I was going to start off my new column with a neat, tidy introduction, along with my personal history and all that cordial stuff. Then the ‘Blackout of 2012’ hit and I wanted to simultaneously share a pressing topic, as well as give you a good dose of my craziness — I figured that was the most appropriate and befitting introduction anyway. No need to pussyfoot around, I’ll just barrel through and leave the judgement to you, my good reader.
About two weeks ago, my husband and I were talking about the scary changes in the weather, and how it appeared that many natural disasters were striking the more densely populated areas of the world. We felt that things were pretty good in Saskatchewan, but wondered what would happen if those natural disasters struck us. What would we do? How would we handle it?
Suppose there was mayhem in our city; destruction rampant, people dying, disease abound, infestation a threat. Not only would there be a race for resources, but there would be accidents, rioting, looting — in short, pandemonium.
As we talked, we realized that we would likely feel the urgency to leave the city, to hunker down at a secluded spot in nature where we could hopefully ride out the brutal circumstances.
That’s when we were struck with an obvious and glaring reality; we were not that kind of Indians. We’re the modern, artsy types who know about technology and drive-thrus. We were not raised to hunt and forage or to make shelters and igloos.
I was raised with many ceremonies and teachings and I do possess a Natives Studies degree, so I’m thankfully not completely ignorant about my roots and identity as a Cree lady, but I’m certainly not confident with my wilderness survival skills. I was slightly consoled by the fact that I love camping and together with my husband, we are quite resourceful and creative — thus we might possess a good chance of survival. However, our survival would depend on both of us surviving. What if we weren’t that fortunate? Perhaps in such a drastic turn of events, only one of us made it out alive. Grim, but possible, and what would the sole survivor do?
That’s when we decided we would both begin preparing for such an event. We began studying books and have planned trips that will enable us to put theory into practice. We vowed to search out those who were knowledgeable and could educate us not only on how to survive in the wilderness, but also to thrive, if need be.
Then the Blackout Storm struck the north, including Prince Albert, and some areas of Saskatoon. There were tornado warnings, and I happened to be out of town, relying on text messages for assurance of my family’s safety. When I finally arrived home, it was hard not to suppress the creepy realization that we had just discussed the possibility of an apocalypse. It wasn’t as dire as we had imagined, but the potentiality for more extreme events loomed overhead.
My friends entertained my wilderness preparedness with enthusiasm, assuaging my anxieties. That’s when I wondered how many other people would be prepared. I certainly don’t want to be in a situation where I compete with others in order to survive. It would not be a reality-type scenario where only one person was worthy of remaining. There would be no million-dollar prize. The only reward would be staying alive for another day. With that in mind, I would want to help others, to lean on them, to utilize their knowledge and ideas as I shared my own, in a community-type fashion.
I’m certainly no fear-monger — not typically anyway, but it’s hard to deny the underlying nervousness we all face about 2012. Perhaps it is just the end of one calendar and the beginning of another. Yet we all know the state our planet is in. The weather is only reflecting the damage we have inflicted upon earth. I think most people are in agreement about that.
As a mother of three amazing boys, I would do anything to ensure that they have the best lives possible. So, I have made it my mission to be prepared — should anything occur where I am forced to leave the securities and comforts that I have become accustomed to.
I will learn how to find shelter, make shelter, find water and purify it, locate edible plants, and navigate through the bush. I intend to learn how to hunt, trap and fish with traditional materials, as well as crudely made ones. I will practise all methods to start fire and study emergency preparedness. During all of this, I will humbly pray to the Creator that I retain this knowledge, should I ever need it.
Perhaps you have followed along thus far and agree with everything I’ve said, but you are an atheist. That’s your choice, not mine. I’m not here to change your mind, but if you don’t have an ounce of faith, it only means you need to study these things even harder than me.
My father-in-law often talks of a ceremony he attended years ago where the Elders mentioned that one day we would be paying for water. He scoffed at this but every time he sees bottled water now he remembers what they told him. Last week a friend of mine mentioned that Elders she knows prophesied how one day we would be forced to live off the land again, as we once did. She was quite proud that she had listened and learned these ways as she was younger and she felt prepared for such an occurrence — unlike me.
Hopefully the land remains calm enough over the course of my training that I can learn peacefully, with few obstacles. Perhaps I will never need this knowledge, but I’d feel a lot safer if I learned it anyway. Then, should emergency strike, you know a zany columnist you can look up, and hopefully I can help.
Jessica Iron Joseph is a Prince Albert freelance writer whose column runs every Friday in the Daily Herald.