Annette Morin believes in dreams and visions. She knows the uncanny power of déjà vu. Her Kokum taught her that they are a gift from Creator.
A mother of eight, Annette is Cree from Sandy Bay First Nation in Saskatchewan. But she’s called Maskwacis home for over twenty years.
Look at her all the way up there. Standing at the very top of a sloped hill. It’s taken her years to get to that spot. At 52 years old, you wouldn’t know the struggles she’s faced. The half-starved way a wolf stares down its prey. You wouldn’t know how many times life veered her off her path, forcing her down dark winding trails that spider out like the branches of a birch tree.
You wouldn’t know because she has a magnetic smile that reaches ear-to-ear and eyes that dance in circles.
At one point, when that dark and winding trail became more like a serpentine maze—when everything became almost too painful to bear—Annette almost ended her life.
There were so many times that I could have said, ‘It’s enough. I’m done. I’ve gone through so much. I don’t want to live this life; this is not the life for me.’
But somewhere deep within her spirit, someone reminded her that she was more. More than the troubles that swirled like black smoke around her.
That guardian angel was herself.
She thought back to when she was six years old, curled into her great grandmother’s bearskin in the small cabin on the river in Northern Saskatchewan where she was born.
Even back then, Annette already knew she didn’t want to be like her own mother. Instead, she wanted to be the best mother in the whole wide world.
So she picked herself back up again. Again and again.
She’s standing in her favourite spot. Promise me you won’t tell anyone. This is her secret spot to harvest. If people knew about it, all of this silver-tipped sage and peppery green scent, might vanish. This sage patch is for her and her family.
Remember: she comes to this spot when it’s time to gift an Elder. She comes here to replenish her own personal crop.
It’s hot today; almost thirty degrees. A late night storm will follow. Annette brushes by the tall grass interlaced with sweet clover, honeysuckle, towering fireweed, and ox-eye daisies that blink up at her.
The air is heavy with all of this wild perfume.
Annette’s dog, Becky, (half coyote, no less) trails behind, her shaggy salt-and-pepper coat damp with humidity. Beyond them, the yellow shock of a canola field runs along the horizon as far as the eye can see. Dozens of hungry mosquitos bounce and hover around Annette, but she stays calm.
Annette joined the Early Years program because she saw a problem.
Community members were taking their own lives.
She watched, in particular, as young women floundered. She felt they didn’t have positive role-modeling or encouragement.
“I think young women are not sure what they are supposed to do or why they are supposed to do it. So, they get lost in the system. Or they don’t think they are worthy of being here,” she says.
“I don’t believe that for a second.”
There were four mothers, Annette says, who were struggling in that way.
“They felt so bad about themselves. They didn’t think they were doing what they needed to do as a mother.”
Annette says part of her work as an EY visitor is to tell her families that they’re doing a great job as caregivers and to simply give them the tools to do better and better.
“What amazes me is how eager they are to learn! They just want someone to acknowledge them. That’s why I’m happy we’re here. I see the change in my moms already.”
Annette intimately knows how these young families feel. It’s why she wanted to work with them.
“I can guarantee that anything anyone of these moms on the reserve has been through, I’ve been through. So, it’s getting through those times and knowing you can survive.”
Up on that hill, she looks up to the sky. She’s holding her late husband’s eagle feather fans in each hand. She begins to flap the air with them, like soaring wings so they catch the light morning breeze. Three young birch trees surround her in a half-circle: a crescent moon.
Annette’s déjà vu —that moment her grandmother foresaw when she was still a child—came during an Early Years visit. She was walking up the stairs to a mother’s house and about to knock on her door when the feeling washed over her, a waft of burning sage.
“I suddenly felt like: I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to be doing. As long you stay on your path and stay true to yourself, you’ll get to where you want to be.”