Under The Northern Sky ‘Strange Days Ahead’

Under the Northern Sky

Tah-gwah-gun, or the fall season has always been a time of foreboding and worry for every culture in the northern hemisphere. It means that winter is on the way and for my people, it meant that we must prepare if we are to survive and endure another freezing season. In many ways this particular fall demands that we need to prepare for dealing with historic developments. With the turning of this season there are other changes on the horizon that are somewhat threatening.

When I was growing up on the James Bay coast in my remote home community of Attawapiskat my world revolved around my family, my friends, our daily work and travelling onto the land for hunting. Life was very simple back then. I knew everyone in the community and I was related to many people. Since then, I have lived through so many experiences and thought that life would be easier. So many changes have happened with loved ones passing, the challenges of writing and producing videos for a living and constantly trying to figure out how to navigate life. Happily, I have had the opportunity to travel to 34 countries over the past 20 years and it was amazing and awe inspiring to have seen so many different parts of this planet and to meet people from almost every corner of our world.

At this point I am shaking my head in disbelief at the world we created through our negligence and wilfulness. On one hand we are suffering through a world wide pandemic and on the other, we are entering into a period of history that is challenging our democratic world.

We are enduring an oppressive and dangerous Covid-19 pandemic. It is been about six months now that we have all had to stay at home, follow the rules of distancing, wearing masks and washing hands often. As if this was not enough, the United States to the south of us is going through a strange period in their history with an election fast approaching in the middle of this pandemic. Right wing extremists are supporting the current leadership and it looks like the stage is being set for more or less a coup in what was once a bastion of democracy. America is not alone because right wing, fascist governments are bullying their way into power all over the world and historically this time resembles the 1930s in Germany, Italy and Spain where modern fascism first appeared.

It is more difficult these days to feel safe and secure and positive about our future. Still, we are lucky that we live in Canada, where we have decent health care, a democratic government and what seems to be a more fair and just society. I watched Prime Minister Justin Trudeau give a speech at a United Nations session recently and I came away happy to be living in this land and with this man representing us. I also have been watching the progress that the New Democratic Party is having in pushing the Liberal minority government to create more fair and just programs for people across this country having to deal with this pandemic. This is not to say that our government is perfect as they still fall short in providing adequate support and services for our First Nations everywhere across Canada. I am also proud of how all of the indigenous leadership is handling this pandemic and making sure the federal and provincial governments are supporting our communities and in particular those that are remote.

Yes, life is restrictive right now and the world looks a little dark as we head into winter but we have to remember just how good we have it compared to 75 percent of the global population living in crowded, destitute developing countries. As bad as we think we have it, we need to remember that life for us is much better. In dealing with both the pandemic and in our fight for democratic freedoms, we have to stay vigilant and aware. It is up to every one of us to push back on hateful, right wing views and anti democratic movements. We need to follow the rules to keep safe in this worsening pandemic. We need to demand that our democracy stays healthy and well for all of us, no matter what race or background we come from.

Just like our ancestors facing another winter, we have to prepare for the coming changes.


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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.