Tom And Donna Morriseau, Nipigon

Tom Morriseau
 
 
"I guess I don’t know if it’s worry. It’s not [exactly] stress. Maybe it is stress, I don’t know. But it’s something. I get uneasy. It’s an uneasy feeling, is what it is. But its not to the extreme where I’m dancing around, but it’s there in me. Especially when I go out and, “What’s that? I haven’t seen that [before].”

 

Donna And Tom Morriseau

Tom Morriseau lived in the bush for his entire childhood, and his family got all of their food from the land. Now he lives in Nipigon, and is a trapper, fisher, hunter, canoeist, and holds knowledge of medicinal and edible plants. He is a member of the Red Rock Indian Band. Tom says that he "is connected to the land, because that's the way we were raised. We have respect for it, and what it has to offer."

Tom has noted many climate-related changes on his 120 square mile trapline, including the prevalence of certain plants (fewer lady slippers and less labrador tea), drier-than-typical seasons, warmer winters with less snow, and unpredictable extreme weather events. His wife Donna says, "You just see these freak storms that you hear we haven't seen in 200 years. It's suddenly at your doorstep. The past week when we had that snowstorm [in early May 2017]? That's the craziest thing. It was like sugar. I've never seen [that kind of snow] ever. Ever." Tom agrees. He says that there is also not as much snow as there was when he was younger.

Tom observes that winter ice is now much more unpredictable. He admits, "I don't go out on the ice anymore like I used to. I mean, I go fishing and everything else. But I mean on the trapline I have noticed a difference in the thickness of ice some years. And it's very unpredictable now. It's not like where it was a guarantee before. There was no issue with it [before] but now you've got to be careful." Tom says that increasing winds have also affected him greatly, because trees blow down on his trapline trails, and he has to clear them himself by hand. He says, "There are higher winds. Very high winds. I know that for a fact."

Fall temperatures also seem to be warming. Tom hunts regularly with his immediate family, and also goes on an annual moose hunt with other band members on Lake Nipigon; the moose they harvest go to feed elders and families in need in the community. Lately, the hunters have had to bring huge totes of ice with them to protect the meat from spoiling. In the past there was no need for ice totes, because the cold temperatures during hunting season preserved the meat. But now, Tom says, "The climate is changing."

Tom says that he often wonders, "Who am I going to go talk to to help change this, or to get something going? So that we can address this process that’s going on? I’ve got a friend that I go out hunting with in the bush every now and then, and his perspective is, “It’s just a cycle, Tom, don’t worry about it. What are we going to do about it? We can’t do nothing!” I says, “Yes, we can.” 

He struggles to put into words the emotions that he experiences when he thinks about climate change. " I guess I don’t know if it’s worry. It’s not [exactly] stress. Maybe it is stress, I don’t know. But it’s something. I get uneasy. It’s an uneasy feeling, is what it is. But its not to the extreme where I’m dancing around, but it’s there in me. Especially when I go out and, “What’s that? I haven’t seen that [before].”