I was surprised and happy to find a group of James Bay Cree youth and families on Aboriginal Day at the 12th annual Batshaw Powwow in Prévost. This annual powwow presented by Batshaw Youth and Family Centres is only 45 minutes north of Montreal. I was invited to go with my family through our membership with Tasiutigiit, a group that brings together families who have adopted Inuit children in Montreal. The Mohawks of Kahnawake, also presenters of the powwow, gifted us with traditional dance and entertainment.
When we got to the (free admission) powwow, there was a long lineup in front of a tent that was serving traditional foods. As we were all really hungry, we opted for a shorter line and paid a few dollars for some hotdogs. Later, when we saw that the lineup for the traditional was gone, we went to sample some of the food. We were extremely surprised that the food was free.
Goose, beaver, fish, bear, boudin and bannock in surplus! This was the first time that I ever had bear. Hopefully it won’t be the last, as I plan on going to this powwow for many years. The goose was also totally amazing. After gorging on these tasty delights we came back to reality of the powwow. We looked at the people and thought that we recognized some of the faces. Cree faces that we have seen in movies and print – those of the James Bay Cree! My partner urged super-shy me to go and chat with them.
Clifford Neeposh is a coordinator for the Bush Program, a project that takes troubled youth into the bush to connect with traditional ways and help get them on a healthy path. Started in 2006, this “school in the bush” program is supported by the Cree Health Board and targets young people who need a healthy environment to regroup from difficult times. For the last four years, a group of 40-50 Cree have come to this powwow to cook and serve the game they have caught while in the bush program.
I was really impressed with the team spirit and joy that I felt from this warm-hearted group of people. You don’t see this kind generosity very often.
I regret that I didn’t have the time to get more information about this awesome program, as my two three-year-olds were starting to show their belly buttons to the Cree dudes. Also, somehow my greasy pen wasn’t working properly on a pad covered with bear grease and my notes weren’t appearing on the paper. Okay, I am not a journalist. I had to borrow a pen from Clifford and greased that one up too.
I think we should all know more about the bush program. So please go to the Nation website and tell us about it. Tell us what you know. Share your stories about being in the program.
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