We made it back last night -- which was a good thing since there is a big snowstorm heading our way and a flight today would likely have been cancelled. It was -30 in Wimindji yesterday; -45 with the wind chill factor. I still went for a run!! Afterwards, people stopped me in the street and asked me if I was that crazy lady with the red hat and pink scarf!!
I read all the commentson the last few entries and you're right -- I've come home with lots of STORIES and even a new idea for a book. The stories about the elders' experiences in the residential schools really touched me.
I want to tell you a little about Wimindji. It's a Cree Community on the Maquatua (pronounced MAW-GAW-DO) River in the James Bay Region. The population is 1,300 -- of that number, half are under the age of 25. There are kids everywhere!! Many have five or six siblings. The town is surrounded by black spruce trees, and apparently, there are also plenty of birch trees if you go out further into the bush. And there are teepees everywhere!! People use them in summer to prepare food like moose and caribou. I tasted bannock, which is like cake, only not sweet. The bannock I had was made with raisins. Grandmothers ("Gookums" in Cree) are an important part of the community. They help raise the kids and they pass on Cree culture.
Wimindji is a "dry" town, meaning you can't buy alcohol or consume it in a public place. But there is a big bootlegging industry -- and many of the people in the town abuse alcohol and drugs. The Crees' lifstyle has changed so radically in the last half century -- they've gone from living on the land to living in a town. This seems to be part of the problem. Also, the years in residential schools were traumatic -- these were kids who were torn from their families. some were picked up on the street and sent off without being able to say good-bye to their mums and dads. Many of the kids who attended residential schools were abused. It's not surprising that even today, families are still paying the price. One thing I really felt about Wimindji is that despite the problems, it's a place for healing. Families are close and there are many support services in the community. I'm glad to be home, but I feel privileged that I got to visit Wimindji. My world feels a lot bigger -- and richer.
I've got a ton of stuff to do -- school stuff, writing stuff, house stuff! So look out world, here I come! Thanks to all of you who wrote when I was stranded. I figured out a way to read your comments and they really helped cheer me up!! Have a great weekend. Try to enjoy the snowstorm!
Monique Please Come Back again, we miss you are you gonna come back again?, so alot of us in the class are reading the books that you gave us. There so Good Monique Please Come back again your such a good story teller, too as Ingrid.. , but you're more better well gtg now see ya soon , maybe!,
I cannot believe you went out for a run in such cold weather. I'll think twice about complaining about -25 degrees at the top of the ski mountains from now on! After seeing the snow (and hail) today, I think a flight would most certainly have been cancelled.
The idea of a "dry" town is really neat in concept, but I think that, due to past difficulties, along with a sudden change in lifestyle, people might be more tempted to drink... I find it sad to read about everything which was done to Native communities because some of us (supposedly more "civilised" people) thought that our lifestyle was better, or more adequate than theirs, and imposed ours. I'm not sure that such a decision was beneficial to the communities, especially due to the fact the change was so radical. Also, it's a pity to lose their traditions, because some of their knowledge is truly impressive (I studied Art of the Ancient Americas last semester, and we covered some Northern communities), and not entirely unlike our science.
Ms Polak.. it's time to invest in something called a treadmill for the winter... if you tried to go for a run here you would most likely end up on your behind as the sidewalks and streets seem to be one sheet of unsalted ice!! the place you went to sounds really cool minus the eating moose and such.. no thanks!
welcome home =D
Please come to Wemindji again, and send us ur books. And I loved your story about your husband , that he was blowing leaves in the house. LOL, that was funny
Well Gotta Go Now Se ya Monique