Article 11 – “You Must Respect the Land”
“You must respect Land!” are the words I heard from my grandpa since I was a young boy. As an Indigenous person, I have grown up respecting the land. As a child, my grandpa would take me fishing and explain how we have to respect what we catch and not catch more than we need. He always said to me, “we have to share what we catch, for it is wasteful to only feed yourself and not others.” I took this lesson to heart and always shared my catches with family members, especially elders, growing up. Elders are always respected in our community, and most cannot hunt like they used to, something the Elders have told me they miss doing. So, I bring the Elders what I catch so they can still eat our traditional foods. Out of respect for their lives, the Elders are usually the first I share my extra catches with.
My grandpa and my dad took me hunting and taught me how to hunt on the land while respecting the animals. They always told me, “never leave a mess because you are only there to hunt.” My grandpa taught me when I was a young child never to hunt the young or the mothers of animals, for they are sacred. At first, I was confused: why? But as I got older, I came to understand: if we hunted the mothers, then the young would not learn how to survive. If I kill a female moose that has a calf, that calf will not survive for very long as they are very dependent on their mothers. If we killed the young, it would hurt the population. To hunt them is cruel, because it would only hurt the population of the animals. Hunting is an essential part of my culture. Although we rely on hunting to survive, my grandpa has taught me to value the animals we use for food and not take them for granted. My dad taught me how to show mercy to the animals that I kill: if I mess up a shot and the animal is on the ground alive, I have to give it a painless death as possible and offer tobacco as an apology.
My dad also taught me not to damage the land in any way since I was a child: no littering and no cutting down of trees for no reason. At first, I found it annoying because I did not see the point. I thought it was a waste of time and stupid to pay particular attention to such things, and I had seen other people do such things. So, I thought it was normal until one day my dad showed me the dead body of a fish that had the plastic wrapping of a six-pack of drinks near the gills. He told me that he found it while he was canoeing. He showed the result of what would happen if littering the land. This lesson opened my eyes, and I started to see the consequences of not taking care of the land, even if just throwing a wrapper of a bar on the ground. The fish had died due to the plastic wrapping around its gills. My family used to have a cabin that we built in the woods that could only be reached by boat in summer or skidoo in the winter. Every summer, my dad and I would drive there to keep it maintained even though we did not stay there anymore. He would tell me, “We still occupy the land with the cabin. Therefore, it is our responsibility to keep the area around it clean for the animals.” We kept it clean because we share the land with the animals. It has nothing to do with hygiene or giving them a clean space. It was simply out of respect for the animals and the land which we share. The creator made everything to be shared among the animals and us.
Being Indigenous has made me feel connected to the land due to how I was raised. I respect the land as much as possible and do my best to maintain what I can, and not disturb the animals or land. If I have children, I will teach them what my dad and grandpa taught me. For now, I have been telling my nieces and nephews what I know about our land and the animals that inhabit it. They have taken to it and mostly listen to me. If the lessons I learned are taught for generations to come, I hope the land can be maintained so that their children and children’s children can enjoy the land and all that it has the way I have grown up with.
Author’s Bio: Ian Sinclair is a 29-year-old Indigenous student at UCN. He was born and raised in Cross Lake, Manitoba. Ian is completing the 3-year Bachelor of Arts program with a goal to become a social worker to help Indigenous children. His desire to work and help children stems from his own experiences of needing help as a child. While attending school during a pandemic has been challenging, Ian is still pushing himself forward to complete his remaining courses.
Instructor’s Remark: Ian Sinclair is currently taking the Major Works and Authors of the 20th Century course. Remote learning is difficult for students living on the reserves. While students from urban environments take fast-speed Internet for granted, Indigenous students in their reserves have to make great efforts to take online courses. However, Ian Sinclair has managed to complete most of the assignments for this course. He has done a great job in acting the role of George Henderson, county attorney of Susan Glaspell’s Trifles. His short memoir, “You Must Respect the Land,” informs the reader about the importance of respecting the land and the animals on the land. (Dr. Ying Kong)