination. I have broken down in my boat and drifted to islands where I got to listen to the teachings of my grandmother, teachings I wasn’t ready to understand, but visits I enjoyed.

I spent winter nights snowmobiling with my younger son who wasn’t even 5 yet, an age in which he was still connected to the world he came, a world just behind our trees. We would drive for hours in the dark having never thought of the fact we might break down and we would find a spot surrounded by trees, turn off the machine and sit back and look up at the stars feeling a blanket of warmth amongst the comforting shadows. The boy had no fear as he smiled up at the moon, laying back in his daddy’s arms, knowing only the words “I Love You Dad.”

Our favorite season was the fall season when we would hunt partridge, deer and fish a lake of changing seasons, surrounded by an awesome array of colors while we all prepared for the winter season. Wood cutting with my in-laws became my favourite past time because we would bring lunch and make it an outing, where laughs were shared and memories were made, memories that inspire me to write today. Shoal Lake is a place that is beautiful in all its seasons, a place that is beautiful on and off the water, an Anishinaabe piece of land full of Anishinaabe people with Anishinaabe values.

Shoal Lake my home. I miss you, from a Proud Shoal Laker. Ohhhhh shtaaaaa hey yaaaaa Neeeeee….