My grandmother shared a story with her family. My mother knows it and so do all her children. I would like to share it with you and I can only hope I do it justice.
When Gookum was a young girl it was the hard times. Non-Native trappers came in and trapped without thought. Game was scarce and families faced and experienced starvation. Her family was no different from anyone else.
Now, normally the man or men got the last of the food so they would have strength to hunt for game or check the snares and traps. My great-grandfather, Emmett Matoush, though, left the last of the food with his family.
My grandmother worried and asked him how he would be. He replied that the Creator and the land would take care of him and went off.
Later in the day Gookum would check for him returning. Finally she saw him walking back on his snowshoes pulling his toboggan. She rushed out to see him and discovered he had been successful in his hunt. The family wouldn’t go hungry for a while.
She told him how worried she was and asked him about his day.
He smiled and said to remember what he told her about the Creator and the land.
“I stopped for tea,” he said. It was a well-used tea bag but he still put the kettle on over a fire he made knowing the warmth would give him strength.
As he was waiting he said a Whiskeyjack flew near. “It was a fat one,” he said and he knew the Creator and the land had sent it.
He carefully picked up a piece of wood he had cut for the fire. He swung and hit the small bird. After plucking it he roasted it on a stick.
“See,” he said, “I told you I would be taken care of. And do you know that I could only eat half of the Whiskeyjack – I was so full I couldn’t eat more. That’s how I knew the Creator and the land gave it to me.”
He then reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the other half of the Whiskeyjack saying, “and this is for you my daughter.”
I have always loved that story and I am grateful I have had a chance to share it with you. You may wonder why I have chosen to do this? It is quite simple. For a long time I have looked and heard about people of all ages who feel lost or feel there is no hope or place for them.
Look at how my great-grandfather felt and dealt with his life. He knew something and lived it fully and completely. Perhaps that sense of belonging or knowing where you are cannot be found in the day-to-day life of the community. Perhaps you need to go back to where the Cree always were – on the land. I know when I am there I feel more complete and I feel a connection that I cannot explain to those who haven’t experienced it.
Isn’t it worth a try to know yourself and your place in the world if you haven’t found it yet? Our roots as Cree in Eeyou Istchee are strong. The land made the Cree what they are today. But every now and then we need to return to know who we are and be nourished and strengthened. When you partake of that part of creation that is Eeyou Istchee, you will never be lost again.