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Cat Lake

Cat Lake

CAT LAKE – Cat Lake, originally known as Lynx Narrows, was the smallest community we visited. It has 400-500 people living on reserve and 612 band members. The First Nation calls itself Bizhiw-zaaga’iganiwininiwag meaning “Men of Wild-cat Lake” or as Bizhiw-zaaga’iganiing Nitam Anishinaabeg meaning “The First Nation at Wild-cat Lake,” where wild-cat refers to the

CAT LAKE – Cat Lake, originally known as Lynx Narrows, was the smallest community we visited. It has 400-500 people living on reserve and 612 band members.

The First Nation calls itself Bizhiw-zaaga’iganiwininiwag meaning “Men of Wild-cat Lake” or as Bizhiw-zaaga’iganiing Nitam Anishinaabeg meaning “The First Nation at Wild-cat Lake,” where wild-cat refers to the Canadian lynx.

We stayed in the O-Shkee Meekena Youth Healing Centre, a youth addictions treatment centre that houses 7-8 young adults between the ages of 12 & 17 for 10 week stays and uses a mix of traditional and modern practices.

We arrived in Cat Lake the day before the playground opening (every other community we arrived in the morning). A few of us headed over to the playground to have a look.  And there were well over 30 kids running around playing on it.  It was amazing to see. Derek, a local resident who was our driver and host while in Cat Lake, drove us to the playground, and it was a herculean task to convince his two sons that it was time to leave the playground.

Again, you could hear the passion and commitment to his community as Derek gave us a tour of Cat Lake. He talked about how they are trying to use traditional teachings to re-engage their youth. Told us how challenging it is to keep bears and wolves away from their community. And how their rez dogs harvest plants with large roots from the water in the summer time and bury them in the woods as a food source for the long winter.

They have a beautiful new school in Cat Lake that opened two years ago.  And in addition to the new playground the community has a new baseball diamond and volleyball court.

Perspective is always something that I find to be very fascinating. As we were getting ready to leave Cat Lake, Derek mentioned how he couldn’t wait for winter to get here. And as someone who lives in Southern Ontario I assumed that everyone in the north hated the winter.

But to him, there are all kinds of outdoor activities in the winter, and the ice roads open which reconnects the fly-in communities together. I had assumed that winter would be the isolating season, but after spending 4 days in the north I was starting to appreciate a new perspective.

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