Bonding together

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Sharing stories and participating in communal events has been and will always be the best way to transmit a culture from one generation to the next. However, it’s not that common that this cultural transmission happens outside families and the community.

But every now and then there comes a chance to share between communities across great distances. Jacko Otter has been partaking in such an exchange while studying to become an Interactive Multimedia Developer at Algonquin College in Ottawa with several Mohawk youth from Akwesasne.

It started six years ago when a group of six came up to Waswanipi looking for a guide to hunt caribou. Ever since then, they’ve been hunting and fishing every year.

Ronnie Otter, Jacko’s father, said, “It’s common that such sharing happens. It’s a good thing to learn from one another.” Stories from their Elders that are passed down through the family are shared when they are out in the wilderness as are the usual hunting stories which may or may not have some slight exaggerations.

The exchange happens based on the season and where it’s better to go hunting and fishing. In the summer, the Mohawk youth travel to the northern communities of Waswanipi, Chisasibi and Nemaska for the fishing. During the winter, they go up to hunt caribou. This year’s haul was nine caribous, while on a previous winter they bagged 21.

The springtime is when Jacko goes down to Ontario and hunts geese. They’re so plentiful down south even non-Native sports hunters have been allowed to hunt. Ronnie Otter said, “They are easier to hunt because they are calmer and land nearby, whereas here they fly overhead and rarely land nearby.”

When out on the hunt they are pretty successful with one outing on the lake catching 40 geese. Jacko said, “The boat was so full that the guy with me said we better go or we would sink.”

Jacko’s love for nature is what serves as his main muse while studying design and photography. He said, “I’d rather take photos of nature than a boring old city. Plus the teachers love them.” For a final project, he’s shooting video during his hunting trips and incorporating the footage into a presentation on his experiences.

Such exchanges, though fruitful, are uncommon due to the distance between First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. But with every conversation that children have with their neighbouring peers, they act as ambassadors for their communities and help preserve their culture for the future.

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