Maybe it was a trip down memory lane in a place I’ve never been before. Isn’t that what they call déjà vu? Anyhow it was a stopover on the way to the Moose River. You have to go trough Waskaganish and the stopover is long. It’s a four hour layover.
I wasn’t sure what to do so I called Waskaganish Chief Robert Weistche. Now there’s a man who’s proud of his community. He took me on a tour of the community, showing me the new school, where a building dealing with the wellness of the community will go and other various projects. You can tell the communitie is building for the better under his care.
Then he took me to the camps near Smokey Hill. It’s quite a way out of town and I got to see they are still working on improving the road into Waskaganish.
Then came the best part: We arrived at the camps. I met some of the Elders and they were smoking white fish. I swear I could smell that goodness before we even got there. Racks and racks of white fish being smoked.
The people aren’t greedy. They charged us one whole dollar for each fish. I just wish Neil Diamond had béen there. Then we would have seen greed. That boy surely loves his smoked white fish. I remember visiting his parents with him one time and I could see it pained him to share some of what his mother gave him that time. I only bought five and felt guilty knowing how much he liked them.
Then it was back off to the airport and off to see the elephant… I mean the Moose-River that is.
While the stay was enjoyable my mind kept going back to the Smokey Hill encampment before the river. It must have been the smoked fish I was still eating. I enjoyed each morsel without even the benefit of Crisco or goose grease.
I promise Robert that on the way back I would stop in and we would actually make it to Smokey Hill.
We did the 30-minute ride by van and then took a boat with Jimmy (as seen on the cover) to Smokey Hill. It was a beautiful, restful spot and one I knew would be gone in about six years if nobody does anything. Smokey Hill and will disapppear if the Rupert River Diversion goes ahead as planned.
During the AIP one of the Grand Council people told me that, economically, the Rupert River was only worth $80,000 to the Cree in actual dollars.
Looking at the Elders and the community members who use Smokey Hill, I would have to say that is somply wrong and incredibly short sighted. It seemed to me I was looking at the soul of a community being sold for a very few silver coins. What price can you place on that? And what will replace it? What will be the repercussions of not having it? We can’t know, because in terms of a community’s social bond, it’s irreplaceable.
Drugs and alcohol are facts of our lives. But places like Smokey Hill help heal the injuries they cause. A troubled teen can find themselves with the different way of thinking we can find there. But once we kill places like Smokey Hill there is no break. There is no option beyond succumbing to a westernized Betty Ford Center that does not cater to a Aboriginal way of life.
How many will take that option? Was this considered in the economic factors? Can we afford to build the Betty Ford style of centre? What cost do we attribute to the cutting of the social bonds of a community and the resulting problems? There is a cost but it is paid later. It is paid after a politician retires or doesn’t get re-elected and not by the leaders or consultants who make the decision on our behalf.
Smokey Hill is worth more than $80,000 to any community. How many Smokey Hills need to disappear and at what cost?