Under the Northern Sky – Back To The Land And Around The Fire

Under the Northern Sky

by Xavier Kataquapit

ATTAWAPISKAT –  Here we are all getting ready for Christmas and a new year. Most of us would have thought that we might be through with this Covid19 pandemic but that is sadly not the case. We are seeing a rise in numbers all across the country and although the vaccines have protected us to a great degree new variants are making things difficult. Combine that with the fact our vaccines are waning in strength after many months and a lot of double vaccinated people are getting sick. The important thing to remember is that most of those who are vaccinated are not getting very sick, not ending up in hospitals, intensive care units or dying. That is a very big deal.

Still we have to deal with this pandemic and according to most experts vaccines will not be solving it anytime soon on a global basis. Yet, as more people get vaccinated we will be able to manage things so that we can move back to a new normal that will allow us dine in restaurants, go to the movies, visit family and friends and even travel domestically and perhaps internationally. The biggest strategy we will always rely on is to wear masks, keep two meters from others, stay home if we have flu or cold symptoms and wash hands often.

My partner has a lung disease and is very vulnerable to getting pneumonia so he can’t get Covid-19 or even any flus or colds. By following the rules for the pandemic he has not had any flus or colds with resulting pneumonia for three years. Neither one of us has been sick so obviously we know that following the rules and protocols to stay safe from Covid19 has in fact helped us stay healthy. So far Covid19 in Canada has killed almost 30,000 people and in Ontario alone that number is almost 10,000. Even the flu is reported to kill abut 3,500 people in Canada every year. This is why I encourage people to get a flu shot every year.

Indigenous people are very vulnerable to getting sick from Covid-19, flus, colds and all kinds of infections because of the cramped living conditions, poor housing quality, negative health diets, limited access to medical services in semi and remote First Nations and far spread mental health conditions as well as addictions. Many people living on First Nations are also impoverished.

The realities of these facts are somewhat depressing however some good things have come out of this challenging Covid19 pandemic. For example we all now have a great respect for the power of the virus, the danger of disease, flus and colds and more appreciation of what we need to do to stay safe and healthy. Everyone is also realizing that we have to follow the directions of world wide experts in epidemiology and virology and medicine in general to stay safe. We have had to be creative to figure out how to see our family and friends in safe ways over the past couple of years and that has meant some sacrifice but we have all managed to a great degree.

One of my solutions to getting together safely with people has been to meet on the land around a fire. I have been doing this for some time now in the warmer and colder months and it has proven to be very successful. This has taken us out of the house and onto the land often near lakes or rivers and with the comfort of relaxing chairs and appropriate clothing. We have enjoyed roasting marshmallows, hot dogs and bannock around a fire. I have laughed so much at the antics of those around the fire and I have also been educated and moved by the stories I have heard from the young and Elders alike. Under the sky at night I have picked up on my friend Don’s passion for astrophotography and the wonder at being able to stare far into the universe with all its galaxies. We are able to socialize safely, meet in our natural environment on the land and connect without the influence of television, the internet, electronic devices, social media and developing virtual realities.

We are kinder, more tolerant, benevolent with our time for others and connected to Mother Earth and each other as we sit in the soft, flickering glow of a friendly fire. This has been one of the few benefits I have discovered through this Covid19 pandemic. In a way I feel that Mother Earth has beckoned us to come and join her to reconnect with what is really meaningful and valuable in our lives amidst this terrible pandemic. I am thankful for that.

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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.