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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Catching the spirit

BY Will Nicholls Sep 11, 2020

Many of us are watching more television now due to Covid-induced inactivity. Personally, I am often disappointed in the programming that regular broadcast stations offer these days. Most fictional series recycle ideas we’ve seen too many times, only with changes in the cast and settings. I haven’t even watched much of the NHL playoffs. Hockey in the summer just seems like a money grab rather than what the sport means to all of us. We always like to share in the experience but can’t.

I’ve started watching reality shows such as, How’s It’s Made. I try to get my kids interested in it. They like some and hate others. Another is Forged in Fire, a show about making knives and other implements. I’ve made my own knives and even a sword. The sword lost 4-5 inches after I bashed it on a post. Guess my heat treat wasn’t up to par. 

I still enjoy Jeopardy to test my knowledge while learning a few things.

But most time is spent surfing channels fruitlessly searching for something enjoyable or meaningful. On September 1, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the Discovery Channel show, Chasing Monsters, a fishing show. To my delight, the episode followed host Cyril Chauquat as he trolled for monster pike in Mistassini Lake. I called my brother Donald in Mistissini to tell him about it. He changed the channel to Discovery and our dad sat down with him to enjoy the show as I watched in Montreal.

Like many Cree stuck in the south, I miss being on the land, or in this case, on the lake. For an hour this episode brought me right back home. Other fishing shows have featured Mistassini Lake. Hell, Bob Iszumi broke a few world records there. While it was nice to see the lake and the fishing in them, they didn’t touch me in the way Chasing Monsters did.

First, most shows tend to make the guide secondary and only give them a small part at best. Chauquat, however, made legendary guide Stanley Mianscum a real part of the show. Mianscum even teased him at one point, offering to toss in a line himself during a dry spell. It wouldn’t be the only time that happened. Chauquat enjoyed the back and forth with Mianscum. He presented an openness that showed he was not only there for the fishing but to learn about the Cree.

It is nothing new for us to share the Cree way of life with others. This is something that is needed if we are ever to protect the land and our bond with it. It is easy to fear or ignore the problems of strangers. Mianscum was more than a fishing guide, he was a Cree who showed that we befriend outsiders and show them who we are. Chauquat presented that side of us. No doubt we’ll eventually get some tourism business from the episode. More importantly, we’ll be seen as people who others would like to know, not only as a militant people holding back the march of progress.

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Will Nicholls is a Cree from Mistissini. He started his career off in radio and is still one of the youngest radio DJ’s in Canadian history, having a regular show on CFS Moosonee at the age of 12. Will was one of the founding members of the Nation, and has been its only Editor-in-Chief.