Thanks to the hard work of our employees and the collaboration of our many partners, we have successfully implemented many different programs, ranging from the training of Crees for skilled jobs with Hydro-Quebec (over 50 Crees now occupy permanent positions), the rejuvenation of Cree community and family fisheries, the support of numerous cultural activities including summer gatherings and the enhancement of goose hunting facilities. This is not to mention the hundreds of kilometres of snowmobile and ATV trails already built throughout Eeyou Istchee.
On its 20th anniversary, Niskamoon Corporation salutes The Nation magazine and wishes it many more years of success and positive change.
Under the Northern Sky
Ye Olde Christmas Shopping Spree
My parents, Marius and Susan, were visiting with me recently while on a shopping trip for Christmas. I was happy to escort them and provide some transportation as we went store hopping in Timmins. The Christmas shopping spree is a tradition for my family and for everyone up the James Bay Coast. My parents are very sensible compared to most when they shop.
This year I made a big effort to convince them to buy some treats for themselves. They are always thinking of everyone else so it was nice to see them spend a few dollars to make life more enjoyable for each other. They also took the time to visit with family and friends.
I recall so many Christmas shopping trips as I was growing up. This was always a magical although very chaotic time of the year for me. Most of it had to do with flying from Attawapiskat by charter in a large group. We were all excited about our free time in the south. We could hardly wait to spend the money we had saved up and visions of the most current electronics and clothing danced in our minds.
We were all on that airplane. There were the Elders, the middle-aged people with young families and teenagers. Some of us had been out of the community and in the populated and modern cities to the south but most of us were new to the experience.
Landing in Timmins was a very big deal. We usually flew in on one of the trusty old Hawker Siddley aircraft and often it would be in the midst of some very bad early winter weather. The old plane would rattle and creak as it dropped its landing gear and descended from the sky. Suddenly, there was Timmins. We landed with a thud on the tarmac and taxied up to the terminal.
If we were lucky we had family or friends waiting for us with a car or better still a truck ready to taxi us around on our annual Christmas shopping ritual. If not, we had to call or arrange a taxi for the ride into the city and hopefully a room at the Bon Air or what was known as the Senator back then and is now the Days Inn. Most people were never organized enough to book anything ahead so often people bunked in together if things got tight. Otherwise, we had to travel all over the city to find accommodation.
Then, once we were settled in some kind of a room our thoughts turned to Christmas shopping. Well, actually to be truthful many people just wanted to get out and hit the bars for some down home partying. The bars I remember were swelled with people I knew from up the coast and the music was blaring while people danced and yelled at each other to have any conversation. Most of my time in the bars did not have happy endings.
The next day most of us woke up exhausted and if we were lucky we had made it back to our room. If not, well that was a different story. We would dust ourselves off and head back out to take in all that the big city had to offer. We were on a quest for the latest and greatest in electronics and fashion. It was all about looking good but feeling like lost, hurt and traumatized guys and girls.
Off we went on our shopping spree with stops at the Canadian Tire, Walmart, Zellers, Sears, The Bargain Shop, Giant Tiger and anything in between. On our way we ate burgers and fries, steaks and chops and drank shakes, pop and beer. The elderly were more careful with their money and they took their time. We teens just spent as much as we could and as fast as possible. The problem was that half way through our Christmas excursion we were broke. That produced some real challenges and mostly ended up with us acting out an old AA saying – “Poor me, pour me another drink”. At any rate, my teen Christmas shopping sprees are mostly faint memories shrouded by a lot of fog or haze.
When that fateful day came that we were scheduled to catch the flight back up north to Attawapiskat most of us made it but many were left stranded in the confusion of the aftermath of too much partying and life on the edge. I always seemed to have been lucky to have a family member or friend who was together enough to haul me out of whatever state I had fallen into so that I made it to the airport. I was broke, exhausted, sick, weak and very fragile when I boarded the old Hawker Siddley for the trip back north. Still, I felt exalted, like I had been to another planet or something on some strange adventure and I was returning as a conqueror with my spoils.
When we all landed at the airport in Attawapiskat there were family members and friends there to greet us. There were also the community “peace keepers”, locally appointed individuals who enforced the prohibition of alcohol in a dry community. They conducted body searches and checked through our luggage for alcohol and drugs. I never had to worry because I was barely able to drag myself home let alone worry about sneaking in booze and drugs.
It was great to be back home. As confusing as life was for me in my little First Nation it was familiar and full of friendly faces. I could get by here in just about any state and that was exactly what I did for years. Back home I unpacked my store bought riches; I donned my new designer jeans, shirt, jacket and hat and headed out to see my friends. I had the latest music blaring in my headphones as I walked with importance down the icy road with snow falling in huge flakes all around me from the dark sky. To quote another famous AA slogan, “I was looking good but feeling like…”, well, you know.