Indigenous

My Attawapiskat is more than a housing crisis

For me, Attawapiskat is much more than a housing crisis. Attawapiskat is home. A lot happens here the media has yet to report. As an active member of our youth recreation committee I am kept very busy and I’ve taken the time to tell you about a few of the things we do.
Attawapiskat Elder Annabella Iahtail passes on traditional ways. 'Every August, we load boats and gather at the twin islands in James Bay to camp out and listen to the wisdom of our elders," says Priscella Rose. (Rosie Koostachin )

I’m a student, an aunt, a daughter, a budding photographer and for me Attawapiskat is much more than a housing crisis.

Attawapiskat is home. A lot happens here the media has yet to report. 

As I write this, the river has just frozen over, the air is crisp and our community shines bright through winter’s darkness. With snowshoes on our feet, or on Ski-Doo we brave the cold and host teams from all over the James Bay coast in our annual hockey and broomball tournament at the Reg Loutit Memorial Sportsplex.

Rose says the arena is the core of social life in Attawapiskat. 'It's where we hold powwows, dances, gospel jamborees and come together to memorialize the people we’ve loved and lost.' (Priscella Rose)
The arena is at the core of social life here. It’s where we hold powwows, dances, gospel jamborees and come together to memorialize the people we’ve loved and lost. This place is made possible through the work of volunteers who raise funds to assure this source of pride remains open and its existence demonstrates the resilience of our hearts.

Back before the houses, hospital, church or Northern Store were built, my ancestors lived in the bush and would congregate near where I live now. They gathered to tell hunting stories, find love, resupply and work together on solutions to the troubles they shared. These traditions are honoured here and our greatest strength is our connection to the land.

Priscella Rose says people in her hometown like to hunt and fish in the summer.
In my hometown we like to hunt and fish and in the summer I live to be on the water. Every August, we load boats and gather at the twin islands in James Bay to camp out and listen to the wisdom of our elders. This gathering brings together family and friends to snare rabbits, prepare geese and feast on every lesson we share.

The islands are a pristine place where the ground is carpeted with thick soft moss and provides a perfect setting to learn about our culture. When I walk there I feel the earth breath as I think about the people who cut these trails as well as the ones who will walk them in the future. 

To anyone who wants to visit Attawapiskat, you are welcome to come for a walk in my moccasins and I will be happy to show you the place I call home.

This story produced with guidance from Danny Kresnyak of Journalists for Human Rights as part of JHR’s Northern Ontario Initiative.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priscella, aged 26, lives and works in Attawapiskat, Ont. She recently completed a mentorship with Journalists for Human Rights Northern Ontario Initiative. She also launched James Bay Photography on Facebook for others to share their stories through photos.

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