Most people I know who have spent a lot of time up north on the land have a very good sense of sight. With little effort, they are able to pick out birds or animals while out on the land.
This has always been difficult for me as I wear a pair of glasses to help my vision. As a young boy I did not wear prescription eyeglasses. At about the age of 10, I started having difficulty with my vision in school. At one point I had a very hard time reading any writing on the black board even though I sat near the front of the room. I did not have to deal with my bad vision for long. After seeing the visiting optometrist at the hospital in Attawapiskat, I was given my first pair of prescription eyeglasses. This new corrective eyewear helped me at school. Unfortunately, my first pair of glasses and other following prescriptions never did fully restore my vision.
During goose hunting season, I spent a lot of time in goose blinds with other hunters who always seemed to have better vision then myself. Even my two younger brothers were able to spot small black specks which were actually geese several miles away. I could not see them until they came much closer. This experience made me realize how important it was to have good vision while living out on the land. Being able to spot a goose from far away helped in luring these birds to a blind. Geese have very good vision and also scare very easily so it helps to see them coming. My brothers and I were taught from a young age to duck and hide in our blinds, each time a distant goose was spotted. This was done along with calling a goose by mimicking its honking to lure these birds closer to one’s blind.
I remember many times standing up in my blind during the spring goose hunt and searching the skies waiting to spot a goose. Sometimes several hours passed before any kind of sighting occurred. Although one of my brothers usually spotted a bird before I did, there were times when I made the first sighting before anyone else.
Good vision did not just help during goose hunting season, but was also a big part in everyday living while out on the land. In all types of situations I have always been amazed by the keen eyesight of people like my dad or other experienced hunters or trappers in our community.
I remember one walk in the late fall with two of my brothers and my dad near the rapids towards the west end of the community. The sun shone brightly and there had been a light snowfall which left a thin layer of snow on the narrow trail we followed. Dad warned us to keep an eye out for a fox, which had been spotted along this trail a few days before. As we walked, we all scanned the frozen ground in front of us and on either side of the trail as we searched for signs of the fox. I grew impatient with the group and decided to hurry ahead of everyone else.
Then suddenly dad and my brothers alerted me to stop and they motioned to an opening of tall brown grass. I scanned the bushes and trees in front of me searching for what they had seen but I could not find anything. They came up alongside me and pointed out the still face of a small red fox right beside the trail just in front me. His head blended in perfectly with the white snow, leafless branches and tall brown grass. Even though I could see the fox right in front of me after it was pointed out, it had taken the trained eye and good vision of dad to point out the hiding fox on the forest floor.
This was the day that I learned that sometimes good vision does always mean being able to see things far away but also to see what is right in front of you. Sometimes it does not matter how great your eyesight is if you do not have the experience and knowledge of how to look at your surroundings. When you become one with the land it becomes much easier to see what you are looking for.