It has been a few years since I last went goose hunting. Whenever I go I always think back to other hunts like many Crees. All the memories are good and many mean a lot to me in many ways.
Once when I was the tender and somewhat trusting young age of 14, I joined my uncles and aunts at the Esker for the spring goose hunt. That’s when I learnt the most about the harsh but fun reality of Cree hunters and their sense of humour. At one point I returned to Mistissini to bring back geese. I talked to my grandfather saying I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back as I was sure all my uncles were gay. He laughed and said not to worry and perhaps had a talk with the uncle who accompanied me.
Later I learnt they weren’t gay and interested in me, but were just having fun with the new hunter. They played with every new and young hunter coming into the camp. It is true you can’t judge a book by its cover and when they let me into the joke I literally saw from a new angle that they never really touched each other at all. The young hunters who joined us though only saw what I had previously seen. I relaxed and stopped sleeping with my knife under my pillow after that.
But that’s the goose hunt, serious in so many ways but always combined with a chuckle for the unwary or inexperienced.
It is a serious matter though for the Cree. It is when you reaffirm your connection to the land. I remember when I fought the Great Whale hydroelectric project in the U.S. and returned to Mistissini. I arrived just after the spring goose hunt after a couple of years of not hunting. My uncle Don asked me to help him get a goose blind that was floating away.
As with most Crees we brought along our shotguns just in case. As we got nearer to the blind, Don pointed out some ducks. We went towards them and noticed beyond them were some geese on the shore in a bay.
As we went to them I started to pray. To me this was a sign and a potential answer to some questions I had. Was I doing the right thing by fighting Hydro-Québec over the Great Whale project? Was I still one of the children of the Land?
I knew if even one goose gave itself to me that everything was fine. I was so nervous as we got nearer and nearer. Finally I shot and yes, the goose gave itself to me. I would like to think I could have gotten more but I did not shoot after that first shot as I had my answer.
To me that was the most important moment in my life and I have never felt so accepted by the Creator and Creation in all my life.
The spring goose break is more than just a time to hunt, it is a time to reconnect with who you are and all the things that make the Cree a part of Eeyou Istchee.