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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ


BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Aug 3, 2022

I spent most of July in the Arctic, away from the heatwaves. I’ve been waking up to foggy mornings along the Hudson Bay coast and falling asleep to gloaming midnight skies. 

I was looking forward to getting back here, especially after the Cree, Inuit and Naskapi peoples renewed their collaborative relationship through a memorandum of understanding back in April.

I love that I experience Nunavik in a genuine way as an allak, which translates to “writing”. Inuit use that word to describe Crees because we adopted the syllabics system before they did. 

Introducing myself as allak sets me apart from non-Natives. It situates me in a different socio-historical context, and it usually shows in the way people interact with me. People here are always eager to show me around and share stories around a traditional meal.

Even though we’re under the same treaty, my beneficiary number doesn’t apply to the airlines in Nunavik, and vice-versa. Expensive flights get in the way when we try to build significant relationships between our communities. I want my Cree kin to see the beauty of this land and meet the people who mastered the art of occupying it. Most importantly, I wish I could show my community to the Inuit who welcomed me into their home during the past few years.

I have always naturally supported the Inuit struggle for self-determination and a better quality of life. But spending time in Nunavik made me realize how important it is to broadcast their voices. Without minimizing the challenges that I face at home, my life in Waswanipi seems comfortable compared to what Inuit go through every day. 

In Waswanipi, I don’t have to plan my tasks according to the amount of water I have in my tank or if my sewage has been picked up or not. For several days in Inukjuak, the town was out of diesel while waiting for the fuel boat to arrive. Both the water and sewage trucks were broken so people couldn’t shower, do laundry, or even flush. Right now, there is one water truck for the whole community. 

Stories like these are common up North. That’s why I think it’s our responsibility support and amplify Inuit voices in their fight for human rights.

Through this MOU, I hope we create more opportunities for both of our nations to work together and join our efforts against oppressive systems. I also hope we find easier ways to connect on a regular basis, because it always breaks my heart not knowing when I’ll see my Inuit friends again. 

Every time they take me out on the land, the first thought that comes to my mind is: “I wish my community could see what I’m seeing.”

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.