I was about five years old when I actually saw these great magnificent rapids named “Uchimaau Paaushtikuu,” but for many years I never knew its location. Throughout my life I never saw these rapids again with my own eyes, but only in memory would I often see them again. In my memory like a faded picture, I saw a little girl camped beside these rapids in a cozy michuap smelling fresh of evergreen boughs.
The size of these rapids is unforgettable. I can see the waves representing themselves nobly like huge white rollers and the sound was like rolling thunder. The rapids portrayed its genuine spirit of strength and majestic beauty. When I relive this memory that young innocent brown-skinned little
girl was safe and secure in the warm embrace of the sheltering michuap. From her heart, this little girl closely listened to the roaring sound and the true spirit of these great rapids. The message understood and felt by this little girl was absolute fear and sadness, but again, as I listened to the rapids from my warm sheltering michuap with my family, I felt protected and secure.
Throughout the years, as I would often recall this faded memory of these rapids, I would always feel absolute fear and sadness. Then one day I decided to ask an Elder, an uncle, “Where are these rapids named Uchinmaau Paaushtikuu?” With profound empathy, the Elder tells me, “Uchimaau Paaushtikuu does not exist any more; that is where they built the first dam
on this great river.” At that moment, I froze… My whole body froze… Then a tight feeling slowly gathered in my chest and throat… I had no words, but slowly and softly my tears begin to flow. With humility, the Elder continues his story about “Uchimaau Paaushtikuu as I continued shortly to shed my tears. After a while in time, I realized what that fear and sadness meant… that one day “Uchimaau Paaushtikuu” would be no more.
The traditional people who knew these rapids will carry this fear and sadness, for it has been said that “each time the lands, the waters, are wounded or destroyed, then the spirit of the traditional people, the caretakers, of these lands and waters are also wounded in spirit.”
Dedicated to all the grassroots people of Chisasibi, the original caretakers of the Great River, and especially to our traditional Elders who guide us to understand our sacred connection to the lands and waters and all that there is.