Category Archives: Stories

mistāpiw namīhtāw – Bigfoot has left tracks

Going through my Facebook feed this morning, I noticed a shared post by Jarome Stpierre and it showed a picture and a video of somebody leaving huge tracks. I was intrigued and decided to share with you what his father has taken footage of.

Seeing tracks like this must be awesome. I can only imagine what the feeling was like to see something like that. After hearing stories about wihtikō (wendigo from other bands) from nimosōm – my grandfather, I would always be on the lookout for strange tracks or any anomaly whatsoever. Unfortunately, I have never seen anything remotely resembling a mystery such as the tracks posted above.

I have seen bears that looked like a humanoid of some kind and realized that it was a bear upon closer inspection. I have even seen a bear from afar on the side of the road and told my son, “Charles, look, that’s a bear over there.” Only for the bear to fly up to the trees because it was a raven. He had a good laugh, as I laughed with a red face (I didn’t tell him I was embarrassed).

My eyes may not be the best proof of anything. I would like to find something as tangible as the tracks from Jerome’s father. Maybe I will go for a walk today and look for something.

mistāpiw namīhtāw – Bigfoot has left tracks

wihtikō

nimosōm

 

nitīm – my dog

nimosōm – my grandfather Charlie Ross

I remember when I was about 10 or 11 years old and nimosōm – my grandfather told me that he used to have a dog team. It was fascinating to hear about the places he travelled with his team. It was places nearby but hearing it as a young boy, it sounded so much more glamorous and seemed to be in faraway places.

It was all well and good when he told me about what he used to do, but he started telling me that he was planning on getting a NEW dog team. I remember being very excited about it and thought I’d be able to see it happen and maybe try it myself the next winter.

He was able to get a big male and a female husky. We were in Pesiw Lake that summer when he acquired the dogs and we moved them to Hall Lake in the early fall. By the next spring, there was pups, many with big feet that nimosōm said, meant that the dogs were going to be big.

I picked out a puppy myself and it turns out nimosōm picked the same one. piyakwan awa kōtinahk, kitīminow awa – we picked the same one, this is our dog. I honestly didn’t know how that was going to work, but nimosōm seemed happy about it and I didn’t ask how it would work if he had to go back to the trapline.

It might have been a week or two later that the situation did not matter. I went for a walk with my friends and near a culvert lay a dead puppy. I was not sure at the time, but it kind of looked like mine. I was upset; however, I hid my feelings from my friends and just went home. I’m glad they didn’t ask why I had to go home, back then; we hid our feelings from each other because only we thought only little kids cried.

Later that evening, it turned out that my puppy had gone missing. A man we called mahkistikwān – big head, had killed and ditched it near the culvert where my friends and I saw it. It was very disheartening for me. I have never had a dog since, not because it was so heartbreaking, but because I decided that maybe it’s too much responsibility.

nimosōm – my grandfather

mahkistikwān – big head

atim – dog

achimosis – puppy (little dog)

nitīm – my dog

kitīm – your dog

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Lack of Hope on the Reserve

I was watching the documentary: “Bobby Kennedy for President,” and in it, Bobby declared that he would run for President of the United States. One statement caught my attention: “… young Indians to commit suicide on their reservations because they lacked all hope,” it is a statement that hits close to home for many of our First Nations people.

Lacking all hope is such a terrible feeling. I have felt the wrath of racism in my own hometown of La Ronge and in the town of Prince Albert during the time of the LaChance shooting in 1991. The feeling of lost hope and shame resonates with your whole being. I was fortunate to be able to go back to my community of Hall Lake.

Lack of hope on the reserve is an unfortunate side-effect of alcohol, drugs and gambling. There are other forms of substance abuse prevalent among the youth, such as huffing, or “sniffing,” as it is more commonly known on our reserves up here in Northern Saskatchewan.

We all have our vices as human beings. There are very few people that I know of that are content with little or no way of “loosening up,” as it were. I drank alcohol many times and spend all of my money to get to the last drop of booze I could get. I have pawned off laptops, TVs and guitars just to keep the party going. I have lost things to the pawn shop because I could not afford to take them out when they were due. Sometimes I would pay a fee to keep them there for a couple of weeks more but ultimately, the stuff would end up owned by the pawnshop.

The lack of hope I felt was brought on by depression from the workplace and family matters, these are situations I would rather not reveal at this time. The drinking was a way to cloud reality so I would not have to worry about any responsibilities, including my children. However, money runs out, sleep is needed, and bills need to be paid and feed the family. The hangovers I suffered through were terrible, I would attempt to clean up the apartment and feed my hungry daughter at the same time. I shook and I sweated away the weekend, sometimes I would call in “sick” to avoid going to work smelling like alcohol.

Alcohol use was normalized when I was growing up. It was okay to bring in cases of beer and many friends with which to enjoy the (so called) good times. It was not good for me. I dreaded the late nights when I would have no choice but to stay up and listen to arguing and fighting. Sometimes, I would be woken up to do something for my father or be introduced to one of his friends from work. They would be nice enough and greet me nicely, but I do not think it’s a good way to be introduced.

Many people that do not drink or drink socially are very quick to judge people who drink too much. They do not know what people are going through and why they resort to this type of “loosening up.” I still drink from time to time but not nearly as much and away from my children, so I am far from perfect. I throw in a few bucks in the one arm bandit and I smoke cigarettes when I am having a drink (I quit smoking five times this year). Obviously, I still have work to do with myself, I am trying.

As a teacher now, I am taking a close look at myself, a more critical look at myself. If students see me walking around drunk, it will look very bad to them. To my colleagues, it will appear very unprofessional. It is better to quit drinking outright and be done with it. I do not want any lack of hope, amplified from being hungover and wondering what I had done. I have a whole school year to plan for and I need to work on what I will be teaching tomorrow.

Take care,

Charlie Venne – Grade 5/6 teacher at Sally Ross School

All photographs were taken by me, using various cameras and phones over the years.

News articles:

Robert Kennedy’s Indian Commitment (June 1, 2018) https://tribalcollegejournal.org/robert-kennedys-indian-commitment/

80 Days That Changed America (April 23, 2018) https://www.thenation.com/article/80-days-that-changed-america/

LaChance shooting remembered in Prince Albert (Jan 28, 2011) https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/lachance-shooting-remembered-in-prince-albert-1.1089247

Sally Ross School – http://llribedu.ca/sally-ross-school/

Fellow LLRIB Member – Russell Mirasty, is the new lieutenant governor of Saskatchewan.

Russell Mirasty will be sworn-in at a ceremony at Government House in Regina on Thursday morning. (Troy Fleece/The Canadian Press)

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you have heard that a fellow Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) member of mine, has become the new lieutenant governor of Saskatchewan, Russel Mirasty. He was appointed by Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. “‘I was humbled to receive the phone call from the Prime Minister and I was very pleased to accept his request to serve as Her Majesty’s representative in Saskatchewan,’ Mirasty said in a statement”. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/russell-mirasty-new-lieutenant-governor-1.5214813)

I have personally met the lieutenant governor a handful of times and every time, he was the perfect gentlemen. He was very articulate, a well spoken man. He assisted our band with community safety meetings and advised us on ideas that can be utilized by the communities. While I was not involved with the meeting, I was the one who shot the video and took the pictures. The following YouTube video is one that I posted for our LLRIB channel:

He was recently interviewed by our local radio station, MBC Radio, and his fluent Cree was excellent. As I have said, I have met him before but he only spoke English. In the interview, his Cree was very familiar because he spoke as one of us, a La Rongian Cree that is distinct from the other outlaying communities. You would have to be a local to understand but I am sure there are similarities in your communities as well.

While I do not necessarily pay attention to politics, I think this is a good thing for our province. From the comments on the CBC article, many people are in full agreement to this appointment, of the NEW lieutenant governor of Saskatchewan.

Congratulations Russell Mirasty!

CBC Saskatchewan – ‘This is historic’: Indigenous leaders applaud choice of Russell Mirasty as new Sask. Lt.-Gov.

Sask. has a new Lieutenant Governor

The Money I Make – sōniyāw kōsihak

A total of $110 was transferred to my bank account, when I only had $2 to my name.

My website has had ads on since 2012 and from then to October 2018, I made a total of about $10.61, that is it.

From November 2018 until June 21, 2019, I made $104.44 in ads because I started creating and developing more content in stories, Cree translations and memes.

I use the lowest ads setting because I do not want too many intrusive ads on my website. It takes longer to make money and a developer must wait until there is a threshold of $100 before money is transferred to a bank account.

So, this is the first I have ever made a dime on this great website, and it only took seven years, ha ha. I put so much work into my website, but it does not feel like work. It is a privilege for me to be able to provide a bit of entertainment and to share my stories with the fine visitors to my website and followers of my Facebook page.

My work is almost completely independent, no grants or funding of any kind. It is a labour of love and I will continue to keep the website online, as long as I am capable.

ninanāskimon kā ayimihtāyin nitācathohkīwina. Thank you for reading my stories.

Money – sōniyāw

The Money I Make – sōniyāw kōsihak

My money – nisōniyām

Your money – kisōniyām

 

 

 

Nimosōm wihthōwinis nimīthik – My Grandfather gives me a Nickname

From as far as I can remember, nimosōm called me “cīpic,” which is a reference, to a man named David, a man who lived across the lake from my grandfather’s cabin. All the way from seeing him in La Ronge when I was a boy living on 101 reserve, to his cabin in Pesiw Lake and to his new house (at the time) in Hall Lake, he called me “cīpic”.

I remember my parents discussing this when I was a boy and they suggested that it was because nimosōm did not want to say his own name, Charlie. “īkwīmīsiyān nimosōm” – I have the same name as my grandfather.

That was the understanding I got, and I stayed by that explanation since. Whenever he was proud of me for something, he would say, “wahwā cīpic,” or “wahwāy cīpic.” It was a term of endearment that I appreciated and wondered about, as a boy.

During the summer of one of our duck hunting trips, we went up to a mīnistik (an island) with the intention of landing on it and crossing to the other side. We were sneaking up on what had to be at least 200 sīsīpak (ducks) spread out over a sparse wild rice patch.

Before this, he been giving me one .22 “mōsonīy” bullet at a time when we were shooting ducks, and only after he shoot at a group of ducks with a shotgun and some getting injured. We would shoot at them before they would dive in.

When we were done crossing the island, we got to the ground and snuck up to a huge flock. My grandfather slowly brought out his shotgun and BOOM! Many ducks went flying up in all directions as he continued to shoot with his pump-action.

After the blitz of birds, my grandfather started to pick off the injured ducks that were trying to dive in. At this time, he handed me two .22 bullets, he looked at me and said: “wahwā, cīpic ikwa iwī nipahīw sīsīpa” – Wow, Charlie is going to kill a duck now.

I was so happy to get the bullets, I tried so hard to concentrate and make a kill, but I ended up missing. I was sad but the exhilaration of getting not one, but two bullets was great.

cīpic

nimosōm – my grandfather

pīsiw sākahikanihk – Pesiw Lake

wahwā cīpic – Wow Charlie

wahwāy cīpic – Wow Charlie

mōsonīy – bullet

sīsīp – duck

sīsīpak – ducks

wahwā, cīpic ikwa iwī nipahīw sīsīpa” – Wow, Charlie is going to kill a duck now.

īkwīmīsiyān nimosōm – I have the same name as my grandfather

Related pages:

NIMOSŌM – NĪSTĀW AND I, FELL THROUGH THE ICE

BIRDS IN WOODLAND CREE

niwītawīmāwak niwahkōmākinak – I play games with my family

When I was a boy back in the trapine, my siblings and cousins and I, would entertain ourselves without the modern devices we have today. We had many outdoor games like “tag” and others that involved running around and catching or tagging others in teams or individually. We would have slingshot targeting contests with old cans and bottles. We would make our own bows and arrows and shoot at targets or objects.

There were other types of games we called maci-nocikwīsīs –witch, I am sure there are many variations that other communities played. We would have a witch going after the children of a mother. The mother would have all the younger and smaller children lined-up behind her and the witch would try to get around the mother and snatch a child. This would go on until all the kids were snatched, it would get pretty intense towards the end, great times.

Another game we played was indoors, in my parent’s cabin at the trapline. nisīmis ikwa nitawīmāw (my younger sister and female cousin from father’s brother), would play a variation of “house,” my sister would be my sister and my cousin would be my wife. At the time, we called our cousin, pithōthā, Flora, or pithōthā cīn which means Flora Jean, my sister would sometimes call her pokopoy but I don’t know why.

We called the house game, “Isiah.” I would be Isiah and Flora would be my wife. We would start by living together until I decide to burn down the house and my sister would help her get away and to another house, along with luggage and children. Once they moved into a new house, I would come along and find them and burn that house down too. Be aware that we were between 5 and 7 years of age and did not know the how disturbing it would sound the if the story was put on paper or a website, just like I’m doing now.

My family had been living in Bigstone Reserve during the summer months and during that time, we saw a house on fire. It belonged to our auntie Annie and her husband Isiah. We heard a rumour that Isiah had accidently burned the house down and they ended up losing their home. Now in order to add a character element to our house game, we decided that Isiah did it on purpose just to terrorize his family, as in a “bad guy.”

One day, nipāpānān – our dad, told us namowitha ikosi takī isi mītawīk – you kids shouldn’t play like that. We stopped for awhile and pretty much discontinued, until he was gone, and we started up again. It was too much fun to stop. Our dad was right though, it was very disrespectful to our auntie because they lost their home in La Ronge. I’m glad we never told him about the time we were walking on the ice kākī mithōskamik – when it was break-up.

maci-nocikwīsīs – witch

namowitha ikosi takī isi mītawīk – you kids shouldn’t play like that

kākī mithōskamik – when it was break-up

pithōtha cīn – Flora Jean

pokopoy – nickname for Flora from my sister Susan

 

nōhkom wāpahtam machi-pimithākan – My grandmother saw a UFO

nohkom – my grandmother Emily Ross

When I was a boy, nōhkom (my grandmother) from my father’s side,  told us a story a story about how she saw a UFO. It was skimming over the trees across from nimosōm owāskahikanis (grandfather’s cabin). She was with nitawīmāw (my female cousin from father’s brother) when they were at the shore and saw the UFO. I believe this was before I was ten years old.

I was fascinated at the story nōhkom was telling me at the time because UFOs were all the rage on the kithāskīwi masinahikana (lying books) tabloids, such as The National Inquirer and Weekly World News. I could only imagine what it might have looked like and her story is actually where I got the idea for one of my many stories on this website: Machi-Pimithākan – UFO (http://firstnationstories.com/?page_id=1582).

I recently chatted with my cousin about it because it never occurred to me to ask when we were growing up. This is what she said:

Well her and I went outside at night…I needed to use the bathroom cause I was scared to go alone…then she said to me in cree…hey what is that up in the sky and I told her it can’t be a plane…so told me to hurry and said there was monsters on that plane that will take us away with them…then we went back in the cabin just scared lol…then late grandpa said they won’t bother u if your inside a house…so I felt better after that ..I always believed our late grandparents [sic]

Of course, at the time, there were no cell phone cameras to take a quick picture, so imagination is all we have for stories like this. We have all seen many pictures online and drawings of such phenomenon, but they always seem so blurry and pixelated. Videos of UFOs are difficult to make out because the objects are always so far away and the good videos look too fake to me. With a little time on my hands, I could make a fake picture or video, but I won’t because it would be too time consuming.

In the chat with my cousin, my grandparents seemed to have an intimate knowledge of such encounters with that type of craft. The reference to monsters, which I take to be the aliens, seems to be a description of a creature they had no words for. The assurance that “they” will not bother you when indoors, tells me that there may be a risk of being abducted when you are outdoors and are close to a UFO. Scary thoughts come to my head when I think about that, considering all the UFO abduction stories in books, TV and online.

Speaking of scary thoughts, one-time, nōhkom told us a story about a family that was living out in tents in late fall. One of the people saw a craft landing on the ice and he/she went running inside. They all laid in their sleeping bags and blankets, cowering in fear when suddenly, a group of small beings went inside the tent. One of the women was pregnant and had a miscarriage from being so terrified. nōhkom said the beings were as short as children. I cannot remember the rest of the story, but my siblings and I, shuddered at the possibility. We were staying in tents at the time because my grandfather’s cabin was being worked on. I had to have been six years old when we were told this story.

The only time I remember having a close encounter, was when my friend and I were walking home from another friend’s house in Hall Lake. We were walking along near a birch bark tree, when suddenly, a flash of light went streaking over the birch bark tree, we saw our shadows on the ground and we quickly looked up. We did not see anything or hear a sound, at least not from what I remember. We tried to rationalize by asking each other what it was, but when my friend told me it was probably headlights shining, I responded with “from up there?” We both looked at each other and ran back to our friend’s house.

When we got there, we told him everything. He told us that he heard that when you see a flying saucer once during the night, you won’t see it again. It wasn’t too assuring for us because we were scared out of our minds. We still had to go home, however, my friend lived closer than I did and so after I dropped him off, I still had a way to go before I got home. I was very paranoid during that walk.

nōhkom – my grandmother

nimosōm – my grandfather

machi-pimithākan – bad flying device or object, UFO, flying saucer

wāpahtam – he/she sees (something)

nohkom wāpahtam machi-pimithākan – My grandmother saw a UFO

nimosōm owāskahikanis – grandfather’s cabin

kithāskīwi masinahikana – lying books (such as The National Inquirer and Weekly World News)

nitawīmāw – my female cousin from father’s brother

ninanāskimon kā ayimihtayin nitācithohkīwina.  I am thankful that you are reading my stories.

 

 

nisīmis ikwa nitawīmāw īpimiskohtīyahk – My sister, my cousin and I, walk on the ice

break-up

piyakwāw kaki sīkwahk (once when it was spring), but maybe it was more mithōskamin (break-up of the six-seasons), nisīmis ikwa nitawīmāw (my younger sister and female cousin from father’s brother) decided to go check out the lake. We were across the lake from nimosōminān (our grandfather’s) cabin waiting out mithōskamin so niwahkōmākinānak (our families) could travel there once the ice was gone.

nisīmis had the ever-bright idea for the three of us tapimiskohtīyahk (to walk on the ice). There were trails of hard snow on the otherwise melting ice. We walked carefully and nisīmis went a bit further than we did. The atimwak (dogs) that followed us around did not follow the trails and would end up falling halfway through the ice and jumping out again. This happened as we were at least 15-20 feet from the landing. We all looked at each other and ever so carefully walked back to shore. nimitho pathīhokonān (we were lucky).

I cringe when I see a child walk on the unsafe ice, I instinctively yell at the kid or kids when I see them. Taking such a chance for adventure is something that, unfortunately, many children do. Please look out for your children and even if you think they will behave themselves because they would never do such a thing, there are always bad influences out there.


I have worded out many of the Cree terms below the way I remember them. If you feel the need to correct me on pronunciation or spelling, feel free, we are all always learning.

piyakwāw kaki sīkwahk – once when it was spring

pimiskohtī – you walk on the ice (command)

īpimiskohtīyan – I walk on the ice

īpimiskohtīyahk – we walked on the ice

nisīmis – my younger sibling

nitawīmāw – female cousin from father’s brother

niwahkōmākinānak – our families (this is how I understood the Cree term, corrections are welcome).

sīkwan – spring

mithōskamin – break-up

nimitho pathīhokonān – we were lucky, something good happened to us (I hope I got that right)

atim – dog

atimwak – dogs

 

 

Kinipīminaw – Our Water

Update: Husky to pay $3.82M in penalties after guilty plea in 2016 oil spill
Jun 12, 2019 - https://larongenow.com/2019/06/12/husky-to-pay-3-82m-in-penalties-after-guilty-plea-in-2016-oil-spill/
"Chief Wayne Semaganis of the Little Pine First Nation said the damage caused by the spill has limited band members from hunting, fishing, trapping or farming on certain reserve land near the river for fear of being poisoned."

I am glad they have been fined for more they did initially but it would be great if they could guarantee no more spills. I think we all know that spills are inevitable.


Over two and half years ago, the North Saskatchewan River was threatened by a spill of 200,000 to 250,000 litres of heavy oil. Husky Energy scrambled to clean up, “the city was able to reopen its river intake in September 2016, more than two months later” (The Star Phoenix).

La Ronge Lake – 2014

This situation hit close to home (I live 240KM north of Prince Albert), and īkoskonikowān (it woke me up) at the very real possibility of the many sākahikana (lakes) and sīpiya (rivers) getting contaminated near where we lived, mistahi sākahikanihk– (La Ronge).

Hall Lake – Fishing

I was paddling in my father-in law’s canoe with my future wife at the time, when I closely looked at the pristine waters of mōso-sākahikanisīsihk (Hall Lake), my home community, and realized what a tragedy it would be if this beautiful lake became ravaged with oil. I could not imagine such an event. There have been many oils spills in this country, but it is also the development of oil that ravages the environment.

Hall Lake

My personal reliance on oil is high. I used it for fuel and for the plastic products I buy and use. The biggest use for me, is the very device I am using to write this blog for all to see, mamahtāwi-āpacihcikan (computer). It is the way I make a living. I have lived on the land as a child but even then, we needed oil products to survive. There is no going back for many of us.

I don’t know what to think about what I would do without oil products. According to Natural Resources Canada, “Canadians consumed 108 billion litres of refined petroleum products in 2017,” so I cannot be the only one that is torn between the economy and the environment. Both are important and I hope there can be a reasonable balance someday. I hate to say it, but I am on the fence about the whole thing. I like using oil-based products and my livelihood depends on it. I love the environment and I hope it can stay that way forever. It’s hard to say how I will feel in the future.

Hall Lake

I understand what the “water protectors” are doing and I applaud them for making the personal sacrifice for the future generations of First Nations people. nipiy kanākatāpahtācik, is the closest I can come up with for “water protectors,” maybe there is a better word, but I cannot find one. Their situation is very close to home and very real. It has become a tense situation and they are pulling out all the stops to do what they can. kicawāsimisinowak (our children) are the future and I hope someday they do not ask why, I did not do more to protect the earth.

kinipīminaw – Our Water

pimiy – oil, gas

īkoskonikowān – it woke me up

mistahi sākahikanihk – La Ronge

mōso-sākahikanisīsihk – Hall Lake

mamahtāwi-āpacihcikan – computer

nipiy kanākatāpahtācik – water protectors

kicawāsimisinowak – our children

askiy – the earth, land or soil

 

Sources in no particular order:

https://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/prince-albert-mayor-wants-1-million-apology-for-oil-spill-from-husky-energy

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/husky-oil-spill-prince-albert-1.4594756

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/prince-albert-continues-pumping-1.3703837

https://huskyenergy.com/

https://globalnews.ca/news/4122905/prince-albert-saskatchewan-water-reservoir-husky-oil-spill/

https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/facts/petroleum/20065