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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Here comes the rain again

BY Xavier Kataquapit Jul 3, 2020

It is raining. It will be raining most of this week and that puts my plans on hold as Mother Earth reminds me that my notions don’t mean much in the big picture. At times I feel helpless amid this Covid-19 pandemic, and a few rainy days in a row really drives home the fact that nature rules all. 

No matter how smart or powerful we think we are, we are at the mercy of Mother Earth. As human beings we have come to understand much of what life and the universe is all about. Scientists tell us we are just a tiny bit of time in the grand picture of existence. Amazingly, we have come to a point where we have a wealth of knowledge and the capacity to do many things, yet we are on a destructive path. We have fallen into a system that allows a few wealthy billionaires to control almost all the wealth on this planet. This pandemic has reminded us that there should be a better way.  

Luckily, every now and then someone comes along who makes us think about what the real purpose of life might be. People like Carl Sagan, John F. Kennedy, Victor Hugo, Martin Luther King and Leonardo Da Vinci arrive on this good earth and in their short lives make us all think. By raising us up with their insight they in fact count for change in the direction of humanity. 

These special, good-natured and wise people are all around us. They live and work in our own communities. We all know a special person who is kind, wise and positive and many of us have been lucky enough to be able to turn to these people for strength, guidance and hope. 

In Attawapiskat recently, we lost one such special Elder by the name of John Mattinas. He lived to be 95 years of age. When I last saw him back home years ago, he was aged and feeble but still had a strong spirit and the kindness burned brightly in his eyes. John grew up on the land and held so many cultural teachings that centred on kindness, openness and love. He had so much traditional knowledge and curiosity and wonder kept him current. He was also worldly beyond his location in life. He was open to new ideas, he wanted young people to understand who they were and where they came from and, most importantly, he wanted them to heal and move on in life to do good things. 

John supported traditional learning and encouraged young people to deal with drug and alcohol addictions. He was a quiet, powerful figure in my community and his advice and actions helped many discover a more peaceful and sober life.  

John was always happy to meet with anyone and he had the gift of making everyone who came to visit him feel important. He was a good listener and could identify very quickly where a person was coming from. When he talked with someone, they knew they were being heard. He cared so much for Attawapiskat and for his family, friends and neighbours.  

John never rose to the prominence of those famous people I admire on the world stage through history, but he was indeed one of them in nature. Many of us who encountered him benefited from his wise words and unconditional love for his fellow humans.  

Today, with the rain drumming on my roof I give thanks for having had the opportunity to spend a little time in the presence of a bright light and beacon of hope who now shines on in many memories. Those memories carry many of us down a better path and hopefully we will pay his good nature forward. Meegwetch John Mattinas for being there for so many and know that you are well loved and will be missed.

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Xavier Kataquapit is Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast. He is a writer and columnist who has written about his life and Indigenous issues since 1998.