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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

Where the waters flow

BY Sonny Orr May 10, 2019

My mother paddled her way to the nursing station that late spring back in 1959. Fort George Island was at the mercy of a large ice dam that had blocked the river from flowing out into Hudson Bay and had flooded the island. The only way to get around was to paddle from house to house. This concerned a lot of people and the only way to get it fixed was to blow the ice with dynamite. This was a major event, and one fraught with danger.

The person responsible for this explosive activity had to be pretty brave, because trotting around unstable ice flows with enough explosive to get an expedited way to heaven made for high excitement. Unfortunately, the dynamite didn’t blow up enough of the ice the first time around, so the second attempt made it even more dangerous. The tactic worked, however – after a loud boom the ice slowly worked its way out of the natural dam. Later on, the hottest summer of those days burnt the ice and snow away into a vapid memory.

Way before that, the people of Moose Factory faced the same dilemma when the water rose so high that the church floated away, only to be rescued by the folks who roped the runaway temple and pulled back to its present location. Yes, floods are something we all deal with in spring. Many communities face the annual brunt of nature’s swift-running waters and slow-moving politicians, who get little done except for posing for photo ops with the poor people losing their homes.

Today, it seems that humanity has difficulty understanding that water settles at the lowest point of land. Which means that we should build near rivers, creeks, or low-lying beachfront. Also, try to let the beavers build the dams and let us trap them when they do flood the highways and farm lands.

But seriously, floods do cause a lot of grief, anguish and loss. I can sympathize with those affected by floods. My late father had a scenic piece of land – great for boating and fishing – but in the spring, the waters would rise. Today, as I search the net for news of other areas, I notice that a nice place where we would stop to eat was caught up in rapids! The old cottage where we would visit my dad was sadly hit with the largest flood since who knows when.

Ironically, we face the possibility of flooding on a regular basis, sitting behind one of the world’s largest earth dams, and this must create some anxiety for the people of Chisasibi. I’m hoping that, when the time comes – which I hope will be never – we will have found a better way to create energy to feed the south. Unknowingly, the geese still fly north, and this spring might just be a doozy for all those who prefer to worry about other things besides getting wet, like cooking geese in a teepee. Need I say more?

Oh yeah, wear floating apparel, wear lifejackets, don’t go places that seem inviting and stay off the ice when it looks bad! And don’t forget, skidoos don’t float! Enjoy your goose break!

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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.