To Celebrate And Pause To Remember

Under the Northern Sky

by Xavier Kataquapit

Life is strange and very weird these days during the pandemic. We have had to deal with so much difficult news recently, yet happily wonderful happenings still occur here and there that raise our spirits and give us hope for the future.

My good news comes with the birth of Nabayshish Emmette Wesley who arrived in this world July 21. He arrived with gifts of a tiny pair of moccasins made by his grandmother Janie Wesley who is my sister. This is one lucky little boy as he will be cared for and guided through his life by his mother, my niece Brianna Wesley, my sister Janie and her husband Brian. Indeed he will have a very large family backing him and supporting him throughout his life.

Our new baby is aptly named as Nabayshish which is the James Bay Cree word for ‘boy’. This is a common name in the north and one that Brian’s grandmother preferred for her grandson as she spoke only the Cree language. Thanks to all who assisted Brianna through her birth and once Nabayshish joined our family.

With the happy news of the birth of Nabayshish I am also reminded of the yin and yang of life as one of my elderly friends Judd Zadow passed away recently. When I first came south to live and work as a writer Judd and his wife Betty were one of the first group of people I met who welcomed me into their circle. I was lucky to have enjoyed time with him and Rita and Everett Elliott of Iroquois Falls as we sang Christmas carols around the piano. Even though they were from my circle of non-Native friends, I considered them my Elders on my life journey. Judd was an amazing spinner of yarns and had a very quiet and kind way about him. I will miss him.

The birth and also passing of people has such huge ramifications. On one hand with birth it is the start of a life full of hope and joy. With death it is the passing of someone who has experienced life, developed skills, touched others on the journey and just when wisdom was achieved that chapter ends.

Living and surviving in this world today has its challenges. Things don’t look all that rosy when you consider that we are dealing with critical climate change that is threatening life as we know it on our mother earth. This pandemic reminds us that life is fragile and that we are at the mercy of nature. We can’t forget that we live in a world where powerful competing countries threaten each other with stocks of nuclear weapons that are sufficient to destroy the world many times over.

With the birth of Nabayshish we are looking towards a future with hope. Perhaps he will play a role in making this world a little better, more safe and more just. We can be thankful for people like Judd and so many of our elders who are passing now for their efforts in making our world more kind, more open and more safe. We the living are like voyeurs watching and witnessing the magical ebb and flow of life and death. Nothing stays the same for long. We seem to be at such a crossroads in history once again. There are right wing fascist movements sprouting up all over our world and that is scary. This is driven by powerful, wealthy groups that are not at all interested in any type of true democracy. They are not interested in the sharing of wealth and benefiting the people of this planet.

I am excited that new births like Nabayshish will have the opportunity to work with many to move our civilization in a good direction and with the powerful foundation of our indigenous ancestors. I am thankful for the good life lived by my friend Judd who in his way and in his time contributed to a better world in his corner of the planet.

It is up to us to make sure Nabayshish gets all the support he needs to make a difference in his home of Attawapiskat, his province of Ontario, his country of Canada and his world we call Mother Earth. It is also up to us to remember good people like Judd and so many more that have gone before us in blazing a trail of goodness and hope.

The world will always be a troubled place but hope is always renewed in the memory of people like Judd and the birth of bright new spirits like Nabayshish.

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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.