MUSKRAT DAM & SACHIGO, ONTARIO
First Nation Communities
Muskrat Dam is a First Nation community located east of Manitoba, north of Thunder Bay and south of James Bay. I was invited to travel up to this community to present leadership and anti-bullying presentations. I flew from Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto to Sioux Lookout to Muskrat Dam. The first plane was smaller than I was used to, however the plane that we flew in from Sioux Lookout to Muskrat Dam was tiny. It held nine people plus the two pilots.
I presented at Sam Beardy Memorial School in Muskrat Dam and at Martin Mackay Memorial School in Sachigo. I don’t think these students were used to my presentation style. They were attentive, however I had the feeling like chaos was about to erupt at any time.
We travelled on an ice roads to get to Sachigo. It was a smooth drive on the lake, however the marsh road was a kidney buster. Thirty minutes into our trip we got stuck. Luckily a couple from Muskrat Dam were following thirty-minutes behind us and were able to pull us out.
At Martin MacKay Memorial, when I went into the audience to retrieve a student to play the bully in a role-play a young boy was pushed toward me by his teacher. As he walked behind toward the stage he grabbed by two middle fingers. I thought he wanted to hold my hands. He pulled my fingers back in an attempt to break them. I guess I chose the real bully.
I also went into the classrooms to entertain the students with singing and campfire songs. This was a big hit!
All the guys were playing hockey at the arena, so I hung back to finish the dishes. I was to meet them at the radio station with my guitar for a jam session. I began to walk to the radio station. It was very dark. As I started walking down the road I started to think about the many animals that could be lurking on the edges of the forest that lined the dark roadway. As this thought entered my head I heard the sound of a wolf howling in the distance. I was told there were no coyotes, so I knew it was a wolf. As I walked closer to the lit part of the road I saw the silhouette of a large animal sitting on the road in front of me. WOLF! I thought I was a goner. As I got closer to the unknown animal I came to realize it was a large, friendly, (thank goodness) German Sheppard. It escorted me to the radio station and home again. It was like my guardian angel.
A group of vets from Barrie were in Muskrat Dam to spay or “fix” the dogs. There were dogs wandering everywhere. The dog population tended to get out of control in these communities. My friend Paul and I decided to introduce ourselves to the vets. When we entered their “sanctuary,” we witnessed a dog being neutered and heard a dog singing a sad tune as it came out of its anesthesia. We asked how things were going. They informed us that one of the dogs had died. It had been hit by a car a few days before the operation. There were complications, and it passed away. I looked over toward the end of the room to see the dead dog just laying by the wall. My dog had just died, so I thought this would trigger some negative response. I seemed to be okay, so I guessed I grieved appropriately after the death of my dog Kahlua.
We decided to give the dog a funeral. We wanted there to be closure for the little girl who owned the dog. Two of the guys build a fire, so they could dig a hole to bury the dog. We all stood around the hole with the dog looking up at us, spoke a few kind words and buried the dog. This was a first for me, however I thought it was a kind gesture so the little girl could say good-bye to her little friend.
We took part in a memorial feast to honor a community member who had recently passed away. People came from surrounded communities with homemade meals. There was moose, goose, fish guts with blueberry, pasta, and beaver. I am a bit of a risk-taker, so I tried all the exotic meats. Everything was going great up until I tried the beaver. As soon as it crossed my lips, I knew there was no point of return. I couldn’t spit it out. I had to swallow it. It was nasty! I chewed and chewed and finally managed to squeeze it into my stomach. I am glad I tried it, but would never try it again. The next day the community had lunch for us. They didn’t serve beaver; however, I did receive a beautiful, hand-made beaver hat. I wonder if it was from the same beaver? Karma!
Before I left for Muskrat Dam I wanted to bring up a gift for the youth. They love hockey, so I asked Doug Gilmour if he could give me a signed photo. Doug not only gave me a signed photo, but got the photo framed.
I met a young man, Jade, who was recently assigned the role of the gym teacher. He also coached hockey. One of the boys he coached was Javen. He recently lost his father tragically. He was an incredible hockey player. I thought these two were the perfect recipients of the photo. I hoped it would encourage and give them hope for the future.