When you throw a message in a bottle into the ocean, you never know when, where, or if it will ever be seen again.
Reid Habbart wanted to try sending just such a message out to the world, but living in landlocked Kansas meant he had to find another way to launch his “bottle.” That’s why last April 24, Reid and his father Keith Habbart set a bundle of helium balloons free in their driveway.
“Off to Nebraska,” Kevin jokes as the balloons soar away into the clear blue sky.
“The wind was out of the north that day blowing hard. I figured they would end up in Texas. Not north,” Keith later explained.
The balloons did not go to Texas or Nebraska. Instead, they traveled 1,800 miles from Kansas to Canada. Specifically, the bundle landed right near the ancestral hunting camp of David Bertie Longchap, a Cree citizen from Eeyou Istchee, the Cree Nation territory in northern Quebec.
David was out hunting geese when the sodden balloons caught his eye.
“I found them on the water… about a kilometre from my camp,” David recalled. “I thought ‘Oh what is this?'”
Upon examination, David found a note attached to the balloons.
“Hi, my name is Reid,” the note read. “I’m 10-years-old and I live in Manhattan, Kansas …These are my sister’s balloons. If you find these, please write me.”
David was so charmed by Reid’s note that he shared it with his sister, Hattie Longchap, who in turn shared pictures of the message on Facebook. The post got a lot of love from the Cree community, with messages pouring in urging David to respond to Reid’s request.
David agreed to write back. Hattie and others in their community asked him to take this moment to share a little bit about Cree culture with Reid, and he readily agreed. After some discussion, the family decided to include a beaded rainbow keychain to honor their mother, Emma Trapper Longchap. Sadly, Emma was the first Quebec Cree person to pass away from COVID-19 in 2020.
Hattie also reached out to Kevin on Facebook to tell him that Reid’s balloons had landed, and the message had made a big impression in their community. Kevin responded by telling her, “I’m sure he will be excited and amazed of the journey it took.”
In his letter, David plans to tell Reid about Eeyou Istchee and include a photo of his family.
“I’m a hunter … not a writer … but I’m happy to have found his sister’s balloons,” said David. “I’m going to ask him to write me back.”
It’s rare enough to get a response from a message like Reid’s, but to have his balloons land in a community so rich with culture and traditions is truly special. We hope Reid learns a lot from his new friends in Cree Nation!
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