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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Time keeps on slipping

BY Xavier Kataquapit Apr 16, 2024

I have learned a few things after almost five decades on this earth. One of them is to live in the moment. Ever since my partner suffered from a lung disease, I am more aware of how important it is to savour life, to be kind as possible and to find joy in your work. It’s not always easy, but I find it leads to a happier existence.

My parents worked very hard all their lives. They dealt with the effects of colonization – residential school horrors, racism, few opportunities for work and precarious living conditions. They took comfort in their children and grandchildren, but rarely had the time, money or opportunity to travel. They were still working when they became older and began caring for grandchildren. They were most happy when surrounded by family.

One summer years ago, my partner and I took my parents on a cross-Canada car adventure to the west coast and back. They were very happy to travel slowly along the highway as they pointed out many Cree names of lakes and rivers along the way. I hadn’t realized how much Indigenous people have left their mark on so many places across Canada. It felt good seeing how this bolstered the treaties we made with our colonizers.

Mom and dad entertained us with stories of our ancestors and the culture, traditions and the land. They were awed by the towns, cities and landmarks we passed on our way. As we drove closer to the majestic Rocky Mountains, they realized one of their dreams. What first looked in the distance like clouds on the horizon morphed into beautiful and powerful giants of the land. 

Reflecting on that road trip and the travels I’ve enjoyed around the world I’m reminded how important it is to realize that we will all eventually pass away. We need to consider pausing work and routine to visit this beautiful Mother Earth. We need to witness our planet’s beauty to truly understand why we need to protect it.

In travelling, we discover other cultures and lands. This educates us that people are the same everywhere we go. We all want the same things: peace and decent lives with enough food, water and shelter for our family and friends. And we want to understand each other to minimize conflicts with other peoples. 

With wars raging in Gaza and Ukraine, we need to realize there is history behind these events. Most of it has to do with lust for power, resources and domination. That lust comes from governments, corporations and the extremely wealthy few who never send their children to fight in wars. 

I know from experience that we all want peace, to provide for our families and friends and to care for our planet. We hope future generations can live and thrive without conflict, in healthy environments of clean air and water. 

Look deeper into the conflicts we are involved in. Look at the history of the governments involved. If you can manage it, make friends from different cultures to understand that we really are all the same. 

Don’t wait for retirement to travel when your brain is slower and your muscles weaker. Do it as soon as you can. Get out there while you are young. Time keeps on slipping.

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Xavier Kataquapit is Cree from Attawapiskat First Nation on the James Bay coast. He is a writer and columnist who has written about his life and Indigenous issues since 1998.