Helplessly Hoping is a song by Neil Young that begins with the line "There is a town in North Ontario," that for the purposes of our narration should be changed to "There is a desolate village in North Ontario!"
The Kashechewan reserve was formed in 1957 when Ottawa forcibly moved Cree hunters and their families to an isolated plain about 450 kilometres north of Timmins and near the coast of James Bay.Kashechewan First Nation is one of two communities that were established from Old Fort Albany in the 1950s. The other community is Fort Albany First Nation which is now located on the southern bank of the Albany River seven miles away.
An isolated community, the nearest urban centre is Timmins and it is located approximately 300 miles south. The topography of Kashechewan is generally flat.
During the spring the water level rises 1 or 2 meters up the riverbank and often raises over the riverbank and floods the community.
Like many other First Nations in the area, there is still a lot of dependence on the land. Some families go out spring and fall camping for a month. Before the winter some elders go fur trapping, and they come back when it is safe to go on the river.
During the spring some people smoke geese and fish, and sometimes moose meat or caribou.
When they come back from camp they sell their meat. Sometimes they sell their crafts, like bead work, slippers, moccasins, and carving.
Just so we know exactly what we are dealing with here you have to imagine a village of about 2000 people set on the side of Hudson's/James Bay with no roads (except an ice road in winter) leading into it.
Unemployment hovers around 75% (That's three out of four, boys and girls!) while alcoholism and suicide run rampant through the community.
The community is 60% hooked up to water and sewage systems. Due to the deterioration of the old water treatment plant, a new one was constructed and it has been operational since March 1998. The plant supplies clean chlorinated water to the community.
Ontario Hydro no longer provides electrical power for the community.
Generators were located in Fort Albany and winter months frequently see blackouts, because the capacity of the three generators did not meet the needs of both communities. The generators were linked to the two communities by transmission lines approximately 7 kilometers in length.
Due to these problems, the First Nation lobbied for and received funding to establish their own generating station. In October 1997, a new diesel power plant was built and it is community owned by the Kashechewan Power Authority. As of December 16, 1997, three generators service the population. The administration (billing, meter reading, and maintenance) is under the direction of the Power Authority.
What few jobs are available are mostly government work and consist of the following.
-Kashechewan First Nation
-Hishkoonikun Education Authority
-Kashechewan Health Services
-Power Plant Authority
-Nimisuk Women’s Center
Plus, this thriving [sic] business community:
Owned and operated by Sidney Goodwin
Owned and operated by Jacob Williams
-J & M Pop & Video Shop
Owned and operated by Joseph Sackaney
-G & C Shop
Owned and operated by George Koosees Jr.
-L & M Meechisokamik
A restaurant owned by Maureen Metatawabin
Owned and operated by Angela Wynne
Water supply store owned by William Sutherland
Operated by Lileena Wesley
Owned and operated by Alex Hughie
-Kapiskau Wesley Goose Camp
Owned and operated by Silas Wesley
-Wynne’s Goose Camp
Owned and operated by Charlie Wynne
Owned and operated by St. Paul’s Anglican Church.
At the very best these businesses and Government agencies employ less than two hundred people and the only bright spot is that you can always get a cab because there are two, (count em', two) cab companies in town. (This is because nobody else has got a car and it's too difficult to walk when you're drunk.)
On top of all this, the main reason for this story is that the village floods just about every spring and the Government, in it's wisdom, is re-building a dyke and dam system with a temporary, emergency repair at a cost of 40 million dollars.
Rebecca Friday, a community member, said she and many other residents are confused about what lies ahead, and many residents were losing hope.
Kashechewan residents continue to languish in overcrowded houses surrounded by a faulty protective flood wall, she told the Canadian Press, and "the people are still experiencing rashes" from the water that comes out of their taps.
So, there you have it! Unless you're real good at hunting, fishing or drinking there ain't too much to do up there!
And the winters are a BITCH!
BUT! The Federal Government, (in its wisdom) has come up with a plan folks! Yes sir!
1. Is it going to move the whole town 300 miles south to Timmins where there are at least some jobs, clean water, a working infrastructure, amenities, bars and best of all CIVILIZATION! ...................... Ahh, NO!
After all it would cost 200 million dollars and that works out to abut 100,000 bucks for each buck, squaw and kid.
2. O.K. then. Are they going to PLAN "B" the so-called Site 5 plan to move the reserve to an entirely new location on higher land, which would have cost an estimated $500 million. (That's half a mil. for each wayward soul!) Ahhhhh.... NO, way too expensive!
Like all good Governments they are going to do what makes absolutely no sense and could even be considered plain fucking stupid! (Surprise!)
They are going to take that 200 million that could have relocated everyone to Timmins (and wiped out all the problems in one fell swoop) and make a $200-million investment "over the next five to seven years" to reinforce a dike, as well as build better drainage systems to protect low-lying areas from spring flooding.
Oh, I know there were some that didn't want to leave their ancestral homeland but let's face it, when there is nothin' happenin',
up there it's time to MOVE, bucko's!
Get down to where things are on the go and jobs aren't as scarce as the dwindling stock of game and wildlife. Get in a place where your kids can go to good schools and have prospects for a future other than hunting, fishing and drinking.
As for the rest of you who want to stay on the land and live in the middle of nowhere............... STARVE!
Just because you want to live in those conditions does not mean we have an obligation to look after you!
Allan W Janssen is the author of The Plain Truth About God-101
Labels: far north, humor satire, Indians, native land claims