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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Goose Break blues

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash May 22, 2021

Huge flocks of geese are flying above the community. I’m fond of Goose Break. I love seeing people enjoying quality time with their relatives in the bush.

Goose Break is not always a consistent thing for me. My late grandmother became a widow in the late 1970s and had to raise her children on her own. That meant I never had a Cree grandfather to take me out on the land and to teach me bush skills. On top of that, my father was in politics for decades and that left very little time for him to show me how to harvest game. I spent my summers in Assinica with my mom, my maternal grandfather and some skilled trappers like Billy Voyageur, but we were only fishing.

I still rely on uncles, cousins or friends to show me the ways, when they’re available. I find it so great that many of you have that full Goose Break experience with your entire family for weeks. I never had that and it’s something that still saddens me at times.

I was cruising around with my cousin and saw teenagers hanging out in the streets and I said: “They’re missing out not being with their family right now.” I understand it though. At that age, I was sometimes reluctant to go spend the summer out there. I just hope they grow up knowing how lucky they are to have the opportunity to be in the bush.

Despite all of this, I’m grateful people invite me to their camp and let me tag along on hunting trips. It means a lot to me. That’s what I love about Waswanipi; people are generous of their knowledge and their time with youth in complicated situations like mine. My uncle Red and my cousins often go out of their way to make sure I spend time out there and I enjoy every single moment when those opportunities come.

My cat and I were watching geese flying from our patio this morning. Fortunately, I’ll get to go harvest for a couple of days. It’s only a few days, but as my grandfather says in la langue de Molière: “C’est mieux qu’une claque sur la gueule.” I’m going to let you translate this on your own.

I’m extending my respect to all of you who “adopted” a youth for Goose Break to give them a chance to live and reclaim their culture. You are doing important work that often goes unrecognized. I also hope everyone had a safe and bountiful harvest.

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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.