One of the things that I remember feeling during my first stay in Chisasibi is relief. For the first time in my life, my dreams were taken seriously. One day, when a few relatives and friends of the people I was staying with were over, I asked J., the mom, if there was a Rachel with their family name. She asked me why, and I told her that I had dreamt of meeting a young woman named Rachel who had their last name. She thought for a minute, then asked around the room if any of the young men in the extended family was dating a Rachel, who would then potentially adopt their last name through marriage. No one could think of anyone but they said they would keep an eye out.
I had a lot of vivid dreams while I was here that time in 1998 and I actually remember a few of them that had to do with being here. Three of them, in addition to the one above, stand out. One happened early in my stay after one of my first encounters with a group of young drunken men. I dreamt that one of them was in the kitchen frying candles, then he made me eat one. I woke up with the most disgusting feeling in my stomach and couldn’t figure out the connection between the young man and fried candles. Years later, it makes sense. It was those encounters with “drunks” and the conversations I had with them that led me to be interested enough in their lives that I would want to do a phD project on the topic! Another one featured the friend of one of the daughters of my host family. We were taking a walk and she was teaching me some Eeyou words, but they sounded to me like Greek words (not that I speak Greek, but in my dream somehow I knew it was Greek.) In my dream, I was scared that she was teaching me bad words or insults that would get me in trouble when I tried them out.
Finally, an especially vivid and meaningful dream happened about halfway through my stay. In my dream, I was in the living room near the bay window. I saw a big beautiful moose walk by. I ran back to the room I was sleeping in to get my camera but when I got back to the living room, the moose was gone. This affected my picture taking habit during that trip. I didn’t want to miss a single second of my experience there, especially when I got to go to the bush so I actually wound up taking very few pictures. I wanted to have the memories frozen in my mind instead. And it worked, they are still there. I can mentally recall with near perfect quality the big seal that was sitting on a rock in the bay when we rode by in the canoe. I can recall the otter playing in a small river near where the guys I was with were fishing. I can clearly remember how two dead geese swayed with the motion of my friend J’s footsteps as he held them firmly but tenderly by the neck over his shoulder on the way back to the cabin.
The Fleetwood Mac song “Dreams” also plays a big role in my memories of my first trip here. I was with a couple of guys one evening – we were drinking and playing pool. Earlier in the evening, they had spent a lot of time angrily talking about how they had lost so much access to their ancestors’ traditional way of life because of intrusion and interference by “the white man” (their words). So when the song Dreams came on the radio, and A. and I were tripping out to it, I had a moment of lucidity when the prelude to the chorus came on: “Like a heartbeat drives you mad/In the stillness of remembering/What you had and what you lost/And what you had and what you lost.” I could only think back to their passionate expressions of anger, expressions so strong that the van we were in, in the middle of the woods, shook with the intensity of their rage.
Now, I’m still having vivid dreams but like everything else, they are different. The most recent one took place in the school. I found out they were replacing me with another substitute and I realised how much I had become attached to the students. So I tried to find ways to undermine the new sub. When I woke up, I was relieved that it was only a dream.
I wonder what kinds of dreams I will have for the rest of the year that I’m here.