It was June 2000 when we set out on our journey to Toronto. Darren Stephen, Nolan Diamond, Travis Diamond, Fabian Hester and I travelled by float-plane to the Hydro station, where we piled into my little Ford station wagon. Fond memories of blasting Celine Dion and singing at the top of our lungs come to mind from that long, nine-hour trip. We stopped at Bear Island reserve, Lake Temagami, where we stayed the night with old friends of mine, and then on to Cookstown, Ontario, 40 minutes north of Toronto.

I remember the boys being so nervous when we went for dinner at my dad’s house. When we visited a nearby farm with cows, horses, sheep and pigs, the boys were so horrified by the smell of the manure that they screamed and tried to run back to the car. I had grown up with that smell, as I lived in an agricultural area with many farms, but the boys were smelling it for the first time. It was comparable to the first time I walked into a teepee on a 35-degree day, hit with the smell of fresh blood from a moose, lying on the floor.

And then there was our trip to the CN Tower. We finally, went to the horse races. My mom, Jane, owned Barrie Raceway, a harness horse-racing track, and she named a race after the Waskaganish James Bay Cree. We all walked out onto the track and got our picture taken with the winning horse. It was a pretty special night.

A lot of time has passed since our journey, and I wanted to say thank you to the boys for being such wonderful young men. Now, in their 20s, some probably have their own children. I learned a lot about the Cree way of life while living in Waskaganish and Nemaska, and the trip down south was a chance to share a bit of my culture and family with the four boys. I am still in contact with a couple of close friends from Waskaganish, and plan to take my own children up for a visit in the next couple of years. I have never spoken to the boys since leaving, but hope they are all doing well.