Under The Northern Sky ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’

Under the Northern Sky

It is raining. It will be raining most of this week and that very much puts my plans on hold as Mother Earth reminds me that my notions don’t mean much in the big picture. At times like this as I feel helpless in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic, a number of rainy days in a row really drive home the fact that nature rules all.

No matter how smart we think we are or how powerful when it comes right down to it we are at the mercy of the whim of Mother Earth. As capable humans beings, we have evolved to the point where we understand much of what life and the universe are all about. Scientists tell us we are just a tiny bit of time in the grand picture of existence. Amazingly, we have come to a point where we have a wealth of knowledge and the capacity to do many things yet we are bogged down and on a destructive path. Somehow we have fallen into a system in which a very few wealthy billionaires control just about all of the economy and wealth on this planet. This pandemic has reminded us that there should be a better way.

Luckily every now and then someone comes along that makes us think about what the real purpose of life might be. People like Carl Sagan, John F. Kennedy, Victor Hugo, Martin Luther King, and Leonardo Da Vinci arrive on this good earth and in their short lives make us all think. By raising us up with their insight they in fact count for change in the direction of humanity.

These special, good-natured, and wise people are all around us. They live and work in our own communities. We all know a special person who is kind, wise, and positive and many of us have been lucky enough to be able to turn to these people for strength, guidance, and hope.

Recently, in my home remote First Nation of Attawapiskat, we lost one such special elder by the name of John Mattinas. He lived to be 95 years of age. When I last saw him in a visit back home years ago he was aged and feeble but still had a strong spirit and the kindness burned brightly in his eyes. John grew up on the land and held so many cultural teachings that centred on kindness, openness, and love. He had so much traditional knowledge and curiosity and wonder kept him current. He was also worldly beyond his location in life. He was open to new ideas, he wanted young people to understand who they were and where they came from, and most importantly he wanted them to heal and move on in life to do good things.

John was one of those people who supported traditional and cultural learning and he was a great promoter of encouraging young people to identify and deal with drug and alcohol addictions. He was one of those quiet yet powerful figures in my community and his openness, advice, words, and actions helped many discover a more peaceful, happy and sober life.

His main quality that endeared him to so many and gave him the capacity to help people heal was due to his kindness and his open heart. John was always happy to meet with anyone and he had the gift of making everyone who came to visit him feel very important. When he talked with someone he made them feel as if they were being heard. He was a good listener and could identify very quickly where a person was coming from. He cared so much for Attawapiskat and for his family, friends, and neighbours.

John never rose to the prominence of those famous people I admire on the world stage through history but he was indeed one of them in nature. Many of us who came in contact with him benefited by his good nature, quiet way, wise words, encouragement, and unconditional love for his fellow human beings.

Today, with the rain sprinkling on my windows and drumming on my roof I give thanks for having had the opportunity to spend a little time in the presence of a bright light and beacon of hope that now shines on in many memories. Those memories carry many of us down a better path and hopefully one where we pay his good nature forward. Meegwetch John Mattinas for your being there for so many and know that you are well-loved and will be missed.


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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.