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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Getting Elderlish

BY Will Nicholls Sep 26, 2023

Given the life expectancy in times past I might once have already been considered an Elder. Not so these days. But a few years back Matthew Coon Come said he met a people that had a category called junior Elders. Maybe I qualify for that category.

After all, I am getting a little older. I really felt that when my back went out and I had to spend a few days in bed wishing I was a lot younger. In my youth I thought that I would never feel this way. Hell, we all thought we were invulnerable and would last forever. Sadly, we were – and are – mistaken.

Those days of climbing trees just for the fun of it are over. Remember seeing how high up you could jump from? I remember it now by watching my sons and their friends. Rolling down a hill doesn’t quite work out the way it used to do. Skipping along on a walk draws weird stares instead of the smiles that children get. As a result, flexibility decreases unless you take up yoga or something similar. Exercising falls by the wayside in most cases, and in some can contribute to other ailments. 

We need to change that. I remember when we had a punching bag at the office. At first, I couldn’t use my full strength as I could feel it hurting my bones. So, at the advice of a boxer, I slowed down and hit it with lesser force and gradually built up the density in the bones. It worked and taught me a lesson about slowly getting up to the speed you want to be at. After not using certain parts of your body, they aren’t as capable as they were in the past, but it can be regained. 

Some of us never lose it. I recently watched a Jackie Chan movie that brought that home to me. Here’s a guy who’s 69 and is in better shape than I have ever been in my entire life. The moves he made were unreal… at least to me. It gives me hope that if I can get my act together, I might be able to make a comeback. Well, not up to the Jackie Chan level, but better than what I’m doing now. 

Hell, we’ve all heard about some Cree whose diabetes has gone into remission, meaning their blood sugar levels have returned to normal. That’s a result of diet and exercise with maybe a few bits of medicine tossed in. Apparently, 150 minutes a week (2.5 hours) of exercise like swimming, biking and brisk walking can make a difference. Who knew without checking websites and trusted medical practitioners? 

Of course, one of the signs of getting on in years (which can start at any age) is the passing on of stories, advice and family history to younger people. As with many Cree in my generation I find it fun to let the youngsters know how it was. 

Like telling them about growing up without electricity, running water, a road into the community, phones – not to mention the internet or television. It’s no joke that we used yokes to haul pails of water and chopped wood to cook and heat our homes. It’s kind of fun when they look at you like you’re a fossil from the past come alive. 

I usually smile and think of grandparents telling their grandkids about walking to school in minus 40-degree weather and hearing the wood on the boardwalk crack under their feet because of the cold. Wait! That was me. 

I guess I’ll follow in my late father’s footsteps and take off a year with each birthday rather than adding one. After all, I’m only a junior Elder and am still learning about this thing called wisdom.

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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.