By Jean-Yves Soucy
Introduction by Romeo Saganash
Translated by Peter McCambridge
It is 1963, Jean-Yves Soucy is 18 and looking for a summer job. He dreams of being a fire warden scanning the boreal forest from a fire tower. But to his dismay he is sent to an equipment depot somewhere between Val-d'Or and Chibougamau in Northern Quebec. His disappointment ... Read more
It is 1963, Jean-Yves Soucy is 18 and looking for a summer job. He dreams of being a fire warden scanning the boreal forest from a fire tower. But to his dismay he is sent to an equipment depot somewhere between Val-d'Or and Chibougamau in Northern Quebec. His disappointment vanishes when he learns that the depot is located near a Cree community and that he will have two Cree guides, including a man named William Saganash, and his work will involve canoeing through the lakes and rivers of the region.
On each encounter with the Crees, on each of the long trips across water or through the bush, Jean-Yves expects to see a new world but realizes he?s meeting a different civilization, as different from his own as Chinese civilization. Yet he knows nothing about it. Nor does he understand the nature surrounding them as do his Cree guides, and friends.
Jean-Yves Soucy wrote this story because Romeo Saganash, son of William, insisted: You have to write that, Jean-Yves. About your relationship with my father and the others, how you saw the village. You got to see the end of an era.
He unfortunately passed away before completing it. However, in his poignant Afterword, Romeo Saganash provides a finishing touch to this story of an unlikely meeting of two worlds.
"The beauty of Soucy's Waswanipi, so brilliantly translated by Peter McCambridge, is that it recounts in the most human of terms, the eyes of youth, an important transformation of one of Quebec?s peoples. This is a tale steeped in friendship and understanding, too seldom heard in the polarizing politics of our day. " Ian Thomas Shaw, The Ottawa Review of Books
? short but very readable importance piece of historical literature (?) Soucy is adept at showing, not telling in his writing as he traverses water and land, villages and forest, contemporary white society and traditional Cree culture. He is an observer and learner. Daniel J. Rowe, Montreal Review of Books
Soucy's narrative vividly recalls a time when the traditional life--living off the land, hunting, fishing, gathering--was still possible for the Cree Community, before the residential school system and relentless extraction of resources changed everything. Julie McGonegal, (Quill and Quire)
(Waswanipi is a story brimming with big ideas to be savoured slowly. Soucy demonstrates great storytelling with an impressive memory for details and the translation is expertly handled by Peter McCambridge. (The Nation (The Cree Nation News))
I always had this fascination about how it was in the days to meet the Other for the first time. Young, my late Dad would tell me about his first encounters, and how he translated through those encounters the challenges to come for our people. Jean-Yves Soucy's story and encounter with my Dad provides a charming glimpse into a changing world, for us all. Romeo Saganash, Former Deputy Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees
an appeal to generosity and openness? This beautifully written?and witty?story becomes particularly significant through the encounter of two cultures, the overcoming of ignorance or distrust that separates them, and the prejudice that such ignorance can produce. Jean-Paul Beaumier, Nuit Blanche
Waswanipi is summer gift to be savoured, slowly; a timeless read that is like a walk in the forest when nothing else counts. Yvon Paré, Littérature du Québec
A book that feels like a movie. Romeo Saganash has written a moving afterword, thus completing the story whose author passed away before completing it. Mathieu Lavigne, Radio Ville-Marie
Waswanipi is brimming with curiosity, tenderness and humanity an ode to friendship and reconciliation with our indigenous brothers and sisters. Christian Desmeules, Le Devoir