Many times I have travelled the seven-hour drive through the Boreal Forest Region of northern Saskatchewan to Birch Narrows/Turnor Lake. Many times I have enjoyed bear sightings along the way. About ten minutes after arriving at our host’s home, while admiring Rebecca’s garden, we had an up-close sighting. A black bear was in the bushes not eight feet from her five-year old son. Rebecca called the RCMP. Officers arrived in a few minutes to take care of this scary situation. Kelly Nuttall, Crossroads Relief & Development Co-ordinator, joined me on this trip to take pictures of the new Community Kitchen. Now she had an opportunity to take pictures of a bear, certainly from a lesser distance than she anticipated. Quite an exciting welcome.
The new community kitchen was right on schedule for completion in time for our arrival. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. Exactly! A watermain in the road burst. That stopped all work on the project until repairs were completed. That did not stop, Rebecca Sylvestre, Director and Manager of the Community Kitchen program. She immediately moved their programs to the arena kitchen normally not used in the summer.
The next day began with Kelly taking photos of the twenty-two fish being prepared for a BBQ and the drying process. The latter is how the Indigenous create their own ‘fish jerky’, a real delicacy. Several elders in the community prepare the fish with sharp knives at a large stainless-steel table. First though the scales are removed. I joined a half dozen youngsters, aged five to eight, descaling with spoons, certainly safe for us amateurs. There’s nothing like fish scales flying everywhere. Older teens were learning to gut the fish, then slice them such that they hang over a smoking fire for twenty-four hours. We shared lots of laughter and great conversation (some Dene language as well) between all the ages gathered in the kitchen. It was such a good feeling of community and camaraderie.
The planned programs for the youth on our second full day were scrapped as Rebecca’s parents killed a moose while boating on the lake. They went ashore, cleaned and quartered the moose right there, loaded it into the boat and returned home around 2:00 am. Due to the heat and flies, the work must be done quickly in warm weather. When a person is driving or boating, they always carry both rifle and saw in case they happen upon a moose. Families know to be prepared to drop whatever they are doing if they want some of that moose. It must be cleaned, fat and bone removed and cut to the portions they desire without delay. Knives are always sharp, and an abundance of freezer wrap and tape must be plentiful for the meat to be properly frozen. Moose is one of their main healthy food choices. Kelly and I watched Rebecca using the sharpest knife I have ever encountered to cut and portion the moose. She prepared some for freezing, smoking and drying. Many of the homes have old fashioned smokers for fish, fowl and animals. Nothing is wasted. What can’t be consumed by humans is eaten by the dogs and the crows!
After saying our goodbyes, Norma and I drove to Cold lake, Alberta to have supper with Barry Chalifoux and to encourage and pray for him as well. Barry’s father is now the chief of Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation. Barry works for him as the CEO of the band. He was also co-host with Crystal Lavallee on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Appreciation Day.
That evening I joined in their weekly prayer meeting. God’s Holy Spirit fell upon us. Everyone could feel it. Sixteen-year-old, Briana, was filled with the Spirit as I anointed her with oil and laid hands on her. Onion Lake was the first Indigenous community where I ministered three years ago. It’s wonderful to see how God is moving in a mighty way over the First Peoples of this land.
It is my desire to spend one week a month on a mission to Indigenous communities across Canada and you make that happen. As you follow us, you will see that trips vary depending on the needs of the community from their view point. We help the communities reach self-determination and autonomy by being the hands and feet of Jesus doing the great commission. Thank you for your prayers and your vital, continued support.
If you would like to support us, please choose from one of these donation options:
Call 1-800-265-3100and give to First Peoples Voices
Mail cheque to:
First Peoples Voices at Crossroads
1295 North Service Rd.
Burlington, ON., L7R 4M2