Most First Nation elders I know like to be out on the land. They have followed a very traditional lifestyle from early on in their lives. It has been difficult for many elders to adjust to a different pace of life in our modern First Nation communities. I have talked to several of my older relatives and other Attawapiskat elders who have told me that they miss living on the land and being closer to a natural environment where life is less stressful and more meaningful.

In many remote northern First Nations like my home community of Attawapiskat on the James Bay coast it has only been in the past 40 to 50 years that our people were introduced to a modern way of life in an established community. Before this people did not live in one spot but were more nomadic. This change in lifestyle brought many benefits and conveniences that have made life easier in some ways. For many this new modern lifestyle did make life better. I have heard numerous stories from the past of hardship and difficulty for my people. Proper shelter was difficult to establish in cold weather and food was sometimes hard to find during periods when the number of animals and birds declined. Many elders tell me that many of the changes and improvements that came to them when they moved into the community were welcomed because these conveniences made life easier and more comfortable. However, it also meant that their traditional life on the land would change forever.

My parents, Marius and Susan, left home this spring for a few weeks or so with my brothers and sisters to stay at a family camp site for the goose hunt on Akamiski Island. I was happy to hear that my grandmother Louise Paulmartin was also making the trip back to the land. They traveled by snowmobile over wet and slushy conditions to reach the hunting camp where they would stay for a few weeks to hunt geese. They returned after spring break up. Both my parents are getting older and my grandmother is not as active as she was a few years ago. After all she is in her 80s. I worry about their ability to continue travelling and living out on the land but they tell me that they find it more comfortable and restful outside the community. I know how much it means to them.

My parents and grandmother lived a very traditional lifestyle for most of their early lives. My mom and grandmother lived with their family 100 kilometres north of Attawapiskat on the Nawashi River on the James Bay coast. Their family had hunted and lived in this area for many generations. In the mid 1960s they decided to move to Attawapiskat and live in the community on a permanent basis. Dad’s family was historically located along the Attawapiskat River. The Kataquapits adapted over the years to being in Attawapiskat.

A while ago I called home to talk to my sister Jackie who had just come back after a short stay with everyone out on Akamiski. She told me how much our grandmother had enjoyed her time on the land. My parents and grandmother were living comfortably in a small, fully insulated house on the pebbled south shore of Akamiski Island. Dad and the men spent their days hunting geese near the camp and my grandmother helped mom with the cooking and light chores around the house. The grandchildren also experienced the goose hunt. My sister mentioned that the most enjoyable time of the day for our grandmother was taking a short walk in the woods to collect a pot full of snow from the remaining patches of the white stuff to make tea. I am sure these spring days out in the bay brought back many happy memories for her. Memories of another time when life was far less complicated.