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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

The end of fall

BY Sonny Orr Oct 27, 2022

Our pan is filled with fatty caribou meat, all diced up and waiting to boil. It’s a dangerous concoction, as stories are told of someone who choked on the thick liquid fat after sipping a cold drink. This meat is so rich, you need hot water to wash the fat down your throat, so it doesn’t gel and get stuck, causing asphyxiation and possible death. So, make sure to have a hot tea or drink in hand.

The meats simmer slowly to draw out as much fat as possible without overcooking it. My job is to make sure it doesn’t burn. I check and everything looks hunky dory. Perhaps it’s not my day to suffocate as I prepare some hot tea, just in case.

As I wait for this gracious gift from a good family friend to be ready to eat, I think back to the times when caribou were scarce, just as the rabbit and ptarmigan were for many years. I figure they just walked, hopped or flew elsewhere where food was more abundant and now that those lands are used up, it’s our turn again. The rare muskox has shown up a few times this year, rambling along like a sombre cow, chewing its cud of willow leaves, something that’s harder to find in its taiga homeland.

Further north, the snow goose seems to hang out longer than usual and the locals are a little tired of the same diet and wish they would head south for us hungry folks to harvest. Hopefully, those geese will make a pit stop here before heading down to the St. Lawrence Seaway and eventually Texas.

As for the other animals, it seems that a lot of fat is being accumulated and this might not be good news for us hairless humans. When an animal stocks up, it means something to them. I’m pretty sure they’re not fattening up so we can harvest and eat them. Perhaps if we look to the past and our cultural knowledge, we could safely say that a cold, hard winter is coming and better stock up on everything, especially those fat animals. 

Today, it would be a warning, like change your tires and check your antifreeze, make sure that those wipers are good and that the blinker fluid is winter rated. Have a flare handy just in case you need to start a blaze in the middle of the road during the worst winter storm ever.

So much for good news, it just might mean that I could be terribly wrong and Indian summer is just taking its time, so no real need to put those tire chains on yet. Many times, the best meteorologist’s name has blown out the window when showers were called, and everyone stayed inside on the sunniest day of the month. It could be that the forecasters have just got it down in simulations that there’s a glitch in the weather matrix and they haven’t bothered looking out the window.

As for me, it’s only a matter of time before my tires sprout studs. I’m not even sure if they’re legal in la belle province – if not, they should be. The same with heated windshield wipers and most of all, batteries that thrive in the cold. If that was possible, then the North would be conquered once and for all, at least where there’s a road. Where there’s no road, there is the good old unreliable snowmobiles of today. New machines need technicians and computer programming skills, back in the day, we simply relied on snare wire.

Whether the weather turns out good or not, it’s always safe to blame Mother Nature when things go south, like with hurricanes and tornadoes. We don’t have too many volcanoes to worry about, but if Iceland turns into the world’s biggest hot tub, we could be in for a surprise. Otherwise, enjoy nature people, enjoy.

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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.