A Letter of Hunters

This love letter goes out to that special someone, a letter we wrote together beneath the stars and the full moon of the fall harvest, a letter of first experiences to which many more will come. It was the night of the first North wind, a night the North woke up as we sat and discussed the upcoming hunt. Our surroundings were simple and thoughtless, easy to get lost together and we did. A night that was cold as we slept together unprepared but safe in each other’s arms, protecting one another from the elements, using the warmth of our bodies when all I needed was the warmth of her heart, a love I prayed for all my life, a love that would teach me lessons about compassion, a love that would keep me grounded, a love I took for granted. 

As we woke to find the moose that was inviting us to experience the difficulties of practicing traditional sustenance I watched her get ready, eyes half open, body shivering, but excited and anxious to walk the land with her partner, a partner she also prayed for, a prayer that was answered, she was exactly where she was supposed to be. As we walked I followed her closely, making note of her tiny steps and tiny body, so little for a person with a heart so big walking amongst the giants of their land and spirits of our past, a commanding lead of natural confidence, a true bush girl with her bush man. 

The excitement on her face when the moose started talking to her brought good feelings as we both realized that we could share a life long passion of chasing those moments, seeking that high and trying to surpass them to which we will. Although the moose we hunted decided he would not provide us the many meals we wanted that day, he knowingly provided us with a bridge that would help build a relationship between two broken spirits and form a bond stronger than any other because of its origin, a relationship garnering strength from the natural wonders and powers of the land.

The letter was put away that day but to be continued and elaborated on with stories that will be told by our children, who will also be great hunters and story-tellers of the land, stories they will find in our letter. They will speak of the night their dad held their mom in his arms as they slept beneath what felt like a blanket of frost, no escape from the cold except in each other’s arms. They will say my mom loved my dad with what should have been a lot of wasted tears, but they weren’t, they were tears that my dad could not escape, tears he could feel when he looked up at the sky on those cold Autumn days. Days he would miss his partner if she was not there.

The letter is a letter of the land and to be continued for generations…

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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….

 

Gino Odjick My Hero

I read about Gino Odjick last week and his health problems, doctors say he has months to live, but that there is hope. I don’t know what Gino is going through today, I imagine he is wanting to reflect on a life lived many cannot comprehend. The stories I read were about his dealings with racism as an Indian kid growing up in a place where being Indian was frowned upon. Hockey was an outlet, an escape of some kind and I thought of this as I looked at the poster that has hung on my wall for 20 years, a poster of him in his Canucks gear, which was signed,  “To Derek, All the Best, Gino”.

If I could talk to Gino I would say that you were and still are my hero because when you were playing in the world’s best hockey league I didn’t see an enforcer, I saw an Indian with the same brown skin as me, a modern day warrior who used more than his fists to get where he had to, a warrior who fought with all it took within his body, soul and spirit to get there, the fists were a small part of something much bigger. 

I would tell you that hockey was also an outlet for me, an outlet from a haunting past I couldn’t and didn’t want to understand at the time, a past non-existent once I stepped on that ice. There was something about gliding through the cold winter air as if I had wings that freed me, wings on my feet with blades and I knew it then, that they were going to get me to where I wanted to go. Like you Gino, those wings got me far, they really did.

I understand now that hockey was not a game, it was so much more, an outlet yes, but also a passion that provided love to a kid who needed it and the rink was a place that I could feel safe and let my imagination run free. I don’t think you would have saw a bigger smile on an Indian boy, when I was winning the Stanley Cup with Wayne Gretzky every night.

As you might imagine, the hardest part  was leaving the rink to a place just a bit darker than I liked, life, where everything I couldn’t leave behind was there again, when I had to take off my wings and deal with reality, however, I didn’t have to reach for the stars when the rink was a short walk from my house, my dreams were just up the road and I lived them everyday. 

I don’t know if you have months to live, I sure hope you don’t. I just want you to know that hockey saved my life, as it did for you and I hope that one more time, hockey can save your life and I would say Miigwetch, for being an inspiration to myself and many others, but that I would like to thank hockey also, which in a way connected us, I think you might have been skating with me on those cold winter nights, I figure that love had to come from somewhere….

 

 

 

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…

First Post on where I come from (Seriously)….

Well this is my first post in this wordpress blog and I will try to keep it short and sweet which is difficult for me as I like to talk and I like to write and have a tendency to not shut up, long-winded so to speak, but a long wind of much intelligence and Indian sophistication, the kind of Indian sophistication required to make a good bannock or tell a good story, the latter is me, the former is my mom so were both Indian sophisticated. OK the long wind is starting I better get to my introduction. 

I am Derek Fox, I am Anishinaabe, I practice law, specifically Corporate Commercial, Aboriginal, Civil Litigation and Estates and Wills. I have two sons, my Anishinaabe Cubs who will morph into Kings of this Earth before I know it. I am of Cree, Ojibwe and Oji-Cree descent, I call Treaty 3 and 9 home and the way I was brought into this world was a unique one, no not what you think.

I can still remember shades of it, but I was walking through the bush somehow listening to the wind and being pushed by it at the same time. In the wind I could hear the sound of drums, they sounded like a heart beat that was similar to mine but nicer. As I followed and got closer I could see an old woman sitting beside a tent, it appeared to be made of hide or canvas, I couldn’t tell, but my attention went to the woman, she had long black hair, singing a song that was being sung to the beat of the drum. 

Then darkness and I felt trapped and scared, when the woman I saw sitting by the tent pulled me from the darkness and kissed me on the forehead. She said do you know how you got here? I said no. She said you were thrown from that tree, that tall evergreen, you were wrapped in a bundle of sweet grass and muskeg. I shall consider you my Northern gift since it is the North from which you were thrown and the muskeg, which surrounds us shall always protect you. 

So that is how the North came to be my home. Anyway, the work day at my office is coming to an end and the fact I am out of jolly ranchers tells me that I got my work done. I will have to say see you later to the group of pigeons outside my window, I swear I see them shaking their head at me sometimes. I think they disagree with my legal analysis with respect to my work, birds have been here longer than all of us, even the Anishinaabe, I think its time I ask for their legal opinion about their lands, they appear to have a lot to say. 

But. More blogs are a comin, blogs about politics, the law, hockey, the land, hunting and well lets just say everything I love and there is not a whole lot in this world I don’t love, except the LEAFS maybe, don’t get those guys or their fans, I kid I kid. But it is time that this Indian dances his way out of the office as it is TGIF. Thanks for reading if reading is what you did, if laughing is what you did, even better.  

 

PS- that is how I was brought into this world, just check my birth certificate. I think it is a piece of bark sitting somewhere near that tree I was thrown from. It was supposed to be a part of the package but fell in flight….