These were our Elder Matthew Natachequan’s words, addressing the Nishiyuu Walkers at a community feast in Waskaganish held in their honour, February 19th, 2013. He was chosen to explain the meaning of “Nishiyuu” and the Journey. He used excerpts of the Legend of Chickapash, the boy who snared the Sun, to explain it. (When he recounted the Legend, Elder Natachequan was in a bit of a hurry because he had to catch his plane back to Whapmagoostui. The following is an elaborate version of the Legend.)
His sister warned him not bother these people because they killed others who were not like them. “You heard the sound of their ice chisels by a beaver lodge as they’re preparing to trap the beaver,” she said. “If you go to them they’ll ask you to grab the beaver with your bare hands through the hole in the ice by the beaver lodge’s exit. As soon as you grab the animal they will knock you down into the hole and drown you. That’s what they do to hunters who’re not of their clan.”
But Chickapash was a curious young man with special powers. He decided to go back and check them out despite his sister’s warnings. Before he got to them he shrank himself to the size of a small boy. They laughed when they saw him. ‘Come over here and grab the beaver,’ they said. He agreed and placed himself by the hole in the ice. The beaver came out as expected and Chickapash sunk his right arm into the hole. As soon as he got a hold of the animal he returned to his normal size. The men were surprised by what happened and stood back. When Chickapash walked away with the beaver he’d caught, they went after him and tried to the take it away from him. He reacted by breaking two of the men’s arms. At that point they left him alone.
When he got home his sister asked, “You did go to those evil men, didn’t you? I heard them screaming. What did you do to them?”
“Ah, I simply broke two of the men’s arms.” He said, “They asked me to catch this beaver and when I did they attacked me and tried to take it away from me. So I fought back.”
His sister replied, “They will come after you. They have among them the fiercest warriors on the land, they will surely kill us.”
“Do not be afraid, sister,” Chickapash said, reassuringly. “Nothing will happen to us.”
Sure enough that evening they heard the men coming. They could hear the whimpers of those that Chickapash wounded. The warriors were about to enter the lodge when something happened. The caribou hide coverings of the lodge turned to stone and they couldn’t go in. As this point they knew they couldn’t touch Chickapash because he had special powers.
Chickapash came out and walked over to the men whose arms he broke earlier that day and said to them, “Look at you! You claim to be the fiercest warriors on the land and you can’t even heal your wounds.” He placed their broken arms back to normal and they were surprised that they were instantly healed. He said to them, “Now, you all listen carefully. This is how you’re future is going to be like when Nishiyuu roams the Earth: You will always be running to others for help and for answers, but you will still suffer. You know, I, Chickapash, can help you, and it is in this way……..You will have to tell my story because by then, I will have become Legend!”
The legend of Chickapash is a long story to tell. Elder Matthew Natachequan stopped here for us to ponder further the meaning of “Nishiyuu” and the Journey because that’s what Elders do. Their words are a few and they only give us a clue as to the true meaning of their teachings. This is how they feed our spirit.
So, I thought about the Teaching behind the Legend of Chickapash in the last few days and this is what came to me. Until we master our Legends and decipher their meaning, we will always be looking for answers outside of our society and forgetting to look within. The Legend of Chickapash is referred to often as “The Boy Who Snared the Sun.” When I was a young boy, I asked one of my Elders how Chickapash could “snare the Sun”. His reply was, “You know, noshems (grandson), perhaps he did and, perhaps, he did not. But when someone has reached the highest human achievement possible, it could be said that they have ‘snared the Sun’. Do you think you can snare the sun, noshems?”
After pondering further over these Teachings and trying to relate them to what our Nishiyuu Walkers have undertaken – leaving their loves ones behind, the love for their community, walking miles and miles in harshest of winter elements and facing all other hardships and, now, bringing us together in unity to find our roots, strengthen, protect and honour our culture and, most of all, celebrate Mother Earth! – I realize now….even up to his point in their Journey…….our Nishiyuu Warriors have SNARED THE SUN!
How can we ever thank Elder Matthew Natachequan for these great teachings! May the Great Spirit bless you, nomshoom! Aho! All my Relations! Written by Matthew Mukash
“Let the Power of Love guide you to your destiny!” – Elder Matthew Natachequan to the Nishiyuu Walkers (Waskaganish, February 19, 2013)