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Emma Trapper Longchap is the first Cree victim of Covid-19

BY Lachlan Madill May 28, 2020

The Eeyou Istchee is mourning the first loss of a member to the Covid-19 pandemic. Emma Trapper Longchap, 76, passed away May 4 in a Montreal long-term care home from complications related to the virus.  

The Mistissini Elder was a loved and respected member of the community and well known throughout Eeyou Istchee.

Her grandson Freddie Dixon remembers her as a very spiritual person. 

“That was her priority,” he remembered. “She was so joyful because she would do her devotions and her prayers every morning. She prayed for her friends, family and for everything that she would do for the day. She was known as a prayer lady.”

She spent a great deal of time in the bush, Dixon added. “She stayed all over Cree territory, going from trapline to trapline, especially when my grandfather was here.” 

He said that his grandmother was busy all day but still always got up around four in the morning.

One morning ritual for Trapper was to work on moose hides. “That was one of the teachings she passed on to her kids. Almost all her daughters know how to do moose hide now. My mom is using the skills that she learned from her mom,” said Dixon.

He said that his grandmother was very close with her family and especially with her grandchildren. “She had kind words for everyone, and always had the right words.”

Dixon said that some of his fondest memories were her stories and teachings about the language and culture. “She would always explain what happened before, the history,” he emphasized. “It was really important to show an example of how to do things. What I gained from her; I am starting to use it now.”

His grandmother inspired him to attend McGill University to study Cree. Now he wants to compose a booklet about her and her stories. 

“I want to keep the stories that I heard from her because I cannot find them anywhere. But they are in my heart and I want to write them down so the next generation can have them. It’s my turn to pass on the knowledge. That’s where I get my strength every day since her passing.”

Two days before she died, Dixon and other family members were able to speak with Trapper to say their goodbyes. “All of our special memories of her are in our hearts and in her teachings, her knowledge and her joy.” 

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Lachlan Madill is a Saulteaux/Cree journalist from Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan. He has been working as a television, radio and web journalist the past 15 years. Originally from Regina he now lives in Montreal with his wife, daughter, dog and lizard.