Kenneth J. Chakasim


It’s hard to imagine the notion of being connected to the Canadian Landscape without understanding the history of its Indigenous peoples; namely how the migration patterns exhibited by members of my Indigenous culture continue to unfold, fold into the new old, and tend to be retold, retold and retold. Yes, as much as Canadian cities now engulf the Indigenous mind, the Indigenous person-vessel too shares the urban landscape – making once ancestral lands part of the Diasporic dialogical landscape.

A migrating experience: I remember a time when my Mooshim (Cree for grandfather) set up a hunting blind in what seemed to be the middle of ‘know where’ – you’ll see what I mean shortly – somewhere in the grassy mudflats, just off the tidal banks of the Albany River in Northern Ontario. Upon positioning my back to the frigid north-westerly winds sweeping over the tree line; facing me due south to watch and learn about the sun that would bend across the sky east-to-west; and to listen carefully for the migration of Canada geese that juxtaposed the natural cycles around me.

This was to be my first teaching about ‘my place in the migrating landscape’ in a northern setting. “My grandson, sit patiently and allow the natural migration of time and place to evolve around you”, Mooshim said before he walked away in bowlegged fashion along the meandering river. It was also my first ontological lesson about Cree material culture – the making of a hunting blind involves an existential understanding of the body in relation to the material of place, including the spirit. Ironically, Mooshim in a cross-cultural context (Korean philosophy) means to practice moment awareness; to live and learn with nature when it ceases to be dominated by its usual mental chatter.

Herein lays the tenuous relationship between Canadian indigenous culture and migration. The First Nations story continues to be retold, the Métis story continues to be retold and now the Inuit story is being retold – only to be tri-folded into a new old. And as an emerging type of cultural synthesis continues to take place between shared ideals – the Indigenous experience being told through Diaspora aesthetics – a new landscape is being created in a vastly different epoch, under the same ole’ sun, amidst a vastly different mindscape.

My Canadian migrating landscape experience entails a series of tenuous relationships to people, place and material through a rich system of cultural exchange. Chi-megweetch!