Northern Inspiration

13923522_1621020831561223_344105618702972169_oBy Brandon MacLeod, Community Journalism Trainer

First, before getting into the well-founded complaints and concerns many have about the price of flying in Northern Ontario, I’d like to share my thoughts on the inspiration I found in Peawanuck and brought back with me to North Spirit Lake.

It was late-August 2016, I began my journey from the beautiful and lush North Spirit Lake to the magnificent and rugged promised land of Peawanuck, Ont. Currently, I teach the Indigenous Reporters Program in North Spirit, and in 2015 I did the same work mentoring new journalists in Peawanuck.

So, I embarked on a ‘working holiday’ returning to Peawanuck, visiting friends, taking part in a wedding, exploring the coast of Hudson Bay, and getting back together with the journalism crew.

It was an amazing time, as one of my best friends and fellow writer and journalist, Pam Chookomoolin, and her family took me into their home, hosting me, feeding me trout, geese, caribou, and some of that delicious tundra tea. Sam Hunter, whose parents have become my adopted Mooshum and Gookum, took me out on the land, taught me many things about life, shared thoughts and stories, and guided me along the seemingly unending shores of Hudson Bay, where I was able to watch and photograph some of the most impressive and majestic animals in the world, polar bears.

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Back in Peawanuck, after about a week of celebrating Bobby Chookomolin and Monique Gull’s wedding, it was time to get the journalism crew back together, re-motivated and inspired to share the stories, thoughts, and ideas they had inside.

We met on a Wednesday evening in the log cabin Pam’s partner Johnny built behind their home.

The meeting was small but there was a strong spirit of sharing and an energy that perhaps had been lost a little during the months we spent apart. A huge pot of tea kept making the rounds, keeping us warm as the night fell. We discussed story ideas, of which there were no shortage: food security and prices, mining, fresh produce, hunting, teaching, history. The meeting wasn’t even over yet and Gilbert Chookomoolin had already written a blog post about the absurd prices at the Northern store. We were on a roll, the motivation to write and share stories was palpable.

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A few days later we held a second workshop. It started with a free-writing session, the prompting word ‘empowerment’ evoked strong feelings. The discussion on empowerment connected to talks on human rights, before relating the power journalists and storytellers have in protecting human rights and holding people accountable. We were all feeling more than inspired, as we finished the night watching the movie ‘Spotlight’.

I left Peawanuck sad, as I said goodbyes to such great friends and fellow journalists, artists, and storytellers. But as I flew back to my current home of North Spirit I felt a jolt of energy, a smack in the face of inspiration.

We all have it in us. As journalist Glenn Greenwald says, “There are no limits to an individual’s power to change the world.”

While the crew of journalism trainees in North Spirit have already been published, have shown amazing promise, I was now returning with even more to give. Inspired, motivated, and looking deeper at everything they had to offer, at every level. All of it valuable and all of it worthy of the voice they give it.

Since returning, I cannot see a limit to what the creative, interesting, and intelligent group of journalism trainees in North Spirit will accomplish.

And now to get back to what I was about to mention at the beginning of this piece – the absurd and ludicrous pricing of flights across Northern Ontario.

In revealing the price of my round trip flight from North Spirit Lake to Peawanuck, keep in mind, with the help of a friend I used discounts, sale prices and even managed to get the half-price deal on the final leg up to Peawanuck. Yet, with all that in place, the trip still cost over $2,200!

It’s a story that more often needs to be told. Just one leg of the trip, from Timmins to Peawanuck and back costs $2,000 unless you are lucky enough to get it half-price. People in the north are gouged by airlines and left to pay unreasonable ticket prices just to leave their community, for whatever reason. And that’s not to mention the cost of freight.

But with all that said, I’d assure you, money isn’t everything. It’s the people and the beauty of the world around us. And for those I truly do feel lucky.

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