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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Somethings are better left alone

BY Sonny Orr Jul 19, 2019

I wonder sometimes about how we manage our lives and environment. Take, for example, how we treat our wildlife. This may seem to be something that we take for granted, that the earth will rotate as usual, the birds will fly north in the spring, the kids will grow older and outlive us – the way life is supposed to be. But sometimes, it just seems that our world is changing so rapidly that we can’t imagine what the future will be like in a few years just because of the new world we live in is just too compressed and we need to expand our societal views of our little world to accommodate it.

For instance, who would have imagined that the rate of our population growth would be so high that we have to build a new school or daycare every five years or so. For Chisasibi, that means that every year nearly 100 little ones are created, meaning an additional 500 souls would need to be cared for, housed and educated five years down the line. Soon our communities will be dominated by the young, their young parents and the new Elders. Yes, that means guys like me.

In five years, the need for Elders’ care will be first and foremost on many people’s minds, hopefully. In the south, the practice is the old-age home and eventually, being spoon-fed like a baby by a home-care nurse. Oh, my future looks bright, but I’ll try hard to stay away from the bright light tunneling down towards me. No, I’m not dying, but it sure feels that when I do, it will be from a life that had changed so much in my time.

I remember when I had a small dog and my own little sled to get around, when Noomshum had a large team and would get firewood across the great river. Then the skidoo arrived and our lifestyle circled around things that ran on gasoline. Soon the muscles were replaced by horsepower-rated engines and gasoline was around a quarter a gallon. In today’s terms that’s about 6¢ a litre. Today, in Whapmagoostui, it’s two bucks and change per litre. Some things I wish were still the same, like prices. Remember the 5¢ chocolate bar that weighed a half pound?

The years passed by and one of the things I noticed that the amount of work I did became less and less, but as the hourly rate went up, so did the cost of living. You can’t win at everything, but it’s worth trying at least to recapture the old moments when you were alone with the winds, the waves and cold wet air riding a canoe out in the bay. Today, the cold air is increasingly warmer and winters shorter.

Maybe it’s just old age creeping in, but when someone asks me to tell a story from back in the late 1990s, you know the story isn’t going to be about any traditional thing, but about how much cheaper and freer life was. That just gets everyone oohing and aahhing, especially when I say that was before the registration of firearms and you could shoot with only the teaching that your father or another authority figure gave you. Now, the use of the gun also comes with the velocity, the range and penetration power of a multitude of ammunitions. Back in the day, there were three types of bullets – .22s, .33s and shotguns. And don’t forget the slingshots.

Reminiscing of those days just reminds me of when life was simple and complications were handled by parents. Now entire departments and hordes of staff are available to help you figure out what to do in life, that is if you really need someone to tell you who you really are. No, life today is somewhat simpler, not too many issues with finding free monies and handouts. But trying to get back to a self-sufficient lifestyle is harder and making decisions on who will be the doctor, the chief or the lawyer is left up to a guidance counsellor.

I think I made up my mind a long time ago, that I would take the easy life of a writer, using my mind and fingers to get what I want in life.

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.