Letter from a Cree Trapper: Nature Is Our Refuge from Covid-19

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Cree trapper on Covid-19
Cree trapper Robert Grandjambe Jr. shares his views about Covid-19. If you are in the fur trade and want to tell us how the pandemic is affecting you, please email us at [email protected].
                                                                            

Like everyone, I first learned of the new coronavirus through the news. And like everyone, I didn’t think it was too serious at the time. It seemed like it would be pretty easily contained and was just passing news. When a few of our contracts were cancelled due to the virus, now being called Covid-19, my girlfriend and I made a decision to return to the bush. At that point, the growing concern still didn’t seem to me to be something to worry too much about, but rather was another opportunity to spend time on the Land.

Since we have been out here, events continued to be cancelled, and the gravity of the situation has begun to set in. There is limited cell service at my cabin, and so while we are getting the odd update, we are not connected to the common news reel. I am now realizing that most of the entire world has watched and listened as the situation unfolded into a global pandemic, and the threat to civilization it has become.

The Covid-19 outbreak seems like a symptom of a world that is not in harmony with the Land. … Climate change, pollution, and other environmental signs shout out that our systems are in trouble.

I think the world is awakening to the crisis now, but in many ways it has been with us for a long while. The Covid-19 outbreak seems like a symptom of a world that is not in harmony with the Land, and it is a tragedy to hear of all the lives lost. Climate change, pollution, and other environmental signs shout out that our systems are in trouble. 

SEE ALSO: “Trapping is beautiful” says proud Cree Robert Grandjambe. Truth About Fur interview.

Resetting Priorities

“I feel the importance of living in harmony with the Land every day.”

Clearly, we need a reset of our priorities, and there are some signs we may be ready for the wake-up. Just a month ago, big business was looking at the Teck Frontier mine as the big new opportunity. The last-minute cancellation rang the bell for the reorganization of the collective priorities of society. Now, we are hearing of the price of oil plummeting, and feeling the effects of the fragility of an economy that is not diversified, sustainable, or renewable. Governments, big business, and industry are not in reciprocal relationships with people or with the Land.

Despite all of this, as a man living with the Land, I maintain a sense of prosperity. I am confident that regardless of what happens with Covid-19, because of my skills and knowledge, I will always survive and thrive. I remain optimistic that the worst of the disease will be contained, and the pandemic can be the awakening that humanity needs – hopefully without being too damaging for our families and communities.

Fact is, I am one of the ones left who is able to maintain my ancestral relationship with this Land, that is now called Wood Buffalo National Park. As Indigenous peoples, this was our home. This was where our ancestors walked, harvested, ate, shared, struggled, loved, and died. We were here long before it was ever a park. Our ancestors lived out here in large numbers, and their absence now is not their fault, nor is it the fault of any other Nation with traditional ties to this area. We have had to deal with a long and deliberate system of oppression. It is this same system of severing ties with the Land that has our world in so much crisis today.

Personally, I feel the importance of living in harmony with the Land every day we are here. I always have felt this way. It is incredibly important to maintain a relationship with the Land. There is no place I would rather be. It feels extra comforting to be here during a crisis like this. We are taken care of by the bounty of the Land – hunting, trapping, fresh water, and air. I feel enormous comfort in knowing that the Land and our ancestors will care for our health – physically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.

Better Model of Governance?

Woodland Buffalo National Park
Wood Buffalo National Park. “This was where our ancestors walked, harvested, ate, shared, struggled, loved, and died. We were here long before it was ever a park.” Photo: Ansgar Walk / CC BY-SA.

It has not been easy. I have to work hard and consciously to maintain the connection for myself. For example, I have fought for five years to have a harvesting cabin at nearby Pine Lake, only 100 kilometers from the cabin where I am now. Today, I am still fighting rules and regulations that fail to respect the inherent rights of Indigenous systems that are deeply connected with Lands, and with the sacredness of our old relationships. This oppression comes directly from a Western system that has caused division – between Peoples and Nations, and also between each of us and our Lands. In this time of crisis, maybe we will begin to see the consequences of these Western systems of governance and control, and we can move forward to a better model. One that is healthier for us all – both here in the park, and indeed, across all the Lands in Canada.

The Land always has the final say, and we are being reminded of that.

Indigenous peoples have to come together, to be strong, and to share these strengths for our existence moving forward. We need to be creative and find ways to share our knowledge. Indigenous peoples know the value of the Land and have always shared it willingly. We are resilient, and continue to be through colonization and all the imposed concepts of ownership that attempt to destroy our connection with our Lands. This is where I feel my strength – through resilience – and I will continue to develop ways to share, despite what happens in the world around me.

Today, we are at Moose Island in the boreal forest, and we are content. We are also sending love and healing to everyone going through this uncertain time in their own ways. I want to encourage you, if you can, to take the opportunity to get on the Land, wherever you are. It is important to take care of our own hearts and spirits at this time – and I truly believe our connections with Nature are a big part of the solution moving forward. The Land always has the final say, and we are being reminded of that.

SEE ALSO: New priorities? Fur in a time of coronavirus. By Simon Ward, editor, Truth About Fur.

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5 Comments

  • It appears to me that trapping can be an honorable, admirable way of life. When you take a wild animal to feed and clothe your family, you are partaking in a lifestyle that existed before the dawn of time. There is no right or wrong in it, when abiding laws and using modern traps. Also, there are good things to say about collecting pelts to sell and trade to other families that can’t do for themselves. Wild animals need (or can be) managed, and your family needs supplies that only money can buy. Unfortunately, greed nearly wiped out American wildlife, and now it’s gotten so commercialized. It’s beyond the pale. We’ve taken something that used to be wholesome and natural, and turned it into something most decidedly unnatural. I admire someone who lives in a place where you can still harvest, process and survive on wild caught fur and not look out of place, but those places have largely disappeared in our country. Fur is grown indoors now, and sold (often overseas) to people who don’t need it. I don’t believe it’s as ecologically friendly as they say, and the economic gains seem rather self-serving. I mean, somebody makes their living manufacturing cages and medicine to keep the animals productive, but that might not be the best thing in the world. Most of the fur “industry” just isn’t worth defending. However, the old world lifestyle can still be righteous. This website likes to lump it all together, I don’t see it that way. Hopefully someday, when the farms go under (or converted into something more beneficial) there should still be a market for wild fur, assuming it’s kept respectable, sold for warmth, and preferably kept local and traditional.

  • Greed and the need to dominate and control not only other people’s, but also the Earth, has in itself been a pandemic since early human mankind. The Earth can and will only give so much. Extinction of strains of Salmon, Steelhead, the American Bison, plus many, many more species just to satisfy man’s need for wealth and comfort will ultimately be the end of life as we know it. Amen.

  • The coronavirus outbreak is an excuse for governments to wield power and control. FAR fewer people are dying from this than from the flu, and the people that do were on their last legs with serious medical conditions anyways.

    I have to agree with this guy, we MUST return to the land, and be as local as possible to survive.

  • Great story Robert! I like you, have been an outdoors men and connected to the land and wildlife my entire life. I’ve heard many theories and conspiracy theories on how Covid 19 began. We have seen in our lifetime the decimation of wildlife populations succumb to diseases due to over population from lack of habitat and food. Mother Nature as we all know how powerful she can be, decided we humans have not been looking after the good Mother Earth they way we should be. She has decided to take action and we are now experiencing her judgement. I believe it’s as simple as that.

  • As a Federal government employee CFIA and abud outdoorsman and trapper I have to endure being around hundreds of pla t workers on a daily basis providing inspection services to insure the protein that the whole country and otherpartsofrhe world are safe, don’t getme wronh I would sooner be in the great outdoors

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