DAREarts Blog

Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Guest Post–Cathy Elliott–Changes in the Air (Attawapiskat)

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A month ago, DAREarts artist-as-teacher Cathy Elliott travelled to the Aboriginal community of Attawapiskat, Ontario, to empower the children and the community through the arts. The following post is her written report from day three of her DAREarts journey:

DAREday three…Wacheya 🙂

Last night I went for a walk around town.  It’s much bigger than Webequie.  But it feels so much the same.  Except for the light…I couldn’t put my finger on it.  It was around 7:30pm and I kept smelling the newly exposed dirt and the warm trees.  And the sun was setting.  Long after it went down, the sky was still lit up.  Then it hit me.  It’s just like the Yukon!  Twenty years slipped away and I was a young adventurer, going to the North in the spring.  The river hadn’t broken up yet, just like here.  It was no longer passable for big trucks.  Just like here.  And the trees were budding up.  Just like here.  I gotta say, it’s all so familiar to me now.

There was a Plastic Bride and Groom fundraiser for a wedding at the rink last night.  The traffic was crazy!  Trucks and ATVs and people on foot everywhere.  I guess a long hard winter was had up here, right?

I got a good look at the new houses.  Some of them are still on wheels,  waiting.  I didn’t feel good about taking out a camera and clicking.  Other people have already done that.  But I can describe it:  The grass is now exposed underneath them.  They really are trailer houses.  They look so small.   How long will it be before they get hooked up with power and water?  Or even a slab of concrete to sit on?

I stopped on my way back into town to watch the front loader move the snow out of the ditches.  These ditches are deep, as I found out yesterday.  I saw one of the houses was in danger of flooding from the melt-off.  The big bucket scooped the snow and caressed the bank and made huge slow moving waves in the ditch.  It was mesmerizing to watch.  I was like a little kid watching big toys at work. (did I mention that I had a ride in a bucket to my house in Dawson City?  Yup.  Guy saw me carrying all my groceries and offered me a ride.  So I took it.  Too bad nobody was home to see it.)

Spoke briefly with Rodrique Vezina outside the White Wolf about the weather, the Mi’kmaq People and our Cree Relations, music and language and the length of days.  He invited me to Saturday morning mass, but I think I’ll be catching a plane.  He said to come play my guitar and sing.  It isn’t a far walk.  I just might.  See thing is, there’s a mix of Christianity and Traditional going on here.  Been that way for a while.  He’s well respected because he honours both and dovetails the two. 

The church itself is a beautiful structure.  Reminds me of Quebec steeples.  Quite ornate.  It rests down by the river, the doors facing the river, away from the town.  A statue of Mary, her face whiter than the rotting snow, holds her arms out to the Community.  Such a loving gesture.  Such a tortured  history.

There’s a breeze kicking up today.  It’s been raining a bit, and the big puddles have run off a little.  Easier to walk.  My friend Lawrence took off this afternoon, kindly leaving me some blueberries for my morning waffles.  “Happy Day, Cathy Elliott!” 

Didn’t have much time for lunch.  Had to whip up a poster which is already posted at the school, the Northern Store and I’ll be walking around this evening to various public places like the Gym to put them up.  They’re going to get it on tv along side the lemon squares.

The songs are coming along.  I’m really happy with what we’ve been able to achieve in such a short time.  Remember, only a half hour at a time.  I’m exhausted!  Most of my time was running from one portable to another.  You have to put on your boots, slosh through the mud, get to the other class, take off your boots, put on your shoes…well, after one day of this, I left my indoor shoes at the Inn.  I’ve been in stocking feet all day.  This is portable school life.  Sure there are portables down south.  I did my music class in a portable.  (the operative word here is music class  which is something that doesn’t exist much anywhere anymore, but that’s neither here nor there.  Literally.)  But I didn’t have to wade through MUD everywhere.  Yes, in the winter, there’s snow.  But there’s cement.  This is different.  How lucky I was!

Students working on the “word tree”


Just took another walk around town, dropping off the flyers to the businesses.  Bought a 50/50 bingo ticket.  Promptly lost it.  Proceeds to the high school trip.  Everyone here smiles and waves first.  It’s like a travel ad for a vacation spot.  As a matter of fact, if more people came here to spend money on the local economy, instead of flying south, they’d probably find a lot more warmth. Seriously. Every time I step outside, I have a conversation with someone.  I never have to start it first.  That’s just how it is here. 

Now.  To start recording!

Cathy’s personal blog can be viewed at http://cathyelliottcom.blogspot.ca.

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