Rachael Speare, AVC 2020, traveled to Nain and Natuashish in 2019 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing.
Clinic days in Natuashish were long and rewarding; we saw appointments right up until we had our last box of clinic supplies packed up. This busy schedule left little time to explore Natuashish and meet members of the community outside of the clinical setting.
On our last day in Natuashish, I was so happy we were invited to attend the National Aboriginal Peoples Day Festival happening just outside of town. As luck would have it, the sun had come out that day for the first time since we arrived. That evening we headed to the edge of town, where the landscape opened to reveal a clear blue lake flanked by mountains still dotted with snow and thick evergreen forest. Traditional Innu tents had been set up around the lake. A stage in the centre of the clearing showcased local talent where families and friends were gathered in celebration. It was wonderful to see familiar faces of pet owners, teachers and students who we met during the week. Running around and partaking in the evening’s festivities were none other than some of our patients from the week. It was rewarding to see them all doing well after their surgeries. We saw the two brothers, Chevy and Tank, on the dance floor listening to a Freddy Mercury impersonation.
The tents that had been set up were the summer variation of traditional Innu tents. The walls were made of canvas and supported by wooden pillars. The floors were made out of boughs of evergreen trees providing soft footing and wonderful smells that engulfed you as you entered the tent. Small fireplaces being used to cook and heat the tents added to the incredible smell at the festival. These tents are used by many families in Natuashish during the summer, and a different variation is made during the winter. These tents are also used by community groups for hosting social programming.
As a team we were grateful for the evening to relax and enjoy ourselves. We were able to reflect on our time during the last two weeks, our personal accomplishments as students and the lessons we will take home with us. Most of all, we were grateful to have the opportunity to attend this community event and learn about the Mushuau Innu First Nation culture. We had a lot of fun meeting community members, playing with the local children and listening to local musicians. It was the perfect way to end our time in Natuashish.