Graveyard Shift

How apropos, posting this on my night shift. The cross has an inscription dating back to the 1850s. Moreover, the person who was lain to rest was born in 1799.

I took this photo at a graveyard about 2 km from town. This ancestral land is on a different island from where town is located. This old post was settled in the 17th century when the Hudson’s Bay Company established a fur trade with the First Nations.

Later on in the late 1800s, missionaries came and built a church and school. However, there became a divide between the Roman Catholic church and the Anglican church. Around 1920, the Roman Catholic congregation migrated south of the old post. And after much flooding, the remaining Anglican congregation relocated in 1950 to the north of the river.

In more recent times, the two communities reunite at this old post annually to celebrate their humble beginnings and pay respect to the elders who once lived on this land.

As I listened to the elders speaking of their upbringing, it brought new awareness and appreciation. Babies would be strapped onto a mother’s back via a craddleboard and gently rocked as she walked. There were no such things as pampers, instead they would use dry moss for diapers. Moose hide would be painstakingly scraped, smoked, and stretched for months until it became pliable. Goose down mattresses would require hundreds of hours of plucking. And a weaved rabbit fur blanket would need at least a hundred pelts. Nothing would be wasted — even moose brain would make a good acidic base of the hides to soak in.

Within the last hundred years, the nomadic lifestyle is now non-existent. Some cultural traditions and ceremonies remain, but generations of residential schooling has deeply changed the First Nation people.

I’m glad to see these cultural gatherings exist. The youth responded well to the workshops and games. I hope these traditions continue to pass on to the younger generations.


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