It is no surprise to anyone that there has been an increase in violence within the Cree communities during the past few decades. We all hear about family violence, wife battering, fights during parties, etc. People are concerned as this is a relatively new phenomenon within our culture. It seems we don’t have the experience to deal with it on this scale, or do we?
Let me share a few memories with you. The first one is that people always told me about the “old-style” fights. It seemed that when two men had a “violent” disagreement they would step outside. Then they would fight and the first one to hit the ground lost the argument and fight. There wasn’t any punching, just wrestling.
The second memory passed on to me is about the old green school in Mistissini. It seems a long time ago, within the last 50 years, a teacher came to Mistissini. He was of the belief that discipline must be physical to be effective. Everyone in Mistissini thought this man was sick in the head to use a ruler on the backsides of children. The entire community shunned him. Even the Midaauch conjured him. This man eventually left Mistissini never to return.
The last memory concerns my great grandfather and a young man with a violent temper. He would end up in fights and arguments only to rant and complain to Jomshum (grandpa) about them. Jomshum would just listen and say, “It’s not important,” setting the young man off on another round of why it was important.
Finally one day the young man asked, “Why do always say that—that it’s not important, when you know I think it’s important?” Jomshum replied, “Will it matter tomorrow or a week from now?”
“Yes,” said the young man.
“A month from now? And be honest.”
“Six months ora year? Remember be honest.”
“No,” laughed the young man.
“That’s why I tell you it is not important. It will not affect your life. Only get mad at those things that do and think about how to destroy the roots so they can never hurt you again.”
These community memories tell me a lot of things, that our people knew anger, knew violence and somehow in the past had traditional social practices to effectively control the levels and patterns of violence within our communities.
We have somehow lost that part of our traditions that allowed us to do this. Should we not be studying ourselves to see if we can regain that part of our heritage? What a gift for
the future, and exactly what’s needed for the present. Let’s get angry and destroy the roots of this new violence so it doesn’t affect our lives or the well-being of our nation.