A nurse popped into my office one cold winter day and asked whether I was interested about writing a story for the Nation covering the events of International Woman’s Day in Whapmagoostui. She went on to explain that the women and the social leaders of the community had a vision they wanted to present to the community, a vision so powerful that people would actually think about it for some time after.
Come Saturday morning, the cold exterior was punctuated once in a while by women in skirts, slowly winding their way up the hill to the culture camp, a place that is often used in Whapmagoostui. It’s a place that represents our past, present and future, all in a variety of buildings. It’s a reminder of the days when everyone had a role in society.
I showed up at the dedicated time to discover that the main hall was jam-packed with women of all ages eager to learn and review old things and to plan new projects. The opening ceremonies indicated that this day was not just a day to celebrate but also to work at opening minds and easing “uncomfortable” issues into the venue, into an arena of hardworking women, to be examined and discussed, until a solution comes out of this process to deal with issues that plague women today.
These issues were difficult to deal with as they included the abuse women endure, the roles of motherhood and early pregnancies, of alcohol and drug abuse, of neglect and of the changing role of women, from household labourers and caretakers to income earner and main supporter of the family and home.
Children were of upmost concern, the apparent problems and issues related to children of all ages, neglect and impoverishment, malnutrition and of course, carrying on the family traditions, whether they be good or bad. The system of caring for children doesn’t seem to work well enough to counter the effects of a poor childhood and the cycle of abuse continues, to be carried on by children into the next generations.
These powerful women have decided to do something about the past and present situations and call attention to the plight of women and children throughout the world. After the session at the camp, after the sun went down, a solemn and dedicated line of future supporters slowly winded their way back to the youth centre, about a mile away, carrying torches, glow-sticks and signs. The line of lights was impressive enough to attract many more people, 160 people were counted at the camp alone and twice as many showed up at the youth centre, where demonstrations of a new community vision appeared.
The present situation was described as normal Cree anarchy. There was a number of lines of people composed of varying degrees of authority and community stature. The leaders were up front, the teachers and nurses behind, then parents and finally the children. Everyone looked in one direction and now the children could not be seen and directed to lead a proper life. Knowing this instinctively the children traipsed around all lines of authority, completely out of control and no one could contain them long enough to guide them in the right direction.
The new vision was quickly acted out, where all the authorities and adults turned around and circled the children. The perceived authorities gathered outside circle, the family and parents in the inner circle and finally, the children contained (and under control) in the center. No matter how hard they tried, no child could break out and cause trouble or harm themselves in any way. After awhile, a child would grow into the inner circle, then eventually (if they chose and with the right direction) the outer circle, and maybe then they could get the chance to break free and become a free radical, but only after learning good values.
It seems to me that the future is beginning to look a lot brighter for many families, women and children.