There is a saying I’ve read somewhere: “A person feels at home only if he can leave the land.”
A lot of our ways and customs are viewed as strange, odd or unknown. For instance, some of our hunting practices. In particular, leaving hunting gear behind at the camp when someone goes back to town or to another area of his hunting territory.
This one came out of necessity. There is only so much room in a canoe or toboggan. Long ago you either walked or paddled to where you wanted to go. If you didn’t need your canoe for the next few months, you would turn it over in a sheltered spot and leave it for the next time. It was known that if someone came across it and happened to need it, he would happily use it and put it back where he found it.
When you returned in the spring to paddle after the ice break-up, your canoe would be right there where you turned it over.
The person who used and returned it knew and understood the canoe was a part of your life. He knew this was the canoe that helped keep your family fed. It is the canoe you use to check the fishnets, the canoe you use to go down the river to check on that moose whose tracks you saw the day before.
Nowadays, people are scared. They are scared that if they leave the skidoo behind in the spring, it won’t be around when winter comes. These last few years have brought upon us many changes. New values have been introduced.
However, for the most part, many of our traditions are intact, including our hunting and trapping with skills passed on from father to son and mother to daughter. I’m not blaming any one group of people for theft and vandalism. Certainly there are Crees and non-Crees who do not respect the belongings of other people. But people have to understand that the basic foundation of Cree culture is trusting people to do the right thing. With all the changes and new values taking place, it would be a testimony to us if one of the foundations of our culture was left intact—trust.
If someone leaves and can’t expect his camp on his hunting territory to be safe, how can someone call it home?