Moses Amik Beaver: 1960 – 2017

By | March 7, 2017

“Windigo, Windigo, please don’t steal my soul!”

Warrior By Moses Beaver, Lake Superior Art Gallery

This is a line from a story that haunted Moses Amik Beaver, who some of you know as the illustrator of Whispers of the Ancients, the collection of traditional legends that he and I co-authored. Some of you may also know him from the time he spent instructing here at the Teaching Drum Outdoor School.

Windigos are walking dead. They are the shells of people who were banished from their villages for some heinous offense. Having no reason to live or die, they wander aimlessly in the wilderness. Sometimes they lurk in the shadows not far from the village, in hopes of catching at least a glimpse of a former loved one. They would never let themselves be seen, as their horrendous appearance could cause someone to drop dead on the spot.

Moses left his remote village in North Ontario when he was a young man. Soon after, he started to feel like he was a walking dead. The Windigo story in Whispers was his favorite, because it was his story. And because it haunted him. It’s not surprising that the most soul-gripping artwork that he created for the book was for that story.

Moses is no longer walking dead. He was found expired in his jail cell in Thunder Bay, Ontario on February 13.

We called each other “brother,” in part because we both knew the pangs of banishment, and we both struggled to scratch or ways back to the realm of the living. We talked about what it was like to lurk in the shadows and peer from the outside, in. It drew us together.

Yet the only final words I have to send with him on his Journey to the Spirit World are “Eat fresh!”

He and I were driving down to my place late one night from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, where I picked him up from the airport. We were still a few hours from home, and we were hungry. Yet all the eateries we passed were closed. Then he saw a sign that said “Eat fresh!” and he shouted it out. We stopped and got a couple of tunafish subs. They were soon gone, yet “Eat fresh!” stuck with us. Whenever we called each other, it was “Eat fresh!” instead of “Hello.” And whenever we parted, it was “Eat fresh!” instead of “Goodbye.”

Moses, may you now eat fresh again, and forever.

Postscript: Moses elder sister, Mary Wabasse, was killed in a car accident on the way down to Thunder Bay to tend to what remained of her little big brother on the cold concrete floor of that cell.

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