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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Peaceful feelings

BY Will Nicholls Jun 2, 2023

As many have said before – home is where the heart is. However, it’s hard at times to know where the heart is. 

Recently, I traveled with my mom from Ottawa to Chibougamau. A place opened for her at a care home that’s located across from the hospital. Many of the residents at the home in Ottawa were sad she was leaving. But they were also happy she would be living in a place so close to her home, a mere 90 kilometres away compared to the 12-hour drive to her previous residence.

I understand their feelings as my mother has always been a special person. Her personality caused my high school friends to call her mom because of the way she treated them. She easily made friends everywhere she went throughout her life. She is happy in her new place as her cousin John Matoush and other Cree are residents there.

I escorted her from Ottawa to her new home. My brother Don packed up her belongings and brought them there. While he was doing that, I took the time to return to Mistissini and try to do a little hunting. Like many hunters it was not a good year as climate change saw ice disappearing, so geese were not landing in the usual spots.

Still, just sitting the blind was a time of peace and relaxation. It was also a time of connection. A connection to the land and ultimately to myself that I fully felt. Home is where the heart is, and I understood that for the first time in a long time. 

The mental effects and stress of Covid and the isolation have been a problem for many, and I am no stranger to them. Being in my true home was a moment of peace that I and others need these days. It’s not to say that my heart isn’t in Montreal with my two sons, but Mistissini has always been a place I loved.

I saw friends from the past, many who were happy to see I was among the living, and said they were surprised, in some cases even laughed. But all welcomed me with open arms. I met members of my extended family who I hadn’t encountered before. My family is huge so that wasn’t surprising, but it was welcome, nevertheless. 

My nephew Darren and I visited my mom for Mother’s Day to see how she was. She was happy. Darren later gave me some Walleye, which I cooked. A bit of teamwork that made my mother happy even as she shared with the other Cree residents to their delight.

Knowing where you come from is a special feeling that may be hard to explain but one that everyone knows anyhow if they are as lucky as I am. Just sitting on the deck looking outside of the home my parents built satisfied my sense of belonging, being and home. Memories inundated my soul with sadness, happiness and love more than I can ever hope to express.

My thanks to my uncles, aunts, cousins and nephew for all their love and help in making my return an experience that showed me that where the heart is a home and a real thing. 

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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.