Two years ago I nominated Eva and George Bosum, two Cree Elders from Ouje-Bougoumou, for a National Aboriginal Achievement Award. This nomination was based on visits my family had with the Bosums on their traditional land near Ouje-Bougoumou. During these visits we came to know and respect Eva and George Bosum as individuals and representatives of Cree Elders with very close ties to the land and who actively practice traditional skills and share them with the youth of their nation.
—D. Elliot Rodger, Ottawa
Have you seen the snowshoes they make? Simple beauty. Supreme function. Instruments of survival. Works of art. Made from the land. Made for the land. Over five thousand years. Timeless. Like Eva and George Bosum. Moosehide and birch. Working together. Like Eva and George Bosum.
Have you seen their faces? Faces of dignity. Creased with strength and gentleness. As their hands. Strong and skilled—to set a beartrap. Gentle and skilled—to skin a marten. Have you laughed with them—at the wind that holds their camp? At the rain that makes their tea. Their laughter—quiet as their conversation. Like the land lying quiet. Free from the noise of mechanism, the offense of crowds, the stink of pollution. They are the land.
“Elders are symbols of who we are,” said Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come. In a speech at the community celebration at Ouje-Bougoumou on October 24, 1995 he emphasized the significance of Elders to aboriginal people. He stated, “The land is our soul,” and, “Elders represent the land for what it is.”
Elders embody the culture, the values, the traditions and traditional knowledge of aboriginal people—the foundation of the future of aboriginal people. Demonstrated consistently by successes in the application of aboriginal justice, in personal rehabilitation and the renewal of aboriginal communities like Ouje-Bougoumou.
Eva and George Bosum have spent their lives in the bush—their land is their life. They are a team. Now in their elder years, they spend as much time in the bush as they can, returning to their village as necessary. They live from the land, depending on fishnets, traps and firearms to supply much of their food. Their tents, moccasins, axe handles, paddles and much of their other equipment are self-made. Each is a necessity for survival and a work of art, us it was for their predecessors.
Eva and George Bosum have twice welcomed our family into their bushcamps. They have openly offered the warmth of their fires and themselves. They have shared their stories, their knowledge, their skills and their food. We have enjoyed their quiet humour, marvelled at their oneness with the woods. We have come away with a profound respect for them as people and for what they represent in terms of their values towards others (even strangers) and towards the natural environment.
Eva and George Bosum have no résumés, no degrees, no lists of publications or awards. Their achievements are not so tangible. But have you seen their snowshoes? Have you seen them set beartraps in a cold driving rain when you are standing shivering? Have you seen them smile at adversity? Have you experienced their generosity and patience?
Eva and George Bosum represent a people who have survived in a harsh environment for five thousand years. “Elders symbolize our history,” said Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come. They are the carriers of the values and the skills to their own people. They are the links to the past and links to the future of their people.
Moosehide and birch. Eva and George Bosum. From the land. Timeless. Together. As the past and the future. They are Elders.