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…

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.

 

 

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….

 

My Mishoom, Louise Erdrich and Wolves

Before I write a quick blog I should note to you my reader or reader(s) that I am doing this without going back to proof-read or correct my grammar, so this is my disclaimer. What kind of lawyer would I be without a disclaimer and plus it is my lunch break so I only have so much time before I dive back into my mountain of files, actually it is not a mountain, it is a valley of rivers I can barely stay afloat, ahhhhh! the life and whining of a first-year Associate lawyer. 

Anyway, I have been reading the Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich who is, I must say, a beautiful writer. Her sentences flow from one to the next with a harmony and balance you can only find in nature, sitting beside a waterfall or in a meadow of falling leaves, a unique writer that captivates the heart, soul and mind with sentences and words structured to the brilliant tones of Anishinaabe values. 

A chapter in her book is dedicated to wolves which encompass the values of wolves and Anishinaabe and involves a discussion about life, questions answered from one world to the next. This caught my attention because of my connection to the wolf, a connection told to me through stories by my Mishoom. You see my Mishoom grew up with the wolves on our family trapline and they had discussions, secrets he never really shared because they were secrets only I could find the answer to, secrets only found by being on the land. 

The one that will stay with me forever is the winter they helped him. It was a winter that was so cold that the moon turned blue, he called it the season of the blue moon. The air was cold and Arctic winds had known no boundaries or borders, to which the polar bears roamed into our territory having been confused themselves. There was no separation of North and South, insanity crept up all living species but probably crept upon my Mishoom the most who continued to hunt, trap and fish but with no success.

One winter evening after a long day of hunting and growing weaker by the day he trekked home, tired, scrawny and hungry, when he heard a pack of wolves in the distance. He turned and raised his gun thinking the wolves were just as hungry as he was and might have decided to turn on him although he would not make a very satisfying meal. With his rifle aimed, locked and loaded he waited as the wolves neared the treeline when a moose ran out. My mishoom was able to eat well for months thanks to the wolf. True brothers he would call them from that day on. 

Much more to this story but that’s all I have time for today folks…