Well it has finally happened, everyone In Attawapiskat can actually just walk down the street and pick up Kentucky Fried Chicken or a pizza from Pizza Hut. If you are a First Nation person you understand how we Crees love our Kentucky Fried Chicken. Up to now this was one of the luxuries we waited to savour with expensive flights to Timmins or a costly order flown up to us.
Life just got a little easier for the people in Attawapiskat with the grand opening of a brand-new Northern Store complete with a quick-stop variety and take-out that features our beloved Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut. Things certainly are changing at a rapid pace in Attawapiskat these days and the construction of this all-new Northern Store is proof of that.
My brother Joe, who works part-time in security at the state-of-the-art Northern Store, tells me the impact of this new store has been great. My family, friends and neighbours in Attawapiskat finally have a place to shop that is similar to the large department, grocery and fast food services once only available with a trip to the South.
The grand opening of the Northern Store was a big event for everyone with a professional fireworks display and ceremonies. It may not seem that such a development in a small remote First Nations community on the James Bay coast is a big deal. Believe me, this development is the beginning to the new era for my people.
Many of my friends in the South are astonished when I tell them we have only had running water and indoor toilets for most of my community in the last 10 years. They are surprised when I tell them Attawapiskat is virtually cut off from the rest of the world except expensive flights to Timmins. They are shocked when I tell them that the prices of staples like milk, vegetables and bread is more than twice the cost we pay for them in the South. Of course, this is due to the cost of transporting all goods by air, winter road or summer barge.
With the opening of the new Northern Store my people are excited and believe this new investment means the future for more development is bright. I am sure there is a lot of Kentucky Fried Chicken being eaten these days and I’ll bet there are even take-out orders making their way out to the goose hunters in their blinds.
All this new development has resulted in more employment for people in my community and it certainly has a positive effect on local people’s general outlook and pride in the community.
Northern Store is a main investor and service-provider of goods to First Nations communities right across Canada. They are linked to a history there was born with the Hudson’s Bay store chain at the time of the fur trade. It is good to see new investment in Attawapiskat and other communities up the James Bay coast, and it makes sense too because this company has made a lot of money in dealing with First Nations people. I congratulate everyone concerned with this positive development in Attawapiskat, the chief, council and Northern Store management and employees, and I am sure there is more to come.
Hopefully, these developments will be done keeping in mind the values and traditions that are unique to the Crees of the James Bay coast. If these developments make life easier for the community without drastically changing the way we live, a good thing has been done.
BY XAVIER KATAQUAPIT Quebec Community Newspaper Association award nominee for best column