So, I hopped on the kangaroo express back to my home rez after three years this past Christmas and New Years. Montreal, Val d’Or, Nemaska and finally, my ole home town Waskaganish. Back to the simple life. Or so I thought.
Once off the plane, a perfunctory search through our baggage was done in a makeshift shelter outside the terminal while we nervously puffed on cigarettes in the cold (Zey haff vays off makinkyou talk.). My God, I thought. What if they find that bottle of wine I have for Christmas dinner? Or that gift of Crown Royal? Or those miniature bottles they serve on airplanes? Waskaganish is known for coming down hard on liquor. I found out later that at one time the fine for possession of a 40 ounce bottle of liquor was 2000 dollars. I believe the fine now is $250. More than double the going rate for a bottle on the street.
I needn’t have worried so much though. That was the quickest search of my bags I had ever had to go through and nothing was confiscated. “They have too much traffic this time of year,” someone explained.
It’s easy to make the connection between alcohol and another hot topic in Waskaganish. The future access road. Someone had just made it through the winter road two days before Christmas and there were the usual complaints on the state of the road. Someone high up in the local government predicted there would be a real road by the year 2000. That’s if construction starts by 1999. Ottawa and Quebec City, of course, are stalling because it wouldn’t look good for them to be giving so much money to such a small group to build a road. SEBJ’s blueprints for a road have most likely been in storage the morning after Bourassa dreamed his impossible dream. A forestry company is also dying to build one from Lasarre. All that much easier for them to get to our trees and whatever else they can steal. The ideal route would run on the north side of the Rupert but that would require the construction of a bridge and the Feds will not put up the one million for it.
So who or what is going to pay for the road? Bingos? Will there ever be a road? The band has, so far, spent 7 million of its own funds for the upkeep of, in the words of a visitor, the “squirrel trail.” I don’t know about you but I’m starting to get embarassed. And not just because I ran off the unofficially opened road after driving in from Chisasibi. We had just left the James Bay highway only minutes into the trail when my friend said, “You just have to watch out for this sharp curve somewhere up ahead.” A split second later he said, “This is it!” “Yegoh, Aaron!!” he called to his son.
I panicked and ended up on the snowbank. At the very same spot where we had to pull out a romantic couple a week before.
The lack of money isn’t the only problem with Waskaganish having a road. There is also the matter of traplines and outsiders coming in and causing more problems. The proposed “engineer’s route” cuts through three or four traplines and someone want s compensation should the dream become a reality. Totally understandable when you consider that the present road and a gravel pit has run through his territory for the past… what is it… 15, 20 years? And he’s never asked for a cent until now. And of course there are the socio-economic questions that have to be answered. We’ll leave that to the experts to address.
Will Waskaganish have a road to blockade should the inevitable countrywide call to do so arrive?