I guess it was love

Xavier use

By Xavier Kataquapit

If you pause to think about it, there are special people in our lives that we assume will always be around no matter where our life journey takes us. We take for granted that the things and people we grew up with will never change and will forever stay the same.

Sadly, I recently lost my aunt Cecelia Kataquapit, the wife to my late uncle George Kataquapit who was my dad’s older brother. Aunt Cecelia and Uncle George hold a special place in my childhood memories. Their children were a few years older than my group of cousins. We younger cousins saw them as neighbourhood heroes that we looked up to.

Our world back in Attawapiskat those days was very small. Their boys George, Mark, Ernie and Christopher were young men who were raised in a very traditional way and learned to hunt, trap and live off the land through the teachings of their father. We saw them as the next great generation of hunters and traditional people in our community.

The sisters Celine, Laurette, Lucy, Jacinthe and Florence were like older siblings to us younger ones and they were there keeping an eye on us. Uncle George and Cecelia also raised their granddaughter RoseAnne, who was my age and as children we raced up an down our street and neighbourhood with fire in our eyes and full of boundless energy.

We all lived on what was more or less known as Kataquapit street because George’s brothers Alex, Leo and Gabriel all were neighbours. They all had huge families, so we felt safe, secure and much loved in that little part of the wilderness.

Life was very simple back then. There was little to watch on TV, there was no internet in those days and not much to keep young children occupied indoors. We were always outside with the familiar faces of family, and aunt Cecelia always seemed to be like a magnet for us as her home was very central and she had such a welcoming and kind personality. We all wanted to be near her.

I realize now that as a child all we knew was the little world we called home. Later in life I understood just how difficult our lives really were back then. We were living in a very small remote community surrounded by wilderness and, more or less, cut off from the rest of the world. Anything we heard or learned about the outside world seemed like a fantasy to us and simply not real.

When I think about it now I recall that we happy fun loving children were living with very little. While those on the outside world to the south lived in comfort with good schools and hospitals, we were barely existing.

Our survival was due to our living on the land with hunting and fishing through tight-knit groups of family and friends. Where we played was an environment of dusty rough gravel roads. There were ditches filled with waste and garbage all through the community. None of us had running water at home and we had to use honey buckets and outhouses.

As kids, none of that mattered as long as we had our parents, our family and friends and, of course, kind and caring people like Aunt Cecelia.

Somehow we all managed in our little houses with 10 or more family members. That was just how life was. The fact that George and Cecelia’s house had a small dry space for us to play was special. This was an escape and an oasis for us.

Our security cameras back then were the eyes of mothers and fathers in the community and Aunt Cecelia made sure that we were safe, monitored and controlled most of the time. None of us used English and we lived with our Cree language. We counted on each other to get us all through each day.

Later on when we grew older, all of us children were introduced to live on the land and all of the traditional and cultural ways that had helped us survive over thousands of years. The last time I saw Aunt Cecelia she gave me a big kind smile and spoke wise gentle words. Her memory will always remind me of those days my world was filled with the colours of those streets, houses and some kind of magical energy that kept us all safe.

I guess that was love. Kitchi-Meegwetch Cecelia, Kee-say-kee-eh-tee-nan ... Thanks so much Cecelia, we love you.