I have been driving all day long and, although it is September, today was warm and the sun followed me north. In southern Ontario the trees were just beginning to turn with shades of red, yellow and orange here and there. By the time I reached North Bay the roadside was ablaze in all the wonderful colours of fall. Further north the colour seemed to drain and mostly orange and yellow filled my eyes.

Where I come from, Attawapiskat on the James Bay coast, we don’t get those magnificent red and orange colours in the fall. Most of the land on the James Bay coast is muskeg and the heavy treed areas are pine. However, we also have birch and popular, so yellow is a predominant colour in our autumn.

The big change for us for the coming of fall is the disappearance of the mosquitoes and black flies. If you have been in the far north in the summer months you know what I am talking about when I say we welcome the cold weather, as these insects leave us. Moving about the land in the spring and summer months is never easy with clouds of mosquitoes and black flies to deal with.

Another sign of fall in the James Bay coast has to do with the birds and the animals. The Canada geese, or Niska as we call them, begin to fly south in huge numbers. The departure of the goose is so profound for us Crees on the coast that we refer to the month of October as Oh-pay-mah-ah-moh-wee-pee-see-m, which means flying away month. This is traditionally the time of the year when all of communities on the James Bay coast become involved in the fall goose hunt. This is not as big a hunt as we have in the spring, when the geese return to James Bay, but it is still a big event for everyone.

This is our last chance to stock up on our supply of geese for the winter.

My people have survived through the ages mostly due to the fact that there have always been geese to hunt. The goose means so much to the James Bay Crees. This bird is a part of who we are and is a spiritual connection to the mother earth.

While many people in the south wish for the warm days of summer we Crees look forward to the cooler days of fall. This is the time when it is easier to move across the land and the water and perfect for hunting, as moose and wild foul meat does not spoil so quickly. It is also much easier for us to move along our major roadways, which are the rivers and the lakes. The fall brings more rain and the waterways swell, which provides easier access in shallow places. There is excitement in the communities along the coast this time of year as my people get ready to return to their traditional hunting grounds. Entire families are busy preparing the freighter canoes and putting together the necessary supplies and materials needed for a week to three weeks out on the land. In the old days this was the time of year that everyone left for their hunting grounds and didn’t return until spring.

This is also the time of the year when most people in the community head out to gather dry grasses which they store away for spring when it is time to build goose blinds. If you are out on the Attawapiskat River or James Bay during the fall months you will notice a lot of traffic as families head back and forth between their traditional hunting grounds and the community.

It is at this time of year that I am reminded how special we James Bay Crees are with one foot in town and the modern world and the other in the traditions and culture that date back to the dawn of time. I wish all the hunters up the James Bay coast good luck in the Tah-Kwah-Kah-N Eh-Ah-Shi-Eh-Kah-Noh-K (fall hunt).