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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Surviving in changing times

BY Sonny Orr Aug 3, 2022

My skin feels like it’s going to burn as I weave from shadow to shadow, dodging the sun’s harmful rays and avoiding burning exposed flesh that hasn’t seen the sun since last summer. It was a cold summer start and then a blast from a solar flare touched down on earth, making everyone head to the beach. 

After a quick look at online media à, it’s clear that summer has finally arrived in Eeyou Istchee. Aside from the fires out west, the skies red from the setting sun, there is some beauty to savour for those not affected by the flames of forests that plague the North.

Aside from the intense heat, at least for the last few days, the welcoming night leaves little room for comfort as air conditioning units blast frigid air into our hotel room, making for extremes in temperatures that our Northern bodies feel that winter is indeed a good season. There is no satisfying everyone when it comes to summer or winter climes.

Travel is on the rise, as flight schedules try to keep up with everyone’s need to escape small-town woes and head south where prices comfort our wallets and purses. But fuel costs greatly offset those savings as the economy teeters on the edge of recession, a nasty word for businesspeople and customers alike.

As I near my business destination, it’s back to the corporate world of making decisions to improve our growing economy. I think back to the days when life was simpler and the decisions that needed to be made were whether to spend hard-earned interest dollars from our collective investment fund on creating wealth or covering expenses. As it turned out, we could afford both.

Today, with interest rates hovering around 2%, much lower than inflation, the monies that we depended on to carry us through recessions are dwindling. Now, investing in our future depends on whether some country on the other side of the world has a good day or not.

The cost of living used to be offset by our traditional activities – hunting, fishing and trapping. Now these are also affected by the amount of money we need to fill the tank of our snowmobile, ATV, outboard motor and vehicle. 

Today, as I drive south, my need to get to my destination in record time is replaced by the need to make it as far as possible with that full tank of 87 octane. I happen to own a diesel vehicle, a heavy duty 350, which costs $350 to fill up. So, my truck waits for some surplus in my bank account before it sees much of the road. I think I’ll use my ATV, with its 500cc engine, that I can fill for about $40 – it makes more sense.

As it turns out, driving slower than usual to save money saved our lives when a young moose loomed out of the dark and into my headlights. Reacting by reflex, I swerved out of the way, thankful that no vehicle was coming my way on that side of the highway. A minute later, my adrenaline kicked in as I realized that the moose and I could have met our makers way too early. I rubbed my weary eyes and carried on with sweaty palms and a more alert frame of mind and made it to our destination intact.

At my meeting, we wonder when this threat to our economy will become something that we cannot comfortably live with. The future seems uncertain. But we carry on with the need to grow our economy and contribute to our overall wellbeing by creating jobs and businesses. 

Maybe one day we will think back and say to ourselves that moderation is the key to development and risky business ideas will have to wait until we can afford to lose a little. So, be stringent with your money people, as it may be the only way to survive.

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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.