In this issue, we print the five essays that won runner-up prizes in The Nation’s Cree youth essay contest. Congratulations to all those who entered and to our sponsors, the Cree School Board, Air Creebec, Meechum Store and Mike’s Studio. We will be printing some of the other entries in coming issues.

As I walk along the riverside I look down at the river thinking about a very special person in my life. He was a great and wonderful man. He was the man who raised me, who gave me the knowledge and skills I need to learn as a Cree child. He taught me to respect those around me: the Elders, my family, my friends and my people.

My grandfather was beside me from the day I was brought home from the hospital, until the last day I saw him beside me before he died. He raised me to be the girl I’m today. He taught me at a young age to work. He always said, “Try your best at things.You might not always get it right, but that’s O.K.”

This piece of advice has helped me reach the end of high school and I will always remember it as I face the challenges of the last of my life goals.

My grandfather and I were very close. We did a lot of things together. We used to go paddling across to check his traps. He showed me the way things were done a long time ago. He knew all the names of the different plants and animals. He also taught me the Cree names of the rivers and creeks of our land and our people. “Our ancestors used to walk on this land on the same paths as we walk on now. ” That’s the kind of things he would say as we would walk or as we sit down by a warm fire with a cup of hot tea.

I can remember at a young age playing with him and him teaching me to play traditional games. Along with the teaching he told me. Also, we used to walk around the community, go to the store to buy then sit with his friends outside the store. When we would head back we would sometimes walk along the riverside and he would tell me stories about the river and the old days.

There is a lot of things I remember about my grandfather, the teachings, the storytelling. He used to show me how to make traditional foods. He showed me how to make bannock on a stick, in our teepee out back. It was great.

He was always there for me when I needed someone to talk to. He always knew if something was wrong. He would tell me stories of when he was young that would always make me feel better.

Over the years as I grew up I learned a lot from him. I always tried to make him very proud of me in things that I did. I might not have gotten the message in words but the way he would look at me when I told him about the things I did said it all. For example when I was confirmed and when I was in the Trappers’ Festival pageant he gave me that look that I can’t really describe but that was all I needed, to know that he was proud of me.

I remember when I was about 12 or 13 I hated myself. I wished I was never born because I was 1/2 white and I felt that I was the only one like this in my community. I hated being different from others. I wanted to be a real Indian not just part Indian. People made fun of me and called me names. Said things about my father too that hurt me a lot. When my grandfather knew what was making me angry he said to me, “Look at me. You are who you are. You can’t change that. Outside you are white but inside your blood and your mind is full blooded Indian.”

I always knew I was different from the other girls because I lived with my grandfather who was like my father to me. They lived with their fathers and mothers. I lived with my mother, my grandfather and my uncle. That was my family, my grandfather taught me to feel good about who I am. He put me on the right path in my life. It’s still hard for me to accept that he is no longer with us. When I walk into the house, I expect to see him and sometimes I wish that he was there. It’s so hard to let go of someone who was always there as you grew up through bad times and through good times. For 17 years he has been my teacher and my guide to my history and to my own identity. He was truly a remarkable man and a hero to all his family. We will always remember him. In our hearts he will never die. The teachings and the stories will be passed on to his grandchildren. I love you grandpa.

by Lois Blackned, age 18 years Waskaganish