Changing With The Seasons – Under the Northern Sky

Passengers in Round Lake getting ready for takeoff in the Cargo North Basler BT 67
Passengers in Round Lake getting ready for takeoff in the Cargo North Basler BT 67

ATTAWAPISKAT – Well, it looks like winter is just around the corner. I am surprised that the leaves are changing colour in mid September but then again I am in the north and that should be expected. After one of the warmest summer’s ever I am looking forward to cooler days and nights.

Ask any Cree or Ojibway person from northern Ontario and they will tell you they prefer winter to summer. In remote communities this comes from the freedom that winter brings with ice on the rivers and lakes and snow covered land so that we can snowshoe, snowmobile and drive out of the community. In the summer we are mostly landlocked in remote northern First Nations, surrounded by muskeg and bothered by billions of mosquitoes. The winter is clean, bright and has traditionally been a time of movement on the land.

Northerners are a tough bunch. Towns and cities like Kirkland Lake, Timmins, Iroquois Falls, Cochrane, Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls, Chapleau, Larder Lake, Temiskaming Shores, Sudbury and North Bay offer up all kinds of winter fun and activities that are easy to access and either at no cost or very little. You can go to a hockey game in any of these northern communities and if you want to have a friendly little game you can still play for fun on a local rink or even on the snow covered street. All of these communities and most First Nations also have sports complexes with arenas, some even have pools and curling rinks. Many communities in the north have auditoriums where local performers and stars from out of town entertain us in the winter. Many also have thriving arts organizations that host art exhibitions, musical and dance performances and live theatre.

Winter is anything but boring up here in the north land.

The coffee shops and restaurants are busy much of the time as people feel the need to get out and about and enjoy the social interaction around town. Although the highways can be dangerous at times the driving is very good around all the northern cities and towns. Our public works crews have a lot of experience with winter.

As northerners we have the gift of living through four seasons. We live in change and we adapt well to what mother nature has to offer. Right now the leaves on the trees around town are lighting up in colours of orange, yellow and red. All of our northern communities are coming alive in vibrant fall colours. I am putting away my summer wear and pulling out sweaters, pants and jackets. I am even thinking it is time soon for my long underwear. I don’t fool around when it gets cold as I learned from my mom and dad that cold weather is just fine as long as you are dressed for it.

One of the best things about living in the north is that any of us can get to a quiet piece of land, a wonderful lakefront setting, a rushing river or little mountain perch with just a short trip by car. We can ski, trap, hunt, fish and skate in winter without a very big effort to do so. We can also do it for free most of the time. Rarely, do we have to line up for a hockey game, arts entertainment or restaurant. Things are easy to get to for we northerners.

Winter is very good for young people and those who are middle-aged, however seniors do have more challenges this time of the year. I think we should be putting together more programs in all of our northern communities to make sure that our elderly neighbours can enjoy their homes in even severe winter weather. We need programs where we offer a snow cleaning service to our Elders and transportation that is affordable and easy to get for trips to the grocery store or a visit or an outing to the local coffee shop. We forget at times that all of our wonderful northern communities are the result of our Elders who came before us and worked hard to provide us with all the services and development we see today. The wisdom and experience in life lives in our Elders and we should be doing a lot more to honour them while also benefiting from their advice.

Life is good here in the north and once again we are changing with the seasons.

by Xavier Kataquapit

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Under The Northern Sky is the title of a popular Aboriginal news column written by First Nation writer, Xavier Kataquapit, who is originally from Attawapiskat Ontario on the James Bay coast. He has been writing the column since 1997 and it is is published regularly in newspapers across Canada. In addition to working as a First Nation columnist, his writing has been featured on various Canadian radio broadcast programs. Xavier writes about his experiences as a First Nation Cree person. He has provided much insight into the James Bay Cree in regards to his people’s culture and traditions. As a Cree writer, his stories tell of the people on the land in the area of Attawapiskat First Nation were he was born and raised.