Land, life, and knowledge in Chisasibi: Intergenerational healing in the bush

Ioana Radu, Lawrence (Larry) M. House, Eddie Pashagumskum

Abstract


In 1980, the Fort George iiyiyiwich were unceremoniously moved across the James Bay to the present-day community of Chisasibi - a place not of their choosing. The impacts of a cumulative range of stressors, from residential school abuses, mercury poisoning, and land loss from hydroelectric development, as well as overt paternalism from both governments and settlers working within Cree institutions, have disrupted family structures and undermined individual and community wellbeing. Nevertheless, the land, as much as it has endured, still offers a place and space where relationships of respect and love can be rebuilt and strengthened. This paper explores the connections between autonomy and wellbeing by presenting a land-based healing program developed by the Cree Nation of Chisasibi. The program functions as a social movement in response to social suffering caused by colonization and land loss, which aims to renew social relations as well as reconstitute and reaffirm contemporary Cree identity. Although it is intended as a culture-based healing program for youth in need, the delivery method is largely educational. The program was conceptualized by elder Eddie Pashagumskum, who shares iiyiyiu (Cree) knowledge about personhood and relationships that are rooted in his personal connection with the land and the ecosystem.

Keywords


land-based healing; wellbeing; Cree Nation of Chisasibi; Indigenous autonomy; decolonization

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ISSN 1929-8692