By Xavier Kataquapit
Recently I participated in a traditional moose hunt camp that was held near Matachewan First Nation, and that experience took me back to my days growing up in Attawapiskat on James Bay. I connected in a healthy way out on the land with so many kind and hospitable people.
Out here in, more or less, the non-Native world I am caught up in my work writing and that keeps me very busy, and it is much of the time a solitary life.
Also, because I am a recovering alcoholic I am always terrified of relapse, so I spend a lot of time with my work and with a few good friends who do not drink or do drugs. I don’t mind my situation as it is very rewarding to see my work in print and video and to know that I am having a positive affect on promoting our Indigenous culture and traditions.
I feel privileged to have the opportunity to write and produce videos for my work. I have so many people to thank for supporting my efforts as a writer, including First Nation organizations and their directors and staff, chiefs and councils of so many communities, print, digital and video media and my mentor and my partner Mike for having assisted me on my journey for two decades.
I rarely go to bars or events that have alcohol so I don’t socialize all that much, but my interactions with people are amazing when I cover a powwow, language gathering or something as exciting as the traditional hunt I attended recently.
When I attend these events I always feel safe because I know there will be no alcohol or drugs featured and these gatherings bring together all different ages, cultures and, most of the time, they are all about teaching and learning.
It felt so good to be sitting by fires this summer and fall and chatting with Elders like Mario and Ann Batisse, Vina Hendrix, Marie Sackaney, David Batisse, Sonny Battise, my cousin William Edwards, Deputy Grand Chief Walter Naveau of Nishnawbe-Aski Nation and his wife Cathy, Deana Naveau, Gary and Darlene Naveau, past chief and Elder Sally Susan Mathias Martel (Marcia Brown Martel), Chief Chad Boissoneau of Mattagami First Nation and Chief Jason Batisse of Matachewan First Nation just to name a few.
Of course, most of their families were there attending also, so generations enjoyed getting together to socialize and make connections. Some of these connections go back hundreds of years in families.
I can’t get to every gathering and event, but I do cover many over the year. Meeting the Elders and their extended families always makes me feel safe, accepted and respected. I learn a lot and much of it is based on a very basic traditional cultural teachings having to do with connecting to the land and to being kind with one another.
I come away exhausted from covering events but also rejuvenated and feeling like I am helping my people with my work. I don’t get a lot of recreational or socializing time but the satisfaction I find in my work dedicated to promoting my people all across Canada is so rewarding.
In times like this, when the country is wrapped up in a federal election, we are all to a degree confused, feeling manipulated and worried about who will become the power brokers and how that will affect us.
I take great comfort in knowing that the Indigenous people of Canada have a respect and awareness for Mother Nature and a kind and open view on people in general. We know what it is to live with very little and to be poor and downtrodden so we also know which government will be kind and open and have respect for Mother Earth.
That makes me feel little better about the future.