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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

The summertime blues

BY Sonny Orr Jul 3, 2020

Back in the day, summertime blues meant endless days of sunshine and blue skies, with nothing to pass time with other than running around and playing games with rocks and sticks. The rock was more than just a stone. It was a projectile, slingshot fodder, and a way to fine-tune your throwing skills. The stick, in the meantime, was a hockey stick, a spear, a sword, a gun and – during the Buck Rogers days – a phaser gun, comparable to today’s lightsaber but much more utilitarian. It also doubled as a fishing rod or a bow. The girls had the swings and seesaws and stuff like that. Hopscotch and skipping ropes were common. 

But it wasn’t all fun as the days didn’t go by without chores to do, the most arduous being to fetch water. Chores during summer would be done early as often the days would be too hot for us northerners. Nobody liked working up a sweat hauling bath water. Usually, we would head to the beach and wash up there. The river made life a lot more bearable for everyone. It flowed forever pure and cooled down our summer days. The nouchimi people had mosquito-resilient skin, which hardly or never got bitten.

Today, summertime blues is more often about not having internet access or poor cellphone signals. Or it’s about waiting for your mail order to arrive. 

I like the windy days, except when you live in a dusty town, so going outside is still an option. Today going outside is highly recommended as we comply with the latest rules on how to stay safe and healthy as opposed to staying inside where more chances for disease growth are growing more apparent. So… if Canada is nine million square kilometres and has a population of nearly 38 million, people can each live comfortably and anti-sociably. Why couldn’t we spread out more? Technically, a quarter million people could fit into a square kilometre and still abide by social-distancing rules. Canada’s population actually could fit in under 200 square kilometres, give or take a few rivers and ponds. 

My general reaction to everything in the summer is to go fishing, as the real meaning of summertime blues is to return home empty handed after fishing for a dozen or more hours. I must remind our readers that our people subsisted on fish, a lot of fish. This meant that our ancestors spent a lot of time setting and checking nets, as this is the only real means to catch fish at the same time as doing everything else during the day, like cleaning fish guts and drying and smoking fish. 

It may seem like an idyllic way of catching fish, but when you can’t spend an entire day out fishing, nets are invaluable time savers. Also, you tend to have more bragging rights and can pshaw to anyone who dares question the use of nets versus the rod.

I can say a lot about the good times I had as a kid during summer days. But there is a nightlife that comes with summer fun. Yes, I mean dancing and summer games, today, I guess close-contact dancing is out of the picture. This means that this inconvenient pandemic is still spoiling our short summer season. I guess it will be the summer for singles who are too shy to mingle.

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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.