Before: Caribou River Swimming.
Before: Caribou River Swimming.

As a people, we are caught between two
Cultures: traditional and modern ways of
Qallunaat. Conflict rides within me, two
Halves disagreeing, strong and mercurial,
Each uniquely walking this land, yet as
Shaman-elder, I, Jacopee, have defined
Them as my path to greater understanding.

As life-force, Koksoak River provides water
To the people, fish, game, its depths welling
Spiritual guidance. Above the treeline, along
This living flow, I commune with Great Spirits,
From sparse trees, far reaches of Ungava Bay,
Akpatok Island, my spirit soars to welcoming
Hands of heavenly heights.

During ages past, shaman guided people
By wisdomed truth, we steered the hunt,
Location of caribou or seal, avoidance of
Polar bears. Such guidance is done now by
Float planes and drones, in doing so, tech-
Nology has eroded culture, our bond severed
To old ways, reliance and perseverance.

As an older man, I, rarely venture beyond
Sandy beaches leading to Koksoak River,
Where tides rise and fall at beckoning call
Of moon, hot coffee or tea are my comforts,
My days killing caribou are over. Yet, those
Times are hardy memories, my .30-30 and
Cartridges sit nearby, waiting for my hand.

Invited on caribou hunt, I rode in protected
Freighter canoe, motoring upriver towards
Forest, caribou swimming, one was slower
Than others, struggling to swim, we ran
Alongside it, panicked snorts, eyes darting, |
Point-blank shot to the head, blood spurting,
We lashed flailing antlers to boat gunnels.

After: Caribou Hide Hanging.
After: Caribou Hide Hanging.

Where was honour in this killing? I quietly
Offered prayers, thanking the animal for its
Death, for I saw us as the wolf, taking weak
Ones from the herd, stragglers unable to keep
Up, honest reflections with fresh hindquarter
In my freezer, winter meat, sleeping on its
Warming hide during cold nights.

My purpose yet fulfilled, I am living bridge
Between old ways and our youth, bright eyes
And curious minds, adapting to white man’s
Technology, young men and women, who
By their teens can handle rifles and boats
Alone, navigating deep river waters to
Ungava Bay to rugged coastal islands.

Before my days end, my sins and inequities
Forgiven, my prayer is that a young man or
Woman who drives their boat along the tree-
Line will have spiritual realizations, cloud-
Breaking sunlight, and will search me out,
Newly enlightened, to take the mantle of our
Religion, to learn our traditional ways.

Diaries and notebooks I would bequeath to
Him or her, so that they may learn from
Decades of writing, praying, singing, crying,
For I have known the gods, more humbling,
They have known me, my soul given upon
Rocky shores of Ungava, I left illumined,
Divine calling, life-journey beginning.

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