nimosōm – my grandfather used to tell me so many stories about people that lived here or near here. He was a great storyteller and may have taken many liberties with the details. I loved to hear those stories and made my imagination very active with thought and wonder. I give credit to those stories to the storytelling I do with this website, passing on a tradition in a modern way. I also used to tell stories to my children off the top of my head, just to entertain them. I have forgotten more stories than I have on this website.
I remember one story about Hall Lake, where he told me that when he arrived on the lake from a portage, he heard a moose splashing around the shore of the lake. He went further and heard another moose going into the lake in another part of the lake. He heard one more near the mouth of one of the rivers, we have two but he didn’t say which one. I could not imagine that happening in this day and age, nor the time he was telling me the story because there were already many houses and people on the reserve. By the way, Hall Lake in Cree, is mōso-sākahikanisīsihk, according to my late grandfather.
Scientists have been skeptical of the theory of firehawks spreading fires by carrying burning sticks. The Aborigines have known for centuries, maybe even for millennia, what scientists are discovering today.
There have been other instances of scientists discovering what North American Indigenous people have known all along. Native medicine is getting a second look from many scientists, but unfortunately, many are sponsored by corporations to make money. I see it more as an exploitation tactic as opposed to wanted to heal the sick. The medicine making the rounds on social media is chaga, check out the article and others at the bottom of the page.
While the exploitation might sound devious, how are our many urban “Indians” supposed to have access? It is doubtful that there are enough medicine men around to spread the healing practices to all our people. Capitalistic marketing is what is used today and may be the only viable way to get our medicines to people. I have no idea what else might work, maybe we will have a better system someday. If one of my readers have a good idea, please comment on the Facebook post.
I have personally used wacask ōmīcowin – rat root, for a headache. I still need to get some off my son who has a nice batch of it. I have gone on a field trip with one of my instructors to explore areas and identify Native medicine. This was all good because I got to see for myself, the work it would take to gather and prepare the healing remedies.
As a boy, I had chicken pox in the trapline. My grandfather – nimosōm, took me out on a trail to gather spruce gum. He boiled the chucks that we gathered, but I am not sure what else might have been in it. When it was ready, I placed generous amounts on the affected areas to sooth the itch. It was great to get that kind of relief. We went back to the rez soon after, and he made more when we got to my parent’s place.
As a boy living in La Ronge on the rez of 101, I had an accident. I was playing with a friend of mine; we were throwing small roof shingles at each other to see if we can dodge them. He grabbed a bigger piece than usual and asked if I could dodge it. I said: “haw haw” meaning go for it. He got me right above the right eye, I bled like heck. All I saw was red and I could see my friend hovering over me and try calm me down. We were about 5-6 years old at the time. When the bleeding was controlled, they didn’t take me to the hospital or clinic, nōhkom took me to the muskeg area and we gathered Labrador tea leaves. When we got to the house, she applied it over my eye and added a dressing over it. It was changed several times, over several days (I cannot remember how many times). Eventually, my cut was healed.
As an adult, working for the Gift of Language and Culture, I had been sick for several days. I went to work when I got a little better and told my female colleagues what I was going through (you know how men are, just kidding). One of my co-workers had this concoction of “Indian” medicine. The only ingredient I remember is rat root. Anyway, I made some tea and added a half teaspoon and the symptoms eased right up before lunch. This was after two more teas over the medicine I put in earlier. I was skeptical about the concoction, but I could not explain the way this stuff worked.
I have many colleagues and friends that gather Native medicine, but I hesitate to ask for any because I feel like I should go get it myself. I had hoped to get more into our medicines, but it is difficult to make the time in our “assimilated” way of life. I have work, family and relaxing time, so finding sources of medicine is one thing, it is entirely another to gather and prepare. I can see why it was usually medicine men or women that did all the careful gathering and preparation for their people.
Now to the skeptics. I have been one of these skeptics for the longest time even when I was obviously treated with “Indian” medicine a few times. It may be the spiritual aspects of the practice that throws people off. The ceremony of rising tobacco to the four-directions or giving tobacco to a medicine person, seems a bit arbitrary to one who is not raised to follow Native Spirituality. I have asked such questions before, only to be met with condescending answers, not very helpful. I may have come across as arrogant and rude, but the answer of spirits needing appreciation, did not sound right to me.
I have benefited from the use of medicine but I do not remember being told to offer tobacco. Many people in my area, were assimilated to the fur traders ways. We had a close relationship and still do. Of course, racism rears it’s ugly head on a daily basis, some days are better than others, but I hope things get better and I do not wish to elaborate at this time, maybe another article.
Obviously I was grateful and appreciated the healing from the plants. To the people who gathered and prepared it for me, I am very grateful.
When Scientists “Discover” What Indigenous People Have Known For Centuries
As a boy, kāmikiskak – freeze-up time, was hit and miss at the trapline because during October we had to stay on land. Sometimes we were grounded for weeks on end. One year, we were actually at the trapline for a Halloween. nimosōm ikwa nōhkom – my grandfather and grandmother, kept bringing up cīpay tipiskāw – Halloween (literal translation is ghost night).
There would be talk of ghosts coming around and how they would move things or make noises in the dark corners of the cabins. It was all very scary for a boy and my imagination ran wild with fear when I thought too much of it. My father had made us a bunkbed and I got the top of this makeshift bunkbed.
That night, I kept thinking of all the little things that I heard that day about ghosts and demons and started imagining these things. Suffices to say, I had a very scary night that night and wanted so bad to sleep so it would be over and done with.
kāmikiskak – freeze-up time
cīpay tipiskāw wanihikīskanahk – Halloween at the Trapline
cīpay tipiskāw – Halloween (literal translation is ghost night)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Living at the trapline meant long days of walking and checking snares and traps for nimosōm and I. Other times, I would just observe him skinning animals and preparing them for trading in La Ronge at Robertson Trading Ltd. Mr. Robertson was always happy to see nimosōm because my grandfather always tried to bring in quality furs for trade. “haw, āthik ikwa naka nitōwāpamāw” (Now I will go see Alex). He used to call Robertson’s company, “āthikosihk.”
There were days, however, when we could relax: listen to the radio or read, but my favourite thing to do was go out ice-fishing. Nimosōm rarely fished at the usually spot because he liked to test out other areas of the wāsāw (bay) we stayed at near his cabin. He would go across the bay and take his chisel and spend an enormous amount of time making holes, at least to my impatience as a boy.
If I got bored waiting, I would use a knife (yes it sounds dangerous, but we were taught to be responsible) to cut out pieces of the hard snow and attempt to make an igloo, I never finished one because it would then be time for fishing. nimosom would be done the “pīkwatahōpān” (water hole in the ice). “wāskahikanis cī īkakwī osihtāyin nōsisim” (are you trying to make a little house grandson) he would say, as he let out a bit of a laugh with a big smile on his weather worn face. I can still hear and see him today as looked at me with amusement and pride.
One of my memories takes me back to when, after a storytelling session, he decided to make a special fishing rod. It was a bit longer than a regular size wooden rod that we were used to. It was bent and fashioned into a bow, he even put a sting on it to make a little bow. “cīstī nōsisim, kīsi kwāskīpitaki kinosīw, tapimok” (see grandson, after I catch a fish, I can shoot it with an arrow). I looked at the bow and I was excited about it because I made my own bows and arrows outdoors (generally making a biodegradable mess outside).
He looked at his invention with a smile and then the smile went away. He looked at it again with a bit of distain and said: “mmm kīyām namōwitha katāc, namwāc ītokī kitīspathin” (hmm, maybe not, I don’t think it will work). I was so disappointed but far be it for me to disagree with nimosōm. I have a suspicion that he may have been just trying to entertain me. nōhkom was not impressed with the rod so maybe that could be why he changed his mind. I wish I could still talk to them at this point in time, they seemed so alive and not old.
Nimosōm okwāskīpicikan – My Grandfather’s Fishing Rod
āthikosihk – at Alex Robertson’s place
nōsisim – my grandchild
nōhkom – my grandmother
nimosōm – my grandfather
wāsāw – Bay
pīkwatahōpān – water hole in the ice
kinosīw – fish
kwāskīpicikī – fish (act of)
kwāskīpicikan – fishing rod
Thank you for visiting, I realize I repeat many words from blog to blog (I hate this word). I try to include new words as well, it may seem unstructured and may get the seasoned speakers irked but please enjoy and keep visiting.
ninanāskimon kā ayimihtayin nitācithohkīwina. I am thankful that you are reading my stories.