Waachay! Aaniin! Boozhoo! from Dakota

Waachay! Aaniin! Boozhoo!  My name is Dakota Souliere! I am a member of Missanabie Cree First Nation and am currently working for Mushkegowuk Lands and Resources, as Chapleau Cree’s Environmental Steward of the Land.

I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie but have had the opportunity to live all over our great country. While I have loved all my experiences, my passion and heart has always remained in Treaty 9 territory. As a child, I spent every summer in traditional territory of Missanabie Cree on Murray Lake. The entire family including all my Aunties, Uncles and Cousins (who were more like brothers and sisters) made the four-hour journey to be there and live on the land.  It is easy to say that for Mom, Dad and two older sisters this is the most memorable part of those years together. I loved scaring my sisters, who were both terrified of leaches and snakes.

We would all live in a small two-bedroom trapper’s cabin that my grandfather, Gordon Souliere and his brothers built in 1960.  I am thankful for our cabin as it has taught me a lot about living off the land and being in the bush where we were meant to live and where our ancestors lived.  I feel closest to home when I am there and my feet finally get to touch the ground, my soul belongs there.

Even as a child I knew just how special it was to be raised there, I was home. My fondest memories as a child are not of city living, going to school or playing with my friends, it is of my time in Missanabie. I truly believe that an indigenous child learns more when spending time on the land and Missanabie provided that opportunity for me. I am eternally grateful for these experiences.

Growing up I always was outside, whether it be on the lake, or right in the bush aka the middle of nowhere or running down the minnow trail to capture some bait to fish.  I am a hunter, a fisher, and a provider for my people.

In 2016, I graduated from Sault College as an Adventure Recreation and Parks Technician with Honors. During my time at the College my love of the outdoors was fostered even further.  I learned about the trees, the different types of environments, birds, plants, fish, and much more. I also learned about living off the land and how to survive in both emergency and general living situations.

This job is more than a job. I believe that you must walk the path that I have learned over time and am excited to make a difference for our people and for the future generations.  As a part of my job I am responsible for talking to the members of Chapleau Cree about the land and to physically assess the land gathering Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).  Most of my focus is based around climate change, as it is a reality that we are facing and it has become a situation that we need to develop an adaptation plan around. We must also develop emergency plans for events that may arise given these changes.  With the new weather arising, how are we going to adapt? What are we going to do differently?

We must protect Mother Earth and all that she provides for us as, where would we be without the trees and the oxygen they provide, or where would we be without the water that we cannot go three days without.  We must protect the oil and minerals. Protect Mother Earth, as she has protected us for many years.

I welcome the opportunity to talk to each and every one of you, so please do not hesitate to contact me via email at dsouliere@mushkegowuk.ca or at the band office at 705-864-0784. We can set up a time to have some tea and share your stories.

In the spirit of community,

Dakota Souliere

Environmental Steward of the Land

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