There has been a recent surge of fires near my hometown of La Ronge, SK. Looking at the map I shared on Facebook the other day looks scary. Many of the main concerns of those who shared my post, were of the cabins they have out in their traplines and of mushroom land. Traditional land is at risk and people are not taking it lightly. Thankfully, there has been no reports yet of any cabins burning down, that I have seen.
This current forest fire situation reminds of the evacuation of La Ronge and area, back in 2015. Fires were popping up all around our tri-communities of La Ronge, Air Ronge and Lac La Ronge Indian Reserves. First, they implemented a voluntary evacuation and later a mandatory evac. I was at home at the time when the RCMP came to my apartment and told us to get up and leave with what we had on. There was no time to grab anything like clothes or any other personal belongings. It was traumatic, but I was able to keep a sound mind.
I had written a post about the ordeal back in 2015, however, through revamping and revising my website, the article got lost in the shuffle. I was able to find the original article from July 2015, in my archives recently and here is the link if you want to read it (many old news links in the article). – https://firstnationstories.com/?page_id=4119
I had saved a fire map of June 9, 2015, and now we can compare the map from that time to the map I am sharing today, July 10, 2021.
If you look at the map from 2021, you will notice there are more fires, however, if you look at the map from 2015, the fires are much closer to La Ronge and my old home reserve of Morin Lake. Notice the fire is closer to Sikachu than Hall Lake (Morin Lake Reserve 217, is in the two blocks of pink to the west of La Ronge). A cousin of mine lost her house in the fire in Sikachu. She ended up getting a new house in Hall Lake, which is the same reserve, but a different community (just trying to be clear).
While we are at the tail end of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would devastate many family’s to be evacuated and live in close quarters as we did during the evacuation of 2015. We must all salute the firefighters for putting their lives on the line to put the fires out. They are the real heroes that should to be looked up to.
While we have been separated to an extent because of the pandemic, an evacuation would make it more difficult to recover from the traumatic events that we have already experienced.
This is a video entry for the 2020 National Firefighting Competition. For more details, visit https://indigenousfiresafety.ca/2020-… Actors: Jr. Firefighters Jack Halkett and Orlen Halkett. Written and narrated by Deputy Fire Chief Leonard Halkett, Directed and edited by Clarence Morin
Common Cree words from the video entry:
otāstawīhikīw – fire fighter
otāstawīhikīwak – fire fighters
piminawasowikamikos – kitchen
kotawānāpisk – stove
sāsīskihkwān – frying pan
piminawasow – cook
mīciwin – food
pimiy – lard/oil (grease)
nākatāpahta kipiminawasowin – take care of your cooking/look after your cooking
The year started off with the choice of staying a Web Developer with LLRIB or apply for a teaching job in Hall Lake, my old home reserve. At that point in my life, I had worked as a web developer for nearly 14 years. I decided to give teaching a try after discussing it with my family.
It was nice to be back home in Hall Lake. I knew most of the people from 14 years before, but I did not know who the children were. I worked for Recreation in the 1990s and many of the kids I worked with, had their own kids. I could see many similarities in the children and could sometimes easily guess who their parents or grandparents were.
The familiar faces were all adults now, and I now had to learn new names, something I was never good at. I am glad to say, that I am getting close to fully reacquainting with all the people from my hometown.
This website would continue to be updated because it is my personal website and I finance and maintain it on my dime and time. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and displaying my tech skills. It has been a big year for the website in terms of visitor and viewer growth. Financially, not so much. The last time I received any remuneration, was June 2019: One-hundred dollars. I stand to make another $100 this month. It is all from the ads you see on the website. So, the website, while it brings pleasure and expression of my knowledge and abilities, it is not making me rich.
While the website would continue, the stability of my employment at the time, was about to be very disrupted. I would go from sitting quietly in my office, pressing buttons and collaborating with leaders and directors, to managing a classroom full of 10- and 11-year-old’s, who ask me: “When is it lunch?”
It has been very challenging. Much of my time is spent trying to manage my classroom, but it has gotten easier. The students have warmed up to me and seem to enjoy my short lectures. It is such a joy when a student has a “EUREKA!” moment. I will be explaining and explaining and suddenly, their eyes will light up when they understand. They go quickly go back to their desk all eager to complete their work. It can be awesome. Not once, has a computer or website given me such a feeling of accomplishment.
I will continue teaching until the end of June 2020, at Sally Ross School, and then, who knows. I will see how it goes.
Growing in La Ronge, Pesiw Lake and Hall Lake, I never heard of the term, Treaty 6 Territory. I would hear of Treaty Days and I enjoyed the events that would happen on that day. The whole community would get together and have events such as sack races, plank races and various other fun events. I do not remember hearing about the numbered treaties until I was in grade 10, at Sally Ross School, where I now teach grades 5 and 6.
I have taught my students about treaty 6, where and when it was signed, and about the year our band, the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB), signed an adhesion in 1889. I have showed them the poster of the timeline of chiefs, which is available on the LLRIB website – History of the LLRIB Chiefs. I showed them the videos on the page to make them more aware of our first chief, Chief James Roberts and where he is buried. A few students were actually at the headstone ceremony this past summer. The ceremony is also on video, on the linked page.
The students were engaged and very interested in the information. Questions came up such as, what I remember about the previous chiefs and which ones I met. I told them I had met Harry Cook when he was chief and that former chief, Miles Venne came to my high school graduation in 1995 at Senator Myles Venne School. For some reason, his first name was misspelled, but I have not asked about it either.
Books were more about the southern Saskatchewan Indians regarding the buffalo and the hardships of land being stolen and ripped away from them. After hearing so much about the atrocities of the treaty signings and the lies perpetuated by the government, I started to wonder about our history, where do we fit, in the timeline of Indigenous events.
I completed the work for the LLRIB during my time as web developer. Recently, I decided to go to an outside source for more information that I may not have heard about. I asked a friend of mine, Samuel A. Hardlotte, about what he knows of the treaty signing, below was his response:
Our 1889 Adhesion to Treaty 6 was signed at the North end of Montreal Lake it was Not signed at molanosa. The settlement of molanosa did not exist in 1889 and it later began when some white men, began harvesting trees in that area and set up a sawmill, inland, from Montreal Lake. Our Acting Chief Sam Roberts, Hope and I visited Little Hills on Sept. 28th/19 to commemorate the historic event of the very 1st Annuity Payments. Tubby Bell was the person that took us out there. It was an emotional day for all of us. It was also an honour to be at Little Hills on that day.
Mr. Hardlotte is very passionate about the history of our Treaty 6 Territory. I joined him and his wife, Hope, with the Treaty Day display at the JRMCC, where they handed out T-shirts marking the anniversary of the treaty adhesion.
It was a showcase of historical documents, pictures and articles about LLRIB. It was very informative, and I did my part by displaying the video or our history on a projection screen.
I had an interesting but friendly debate with Hope during the event. She said that the separation of Stanley Mission in 1910, meant that they should not be included in the timeline of chiefs because in 1900, Peter Ballantyne separated from the Paylist to form their own band under his name, and they are not on the timeline. I argued (in a nice way, lol) that Peter Ballantyne Band is not in the timeline because they did not rejoin us at some point like Stanley Mission did. Anyway, it was a good discussion. Discussions and debates should be encouraged without the bitterness of arguments and escalated disagreements.
I am sure there is more to our history that has not been written, I hope one of these days that there is a project set up, to gather this information and present it for free, to all our schools, the LLRIB membership and the general public.
I did not get to know Happy Charles when she was living in La Ronge. I had heard of her from time to time, but I met her only a handful of times.
She seemed pretty normal to me as she chatted with one of my friends, whom I cannot remember, and then she went on her way. I must have been in my early 20s. Happy and I, may be close to the same age, I am 45 tears old right now.
I actually thought they would have located her not long after she went missing. I personally thought she was visiting a remote reserve and staying with friends. I did not think it would become over two years since she went missing.
Scientists have been skeptical of the theory of firehawks spreading fires by carrying burning sticks. The Aborigines have known for centuries, maybe even for millennia, what scientists are discovering today.
There have been other instances of scientists discovering what North American Indigenous people have known all along. Native medicine is getting a second look from many scientists, but unfortunately, many are sponsored by corporations to make money. I see it more as an exploitation tactic as opposed to wanted to heal the sick. The medicine making the rounds on social media is chaga, check out the article and others at the bottom of the page.
While the exploitation might sound devious, how are our many urban “Indians” supposed to have access? It is doubtful that there are enough medicine men around to spread the healing practices to all our people. Capitalistic marketing is what is used today and may be the only viable way to get our medicines to people. I have no idea what else might work, maybe we will have a better system someday. If one of my readers have a good idea, please comment on the Facebook post.
I have personally used wacask ōmīcowin – rat root, for a headache. I still need to get some off my son who has a nice batch of it. I have gone on a field trip with one of my instructors to explore areas and identify Native medicine. This was all good because I got to see for myself, the work it would take to gather and prepare the healing remedies.
As a boy, I had chicken pox in the trapline. My grandfather – nimosōm, took me out on a trail to gather spruce gum. He boiled the chucks that we gathered, but I am not sure what else might have been in it. When it was ready, I placed generous amounts on the affected areas to sooth the itch. It was great to get that kind of relief. We went back to the rez soon after, and he made more when we got to my parent’s place.
As a boy living in La Ronge on the rez of 101, I had an accident. I was playing with a friend of mine; we were throwing small roof shingles at each other to see if we can dodge them. He grabbed a bigger piece than usual and asked if I could dodge it. I said: “haw haw” meaning go for it. He got me right above the right eye, I bled like heck. All I saw was red and I could see my friend hovering over me and try calm me down. We were about 5-6 years old at the time. When the bleeding was controlled, they didn’t take me to the hospital or clinic, nōhkom took me to the muskeg area and we gathered Labrador tea leaves. When we got to the house, she applied it over my eye and added a dressing over it. It was changed several times, over several days (I cannot remember how many times). Eventually, my cut was healed.
As an adult, working for the Gift of Language and Culture, I had been sick for several days. I went to work when I got a little better and told my female colleagues what I was going through (you know how men are, just kidding). One of my co-workers had this concoction of “Indian” medicine. The only ingredient I remember is rat root. Anyway, I made some tea and added a half teaspoon and the symptoms eased right up before lunch. This was after two more teas over the medicine I put in earlier. I was skeptical about the concoction, but I could not explain the way this stuff worked.
I have many colleagues and friends that gather Native medicine, but I hesitate to ask for any because I feel like I should go get it myself. I had hoped to get more into our medicines, but it is difficult to make the time in our “assimilated” way of life. I have work, family and relaxing time, so finding sources of medicine is one thing, it is entirely another to gather and prepare. I can see why it was usually medicine men or women that did all the careful gathering and preparation for their people.
Now to the skeptics. I have been one of these skeptics for the longest time even when I was obviously treated with “Indian” medicine a few times. It may be the spiritual aspects of the practice that throws people off. The ceremony of rising tobacco to the four-directions or giving tobacco to a medicine person, seems a bit arbitrary to one who is not raised to follow Native Spirituality. I have asked such questions before, only to be met with condescending answers, not very helpful. I may have come across as arrogant and rude, but the answer of spirits needing appreciation, did not sound right to me.
I have benefited from the use of medicine but I do not remember being told to offer tobacco. Many people in my area, were assimilated to the fur traders ways. We had a close relationship and still do. Of course, racism rears it’s ugly head on a daily basis, some days are better than others, but I hope things get better and I do not wish to elaborate at this time, maybe another article.
Obviously I was grateful and appreciated the healing from the plants. To the people who gathered and prepared it for me, I am very grateful.
When Scientists “Discover” What Indigenous People Have Known For Centuries