I run with this river, adjacent to the salmon beneath its surface. When we meet, the icy water cools the blood running through my veins, and there is balance. The energy of its current on the skin, and the life within, breathes meaning into stories of ecology, ontology, mythology, epistemology. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of running water. There is much to learn in ripple and tide.
You can trace the Humber River, roadside, meandering through the interiors of this land until its mouth stretches to the outer bay. Elmastukwek, the land outside the river, is the place I call home. It is part of Mi’kma’ki (traditional Mi’kmaq territory) that stretches the gulf and links me to lands across the water.
In this space, where mountain and ocean merge, I find myself digging. Like the qalipu (caribou) digging through the blanket of snow for lichen (life source), I dig for the truth. It’s easy to find the cold, white blanket of snow like dust on library bookshelves, academic articles and missionary journals. I am digging for the lichen, the life beneath.
History, story and language are embedded in the land and are found in the breath of life passed along from one generation to the next to transcend the expanse of time. This can only happen when conditions are good. For lichen, algae and fungi unite when sunlight, water and clean, fresh air encourage their growth on undisturbed surfaces. Conditions have not been favourable in this territory for us or for the caribou. We are in many ways the same.
As the daylight hours wane, and I feel the shroud of snow eager to take up residence on this land, I light the fire, pour a cup of tea, and listen to the stories of my Elders. They are my Master of Education.
~ Sara Leah