Under The Northern Sky: ‘We Will Survive’

Under the Northern Sky
Under the Northern Sky Image: depositphotos.com

ATTAWAPISKAT – As much as I would like to follow the recommendations for the pandemic, it is getting difficult after several months. At first, I was comfortable with following the suggestions of staying away from public places and having to avoid visiting my favourite restaurants, fast food joints, or places for a quick coffee. I knew that with the dangers of a new virus lurking around, mixing with the public more than essential meant I was putting myself at risk of exposure at every turn.

Asymptomatic cases are a common feature of this virus. It is a constant worry to wonder what will happen a week or two after wandering around in a public place. If infections rise at any moment, it means that these same infections have been spreading in the population for the previous week or two unnoticed. The greatest protection at the moment is prevention and by being vigilant all the time. We must continue with slowly opening things up but it is not a great idea to push people back to school considering all of the current information we have on Covid-19.

After half a year of constant worry, avoiding people, asking others to stay away and cutting visits with my family and friends as short as possible, it is all beginning to wear on me. I find I am now missing the good old days when I could just wander freely into a fast food place and order a burger or go to a restaurant and have a breakfast special. I wish I could visit people without so much planning and anxiety. I understand that I could just throw caution to the wind and go out there and pretend all is normal but that is dangerous thinking. I live with my partner who has a lung disease and catching this virus would be a big problem. We are constantly on guard when we are out in public.

I take comfort in the fact that I live in the far north of Canada. I have a home I can enjoy with enough luxuries that make it comfortable. I have access to high-speed internet that connects me to an endless supply of communications, information, and entertainment. I have relatively easy access to health care, to a grocery store, and to services. I am reassured by the fact that just about everyone is following health recommendations, like wearing a mask.

I remind myself that as comfortable, safe, and normal as we like to think this lifestyle is here in Canada, in many other parts of the world this is not the case. I’ve had the opportunity to visit many regions of Europe and I can not help but imagine the difficulties that come from having to live in such densely populated regions and cities. I’ve also visited poverty-stricken parts of the world in southeast Asia and India and I know the hardships many people in these poorer regions must endure at the best of times let alone during a pandemic. I’ve met people in the Caribbean and South America who described to me the lives of hardship and poverty. I remember people in North Africa in Morocco and Egypt living with very little and migrating from place to place in order to get by. I also met destitute migrants during my travels in Italy, Spain, France, and Greece. They risk their lives to escape poverty in the hopes of a better life in another country.

Three-quarters of all the people on the planet live in some form of critical poverty. Even in first world countries like Canada and the United States, many Indigenous people and minority communities still live in third-world conditions. My home remote community of Attawapiskat has always struggled for basic needs and support and this pandemic has put everyone at risk.

If you are upset, worried, anxious, and overly concerned about this pandemic inside the comfort of your home please remember to be thankful for what you have.  If you are bothered about having to wear a mask in public, just think that you are in fact saving the lives of those who are not as healthy, young, or strong as you. If you are angry that you have restrictions in visiting bars and restaurants just be aware that in many countries right now there are people who have no food or clean water to drink in the middle of this pandemic.

As uncomfortable as we may feel, we are still leading lives of luxury compared to the majority of people on this planet. We will have answers to this pandemic eventually, as historically our collective ancestors over thousands of years have lived through a similar crisis. We are the lucky ones and in the top ten percent of the more wealthy first-world peoples. Let’s try our best to remember to be kind and respectful of each other during this difficult time.


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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.