Travelling has always been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. As a young boy growing up in Attawapiskat along the James Bay coast, my family always thought it was natural to be able to move from our community to other areas far away from home.
During the wintertime, it was an adventure to travel the 300 kilometres south to Moosonee and Moose Factory over a frozen highway. This was our temporary connection to the rest of the world for a few months of the year. Our family had a small business that we had to keep supplied with equipment and fuel, so to keep our costs down we ventured to Moosonee on the winter road to haul back supplies. Our tractor and truck made this journey during the coldest times of the year to transport these supplies.
In the spring it was not a big deal to travel one or two hundred kilometres north or south along the coast to find the best goose hunting areas. This was done using snow machines during a time when the snow was melting. Of course over the winter we used snow machines to visit other nearby communities like Kashechewan and Fort Albany.
In the summer or fall we used freighter canoes to head out to hunt or fish on the rivers and the great James Bay. In fact we would visit the same areas that we had gone to by snowmobile in the winter but at a different season by boat Even before motorized transportation like snowmobiles or outboard engines my people, the Cree moved great distances over the land along the James Bay coast. Elders from my community have many stories of travelling long distances to go to traditional hunting grounds just by walking over the muskeg and tundra in the summer, spring or fall or in the winter time with the help of snowshoes and moccasins over the snow. Dogsleds were also another mode of transportation that helped my people move over the frozen landscape during the coldest times of the year. By the 1970s most of the dog sled teams had been retired in favour of the snow machine. Forty years ago, during the warmest months my people used small canoes that were paddled or fitted with light sails to move along the water.
Moving from one location to another was a way of survival that was necessary for my people. If people stayed in one area for too long then animals and fish that kept everyone alive would decline due to overhunting and fishing. If people inhabited an area for too long they would also use up the trees and cause a shortage of good firewood.
Having the freedom to move from one place to another has always been a part of me. Now that I spend my time down south away from my community I still have an urge to travel to new places. I carry the same skills and enthusiasm for travelling as I did when I made trips with my family by freighter canoe or snowmobile to remote places. A bt of the skills I learned had to do with being able to survive without outside help during the duration of a trip. My brothers and I also had to learn to be resourceful and be able to fix or maintain machines or other equipment while we were out on our own.
I continue to learn new skills in travelling. When I began to make new journeys to large cities and towns in the south one of the greatest skills I picked up was being abb to handle and manage my finances. Money is the greatest survival tool for travelling that I had to team to use here in the south. I also had to team how to move at fast speeds in a vehicle with hundreds of other people on multilane highways.
I feel best when I know I will be travelling somewhere new in the future. For me, there is no better feeling than having the freedom to be able to ride away on a freighter canoe, drive off on a snow machine, move down the road in a car or on a motorcycle or fly away to a new part of the world. I guess I will always have the urge to move in my blood.