Friday, August 26, 2011

Day 10: Soil Ingestion Research Project ~ Cold Lake First Nations (English Bay)

Day 10 (Friday):

Our Elder, John
This morning was funny, Pakan wakes up (our early bird) & waits patiently for everyone to wake up…then he gets laughing & telling us about his night.  He was in bed & in the middle of the night he reaches under his pillow & he feels something soft.  So he puts his flashlight on & he sees the brightest hot pink XXL silk panty (lol).  We were all laughing & he says, I guess this is what I get for being a teaser, I get my own medicine back.  We laughed & laughed & told him it took him 3 days to discover it.  It was our other Elder participant, John (he is a man in his 60s & very quiet & reserved.  So quiet that when he speaks, you want to listen) who found the panties at the E-bay Community Centre’s free clothes donations.  Pakan was all surprised it was John who thought & did this joke on Pakan…what an excellent way to wake up.

After breakfast Angelle & I went with Brian to go pick raspberries at a prime location north of camp that he found but the only thing it was right next to an oil company's station site.  That’s the thing about here... everywhere is oil activity, it’s so bad that there are times you think you are in an area where man hasn’t touched or affected then…poof…there’s a Well, or a Seismic Cutline.  It’s actually quite sad :( but we keep picking the berries & ingesting them so our researchers can see how much industry is affecting our food supply & traditional way of life…to be blunt ~ infringing on our Treaty #6 Right to hunt, gather, fish, & conduct our cultural ways without prejudice ~ “infringing” by affecting the environment negatively, an environment we need, require, & depend on to exercise our Treaty Rights…without an environment, we can not fulfill our Treaty Inheritance!

The Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations:

So much something so simple but complex...LIFE!
Like I said earlier, we picked to eat later in camp & really had a good time chatting & getting to know each other better as we picked.  The only thing is we sure have been cleaned out of berries from the bears.  We can't blame them, only respect them...they are having a hard time finding food too.  Many of the bears we saw are skinny, or have unhealthy coats, the cubs are small, & we also read in the Cold Lake paper the bears are in town looking for food.  It's sad because a bear was shot in town just because it needed to try & "survive" because humans are affecting it's habitat!  There is not one location we have went where we can see the bears were there first.  Sometimes, we get to a location just after a bear feasted on berries for a while, this is shown by fresh bear scat…luckily for us this day, no bears but I'm glad the bears ate first!

Well, we picked until we got hungry & couldn't stand the direct sunlight any longer.  So we had lunch & headed towards Glendon, AB area to get berry samples & hunt rabbits from a location farther away from industry so Graham & Jules could get comparable samples to test from areas less affected by industry.  The funny thing, as we drove on HWY 55 is we had a hard time finding a location far enough from oil industries influence, there were batteries everywhere, sometimes more than homes.  I just know, I drove & drove for an hour & a half away but they were everywhere.

As we drove & drove, the two of us chatted about how much fun we are having, how glad we are to be apart of this project, how much we have learned, & how each of us in the camp bring a unique character or personality to the group to make it enjoyable, fun, & memorable.  We especially talked about how much we enjoy Pakan’s fun, easy-going, & humorous personality; which, lightens up each of our day!

We finally stopped at a spot I thought wasn’t fenced in or private property (probably was private).  The berries were skimpy so we picked only enough for a sample & soil sample while the mosquitoes tortured us & we did a little hunting.  We sure noticed the difference from the vegetation in this area from Cold Lake First Nations territory, this area was dry & even the moss was dry.  Unlike CLFNS territory, such plush rich looking vegetation. However, I kicked myself in the butt when I missed the huge juicy rabbit we saw, so we headed back to camp in time for supper with nothing to brag about but a missed rabbit :( unlike our Muskrat Warrior a few days ago who brought back two rabbits for soup & “baking powder free” fry bread (used egg whites) I cooked that night.

After supper, the men & our regular visitor, Dennis were hinting for mint with comments like “ohhh gee, it would be so nice to have mint tea right now”…”do you guys want mint tea?”, I sarcastically ask.  Ryan, so eager to answer with a big smile on his face, “yes, please”…so Angelle & I jump in the truck & say, “we’ll be back in 20 minutes, we gotta go to Nature’s Super Market” (lol).  Just when we are almost at that beaver dam (Beavers provide the mint), we see a deer…I stop & Angelle & I look at each other with excitement….then we both realize Brian has the 243 gun & our faces drop, our heads go back & we both let out a “geez Brian, he’s got the gun” ~ we laugh at our same gestures & carry on to gather mint.  Well, at least we will return to camp with mint!

As we drove back, we talked about the missed deer & reminisced about “what ifs…”.

What if…we did shoot the deer?  Well, we would drive up to camp, me driving the truck & Angelle on the back truck box with the deer, proudly, on her shoulders ready to present to the others…it would be classic.  We laughed & laughed at how cool that would be (hee, hee)…we would show the guys we can “live off the land” (lol ;))

We ended our day, with our ritual of mint tea & it was nice to see my mom, who came for a visit.  She was sleeping in the car waiting for me (she is still recovering from her radiation treatments) but she tried her hardest to forget her pain for a few laughs & play a little fun game of 100 points with Pakan & John.  She enjoyed herself until it started to get a little chilly but it was nice to hear her laugh & giggle with the others for a while until I kissed & hugged her good night.  Love you mom!

Another good day of gathering…fall is near & we don’t have much time left…let’s see what tomorrow brings. 

Just feeling a little sad & disappointed because Pakan made a “choice” & returned back to camp under the influence of alcohol & we all knew what that meant…we are going to lose a “valuable” member of our team & peer…many of us are going to bed with a heavy heart tonight.  It hurts so much, not only to lose Pakan but also what his actions represent ~ we are losing another good good person to the cunning & baffling bottle...sometimes such a hurtful reality for our people!  It's so obvious, alcohol & drugs doesn't belong or fit in with our relationship with our Father ~ Creator or our Mother ~ strains our relationships & our sacred connections so much & we sometimes lose ourselves completely in the process!  A wise Elder once explained it better:

Before, I retired to my tent, I expressed to Pakan how much we all enjoy him here & how valuable he is to all of us, he smiled & gave me a thanks with his eyes ~ I will miss you & pray for you because you touched my heart...Pakan!

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