‘Reload! Reload!,’ says Donovan Blacksmith. He is one of the Cree accompanying us to the Broadback River valley, on of the last untouched patches of virgin forest of the Cree Waswanipi First Nation. We are on our way back to Waswanipi, and I am sitting on the back of Donovans snow mobile. He made a sudden stop and gestures to a small bush in the snow. It takes a hunters eye to spot te snow white ptarmigan hidden in the bush.
Donovan hands me the rifle, and I fumble with it while taking aim. It’s the second time in my life I am holding a rifle, and the first time it is pointed at a living being. I shoot, and try to reload, but have no idea why. Luckily I killed it with the first shot. Donovan retrieves it through the deep snow.‘Congratulations on your first kill,’ says Donovan. It’s a small bird, warm blood dripping on the snow. We drive onwards, and make more abrupt stops where he points out there’s a ptarmigan hiding. I fail to see every single one of them.