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.
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?
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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