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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Back to the grind

BY Sonny Orr Aug 30, 2019

The alarm goes off at 7am and we all get up slowly, except for the kids, who are excited about getting back to school and learning things. It’s a great day to go to school and the bus driver is the most exciting person to see first thing in the morning.

At the school, there’s the prospect of seeing faces that have changed over the short season we call summer and maybe a new teacher or two. It’s always fun to test rookie teachers’ patience for the first few days, to see who makes the cut and lasts the first hours of school.

As a student a very long time ago, we had a new teacher who only lasted a few days. The harsh fall weather didn’t suit him, as he was from near the equator and plus-20 was a shade too cold. We wondered how he would fare once winter settled in, but he returned to his native Egypt to bask in the sun’s eternal light. Apparently, it doesn’t snow much there.

Back in the day, school started in September, mainly because we didn’t get so many breaks for going out on the land, as it is today. In many ways, I wish that we could’ve had that right to exercise. In fact, those rights we have today to do the Cree way-of-life were non-existent. I much prefer today’s system where we don’t have to see our children snatched away, then return older and not much wiser, except in the southern ways.

In many ways, we have it much better and we should thank our leaders for all of those deals we had to make to get this far. It’s something to think about and to compare our lives of the past to see that the changes we created are working. Maybe not at the pace we would like it, but it’s progress nevertheless.

One thing that we can be thankful for is that we do what we do and we do it well. We all have our growing pains and hunger pangs, and this tends to spill out as some sort of disgruntled movement, but our children are the results of all those efforts. The kids can stay home and live with their parents and go to school just like any other child in the rest of the country. These kids will be the foundation and somehow, I feel that the foundation could get a little shaky but really just needs some reinforcement of values and traditions that underpin our lives as Eeyouch.

Recently, I had the opportunity to extend those values to university students who learn eagerly and quickly. To pass the message that our life has some value and that value can be shared, easily. We don’t always have to share our natural resources to get respect from other cultures. I’m hoping that those simple values will stick to those educated people and gain some sort of reconciliation through sharing. Just because we were dealt the blunt end of a stick on other values, that we thankfully learned to maintain our identity. In many ways, we learned the hard way. But if this wasn’t done in the past, it might be a different story today.

For example, would our water systems even work? Would our children still have to leave us to learn another way of life? Would we be in control of our own destiny?

The past is past, and we just have to continue growing and living with the scars that remind us not to walk down the road that was made for others. Education is the key and the kids are the engine that will turn them on, once we make that key work for our own inhibited ways. One day, the door will be open all the time and the need for keys won’t be as great. As for me, education never stops, I learn something new every day.

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.