The best part about National Aboriginal Day in the past was that it was fishing day. Since it was also the longest day of the year, naturally, it was the longest day of the year to go fishing.
One year, we combined fishing with some twilight duck hunting and, on day two of our excursion out on James Bay, seal hunting. The light reflecting from the many ice floes that nudged against our freight canoe combined with sub tropical heat turned my hunting mode into power snooze mode. The resulting reverberation from my snorting and snoring scared the lucky seal away. I, meanwhile, slept sitting up in the canoe and numbly conversing with whoever else was in the canoe, and can vaguely remember shooting my gun at some ripple in the calm water.
Later, we met up with land and slept all afternoon in the tall grass, oblivious to the nosey mice that scampered around, checking out the snoring giants in some weird Lilliputian manner. Back on the canoe and back to the stream we fished the day before to continue our quest for protein. After catching a few hundred trout, we checked the nets and pulled in more bounty from the sea. A ton of caviar and fish guts were processed, the packaging of our catch into the packed sweet grass that lined the shore finished off another 20-hour sun fest.
We readied for bed as a storm brewed and mosquitoes, repelled by a combination of sun toughened skin and DDT, buzzed angrily and incessantly, occasionally inhaled by a deep snoring human. The cacophony of slumbers competed with the thunderclaps and constant rain and flapping canvas to made it easy to sleep, except for one particular snorer whose emanations ignited such violence that it seemed to shake the very ground we slept on.
Birds twittered and sunlight resumed with the rains early in the morning and a shotgun blast just feet away from our sleeping heads jarred us into combat mode. The tent flap aside, we see Buddy coolly inspecting the small bear lying lifeless on the wet ground. The carnivore ursus had eaten hundreds of fish all night long and could not move, its belly bloated with our processed fish.
Buddy indicated that he deserved to be shot and eaten. Later that day, black bear meat was cooking in every way possible. Minding that no flesh go bad on such hot and sweltering weather, all meat became fodder for our stomachs. Wiping the greasy remains off our faces, we headed back to the stream to lure more trout into our waiting barbs and line.
Today, National Aboriginal Day remains one of the most productive days for wildlife harvesting. With this in mind, I think that the day should be a time to not just reflect upon our culture and traditions, but a day to practice them, a day to harvest and feast on the spring catch. One day I’ll go back to that stream and fish for trout and hunt for ducks and seals, but this time around, I’ll carry plenty of strong coffee.