I have always had a fascination for rocks or stones. I was born and raised in Attawapiskat near the banks of the great James Bay. This area is predominantly muskeg. As a matter of fact, my people are known as the Mushkego Cree.
Mushkeg is like a peat bog and it is actually composed of plant life that is perpetually in a state of decay. This makes it very difficult to get around in the summer months as the land is mostly a soggy bottom. In the spring, summer and fall, my people use the waterways as roads and highways to travel the land. It is near impossible to move on the land as it is like swamp.
In the winter, the people of the James Bay are happy to see the coming of freezing temperatures that turns the mushkeg into a hard surface. The frozen land becomes covered in snow and it is much easier for the Mushkego Cree to move about by snowshoe, toboggan and snowmobile.
My fascination with rocks and stones has to do with the fact that they are rare back home in the Mushkeg. When I was young, I took every opportunity I had to visit any rock or stone outcroppings on the land.
My favourite rock is on Akamiski Island. It is surrounded by miles and miles of mushkeg and sits near the edge of a pretty little lake. Often when I was out on the land with my family, I would leave the group to head out on my own and spend time sitting on my little patch of rock overlooking the lake. This was special place for me where I could relax and think.
Rocks and stones hold a very special place in the traditions and culture of First Nation people. I can recall Elders talking about the very practical aspect of rocks. They describe them as navigational aides or landmarks due to the fact that they are so rare in the land of the Mushkego Cree. Traditional hunting and gathering routes of my people are marked here and there by rocks or stones that stand out on the flat featureless mushkeg.
I recall hearing stories from Elders handed down that describe these rocks and stones on the land as living things. There are stories that talk about the rocks having spirits with the ability to move about the land on their own. These rocks or stones are said to have powers.
In the traditions and cultures of Aboriginal people in North America and other parts of the world, rocks and stones are said to have spirits. Medicine men or shamans understand the essence and the power of these rocks and refer to them for certain ceremonies and uses.
Peoples throughout time on our planet have worshipped rocks and stones in one way or another. Throughout the ancient world in my travels I have been fortunate to see wonders such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis in Athens; the Colosseum and ancient Forum in Rome; the Alhambra castle in southern Spain and monuments all over Europe, Asia and the Americas made of rock and stone.
From a scientific and geological point-of-view, we understand that these rocks and boulders in the middle of mushkeg were put there by glaciers that moved about during the last ice age. These mammoth glaciers literally moved mountains and when they melted and receded, they deposited boulders, rocks and stones in places where they did not naturally occur.
From a traditional and spiritual point-of-view, rocks and stones are still very much a part of the legends and stories handed down by my people and Aboriginals around the world. My fascination with rocks continues. I always seek out the strength and the timeless quality of rock any time I am on the land.
I have stood on the crest of the largest mountains in the Sierra Nevadas in Spain; I have walked in the shadow of the mighty Canadian Rockies in British Columbia; I have observed from a distance Mount St. Helens in Washington State; and I have swam in the Mediterranean waters on the rim of an ancient volcano that forms the islands of Santorini, Greece.
No matter where I have been in my life it has always been possible for me to find a rock or stone to turn to. My connection to the earth has always only been a stone’s throw away.