As with travelers decades past, I landed by
Boat at Okak, Labrador, Historical Morovian
Mission Station, site of 1919 influenza deaths,
When many died along the Labrador coast,
Bodies buried in winter mass graves, towns
Burned, survivors moved to points south,
Pandemic brought by returning WWI troops.
Amongst foothills north of here, backpackers
Found an Inuit cemetery, five cairns with
Christian crosses, bodies buried under stones,
Polar bear disturbed, scattered sun-bleached
Bones. As an Inuit elder, I was present whilst
Archaeologists investigated the site, reburied
Bones along this desolate Nunatsiavut ridge.
My concern was not virulent pathogens lingering
In weather-exfoliated bones, but next pandemic
Emerging from qallunaat world, Inuit living in
Small communities, houses door-to-door, how
Disease would spread like ages past, death
Settlements, Okak and Nain, reaching across
Nunavik and Nunavut, above the Arctic Circle.
As work continued, I walked amongst these hills,
Remnants of old hunting camps, life struggled
On Labrador shores. As clouds shrouded distant
Mountaintops, I felt fever-lost spirits drifting
In this austere land, bodies stacked in aban-
Doned houses, dead clutching dead, after flu
Robbed them of their lives.
Ironically, we can rebuild cemeteries, reunite
Bones to cairns with more facility than we can
Restore families ravaged by deadly crimes.
Realization struck me, like caribou and basalt
knives, Indigenous women are ensnared in pan-
Demic of killing crimes, another virus in human
Form stalks us, young women its deadly prey.
God help us, angst I feel are not flu victims one
Hundred years past, clouds descending over-
Head, but collective, visceral cries of dozens
Of young women, bodies found along roadways
And in morgues, dead clutching dead, after
Predatory men robbed them of their lives,
Murderous pandemic, deadliest of disease.
For more on missing, murdered aboriginal women, see this link: