Adding another adventure to our weekend after a walk to the Youth Camp yesterday, we had a chance to go for a boat ride on the Albany River today.
Joan and Edmund Metatawabin are a wonderful couple here who have been incredibly welcoming and supportive since our first day on the ground in Fort Albany. Joan is a former teacher who currently runs the healthy food program at the school and helps to organize regular farmers’ markets in the community. Edmund is a former chief of Fort Albany First Nation and is currently an author and activist (he has a book coming out in August that I am very much looking forward to reading).
Joan came and found us working at the school this afternoon and invited us out for a boat ride. We were in the middle of planning for our week of camp, but were happy to take a break for the afternoon to get out on the water. We have been hinting to almost everyone we have met that we have been anxious to see more of the river, so this was a very welcomed opportunity!
We hopped in the back of Joan’s pickup truck along with her five-year-old granddaughter (who also comes to camp with us) and she drove us to her house. They live in a wonderful log cabin just off the reserve boundary along the edge of the river. We climbed down the river embankment, into the boat, and headed off down the river.
Edmund navigated the boat through the river, telling us more about the history of the land and the community. As we boated past the site of the original community, a few structures were visible from the water and we learned that these are used by community members who gather at the site each summer. As for the history, Edmund told us that this area floods quite regularly and when missionaries arrived they deemed it unsafe. They moved further inland to be safer and the resulting community is the current site of Fort Albany First Nation.
As with my experience walking to the Youth Camp yesterday, it is hard to find words that accurately describe the beauty of the landscape on either side of the river. We did not pass any other boats on the river and the land around us was completely undisturbed. That sort of experience can be completely overpowering if you let it hit you. It made me feel small and part of something much bigger. Beyond that, I am at a loss for words.
We pulled the boat into a small sandbar in the middle of the river at a point where we could just barely see James Bay from a distance (it would have been at least another 45-minute ride by boat to actually reach the bay). We waded out into the water in our clothes for a swim and spent quite a bit of time splashing and playing with Joan and Ed’s granddaughter. The water was shallow enough that we were able to walk through the river to another sandbar that was exposed above the water. By the time we were ready to leave, the tide had gone out even further and another sandbar had appeared just beside where we had tied up the boat.
The boat ride back was one again quite silent as I tried to take in as much of the scenery as possible. This has certainly been a busy weekend without much time to rest and recover from a busy week at camp, but this really does not bother me at all. It has been a weekend full of perspective, which is something that I have been craving lately. Even with a slight lack of sleep, I think I am feeling even more ready to take on another busy week.