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I'm Teaching My Sons Our Cree Traditions So They Can See The Path Forward

It fills my heart with warmth knowing my sons will have seen and experienced firsthand what life is like on the land.

01/11/2018 14:48 EST | Updated 01/11/2018 14:53 EST
Geeshig Sutherland

I'm in my cabin washing dishes while the boys get sucked back into their electronics, feeling far away and disconnected from the music industry. Taking time to teach my sons the Cree traditions, building survival skills and developing resilience to their very core is important to me. Someday they will walk in my footsteps, like I did with my Cree role models.

Adrian Sutherland

It fills my heart with warmth knowing my sons will have seen and experienced firsthand what life is like on the land. My youngest son, Junior, can already fish on his own. His catch has totaled 45 fish (mix of char and trout) — impressive for an 11-year-old! He also got to see how traps were set, which is something that has almost completely died off in James Bay.

This trip only scrapes the surface of what their parents, grandparents and great grandparents would've endured.

It's important for both of my sons — Junior and Geeshig — to understand the past, in order to help them see the path forward. I wish I could spend more time with them out on the land. This trip only scrapes the surface of what their parents, grandparents and great grandparents would've endured.

Adrian Sutherland

My son-in-law and brother arrived on snowmobiles shortly after we turned back, because Junior was too cold to continue tracking fresh moose tracks. I could tell by their facial expressions and the way they were walking — a definite spring in their step. "We got two bulls!" said my brother with much excitement in his voice.

All of us were very high-spirited to have fresh meat, so we hurried off to gut and skin the kill. It's not easy skinning a bull moose, and it's twice as hard in winter when everything seems to slow down from the cold. The hide is almost an inch thick in some places and your blade dulls quickly. If you're not careful to wipe the blood from the blade before taking it to a file, the file will ice up and won't sharpen a blade.

Geeshig Sutherland

We're also working against short daylight hours and a bossy little boss who keeps yelling at us: "When you guys going to be done, and what's taking you so long?" Sometimes Junior lacks patience and understanding at his age, so we work our butts off to please him.

Working my butt off has become the story of my life — not only on the land and at home, but also in pursuing a career in music. Which is not easy. But looking back now, it's starting to all come into view. I can now see how far I've come.

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All the hardships and challenges I had to overcome, and still having to prove people wrong today, has only made me more determined to succeed. It's been a steep climb, but I can almost see the top now. I know these last few pushes for the peak will also be hard, but will one day be worth it.

Adrian Sutherland

There are times when I wish things weren't so hard, but I know it's all just part of life. My grandfather once said, "Don't feel bad if you have very little in life. As long as you have all your basic needs to live, then you'll be OK. No matter what, live your life in a good way."

Thinking about his words always brings me reassurance. Because I know that even if I can't make it all the way to the top, and for some reason take a tumble back down to the bottom (where I've already been before in my life), I'll still be happy. Why? Because I'll still have everything I need to live, and will continue to live my life in a good way.

Above all, I know that everything will be OK.

Judy Sutherland

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