Canadian Geographic - - ON THE MAP - We­be­quie,

(sub­se­quently bought out by Noront), as part of its work-readi­ness ini­tia­tive. A strong re­la­tion­ship with the land is one of the ways the Matawa peo­ple can heal from these prob­lems, says Achneepine­skum, build­ing con­fi­dence and strength­en­ing tra­di­tional knowl­edge. That’s why any threat to those cul­tural con­nec­tions is espe­cially wor­ry­ing. “There are still some who have con­cerns about the im­pact on the wa­ter and the land and liveli­hoods,” he says.

en­joys nearuni­ver­sal flu­ency in Oji-cree, was named in that lan­guage af­ter one of the com­mu­nity’s tra­di­tional sto­ries. A man who ven­tured onto Winisk Lake one day saw a flock of mer­gansers strug­gling to take off from the wa­ter. The ducks were cran­ing their necks back and forth, and ap­peared to be look­ing around for any sign of a breeze to help them aloft. then, means “shak­ing the head from side to side.” As they strug­gle to find their place in the mod­ern econ­omy with­out los­ing their iden­tity, the Matawa com­mu­ni­ties them­selves seem to be scout­ing the skies for ris­ing winds of op­por­tu­nity. The Ring of Fire could be just such a ther­mal up­draft, but it car­ries the un­cer­tainty of massive, ir­re­versible change. In the com­ing years, they will de­cide whether, and how, to make that leap into the un­known. “Once the min­ing is com­pleted, we’re still gonna be there,” says Achneepine­skum. “We don’t have any­where else to go.”

Land­scapes ( op­po­site and above) in the vicin­ity of the pro­posed all-weather road, set to con­nect the Ring of Fire to the south.

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