I worked for a year with the Cree natives in northern Ontario on the shores of James Bay in 1967. The parents and grandparents lived unreal lives by our standards and knew nothing else. In Moosonee, ten percent of the several hundred natives lived in 9 X 12 foot tents, no floor, no plumbing, no electricity, five outhouses for a hundred people on the edge of a stream where most got their water, no beds, the stove was a 40 gallon drum with a pipe cut into the top and cut through the canvas, a couple and their one to three children, including a baby and usually a dog or two living within the tent. Teachers would berate the kids for not doing their homework. In all the other homes, the natives had a wooden floor, four feet high, then canvas walls and ceiling with windows cut in the walls for aeration, no glass windows, or one family mother and baby in a tin house. None of the houses had insulation. None had washers or driers, dressers, beds for everyone. One lady with seven children had one single bed. No table to eat on, not enough utensils or bowls for all the family, and dogs running loose in all directions. They were after the moose cut in portions and hanging on the edge of their houses outdoors. No refrigeration for any meat, fish, or fowl, as there was an abundance of ducks, geese and partridge. In the midst of all this gloom, I discovered a happy, giggly, and fascinating culture of survival, and I retain friendships with a number of those families to this day. A hundred feet away, on the other side of Shore Creek, non-natives had ALL the amenities. In 1972 the Natives finally had proper housing. I never met one complaint ever. That year taught me so much---to appreciate what we have. The natives, at least the old timers lived on and off the land, and they were tough. And they laughed all the time. I know---I was there.
(c) 2011 Richard L. Provencher
Note: To view a variety of pictures taken by Richard Provencher and Dennis Eitzen (now deceased) in Moosonee, Ontario in 1967, Google:
"Richard Provencher's Pictures - paullantz.com"
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