I remember as a boy, we would be isolated for weeks. Living off the land: fish, ducks and various animals would provide what we needed. We needed supplies from town of course like flour, sugar, toiletries and lard. nimosom would get ready to go to La Ronge Robertson’s Trading post to go see Alec to trade his furs.
He used to ask me what I wanted and I would tell him: “bananas and coke.” He would bring me a one litre of Coca-Cola and a bunch of bananas, but I was the oldest of my siblings, I had to share what I had.
For me, going to the trapline in this dire time is no longer an option. I have not been to any trapline since I was a teenager and I am sure I would have trouble getting by without supplies and I have not shot a gun in years. I still remember how to snare rabbits and and how to fish. Hunting would be a difficult because I probably get lost or scare away the game.
Being isolated would be desirable in these times of the virus scare and I would feel assured of a better chance of survival until it blows over. However, if it were to continue on and on, supplies would become scarce and there would be less options for meals.
I have worked as a web developer for many years and I am in a place where I can work from home to make a living. Living in trapline would mean getting cut off from technology unless I invested on solar power and satellite equipment. Fuel and batteries would need to be purchased at a high cost and I would have to sacrifice much of my comforts to do so. I have a family of four to provide for but my wife is awesome with preparing meat. Our teamwork would be essential. My girls would be completely inept but they would have to learn fast.
Anyway, I am rambling to get some thoughts from my head. Please take care and try to stay safe.
This is a call for stories on trapline cabins. I want you to share stories of your time in a trapline cabin. All stories are welcome. It would be great to hear about your time in a trapline cabin. You can write about anything you want from how and when it was built, or maybe just the times your family traveled to the cabin during certain seasons. While I would like to publish all stories, there are a few guidelines I would like to inform you about.
I cannot offer remuneration or a prize, but I will publish shared stories as deemed appropriate.
I will give full credit and a link to your Facebook profile.
It needs to be between 150 to 1000 words. I can be flexible on this, in the case of several short stories, I will combine stories into one page on the website.
Appropriate language is encouraged
Happy stories are encouraged but sad stories will not be refused
Deadline is March 27, 2020, but I will add stories before that date over the weekends.
No real need to be formal, but I will make minor edits if needed. This is a story telling website, not an English class.
Please inbox me your stories and I will reply during evenings and weekends. I am a full-time teacher and I do not go on Facebook during the day. You can also email me the original document to firstname.lastname@example.org Please write subject as “trapline cabin”
Just a note that this is not a contest, it is more of a chance to share your story with us.
A big thank you to Tom Ballantyne for giving me the idea. I hope you decide to share your story with us at some point.
As a very young boy, I remember when nimosōm – my grandfather, started getting his cabin built across the lake from the Pisew Lake landing. Before that, we had been staying in canvas tents up until freeze-up. That next spring, nimosōm and okosisa – his sons, started preparing the area where the new cabin would be built.
I pretty much stayed out of the way because I was too small to help with anything. I wanted to get in on the action that was happening, but I just listened and observed from time to time. I remember the bark being peeled off the logs and the ground getting leveled. nipāpā – my father, is a carpenter so he was very busy with everything that needed to be done. nohkomisak – my uncles, Simon and Abel, were also helping with the cabin and I saw much hauling of logs, boards and sand.
The sand was a curious thing for me at the time because I wondered what the heck they would be using that for. I noticed later that they were putting it on the roof to absorb rainfall. Right away, I thought that maybe the sand would be too heavy and fall through, but the logs they used for the roof were strong enough. It was all very fascinating to me at the time. To see this kind of cooperation was great. They had their little conflicts, but they seemed to resolve them adequately, I did cower a bit when their voices were raised but it was all good.
When it was all done, it looked beautiful. It was bigger than the other old cabins that were nearby. In the winter, it had a canvas tent porch, so that the cabin would have a type of insulation from the bitter cold.
I remember one winter, nohkomis – my uncle Abel, told nisikos – my aunt Elsie, to make a pair of boxing gloves out of cloth and foam material. nohkomis Abel, challenged me to a friendly boxing match. I put up mu dukes and we battled it out and had fun. Unfortunately, my uncle got a bit too zealous and started punching me a little too much. His last punch knocked me on my butt and I banged the side of my head on a small stove. There was no fire at the time, but I was bawling my head off. nohkomis and nisikos, quickly got me some snacks they had stashed away, they needed to keep me quiet and not to tell on them. Great times.
My sisters and nitawīmāw, my cousin, Flora, would still walk back and forth from the cabin to the tent site to visit family. nohkomisak stayed in the tents during the fall and we had to walk along the shore to get there. kotak nisikos, my other aunt, Alice, may have noticed we were getting bored because after a while, she told us that we were going to learn how to set traps for a sākwīsiw – a mink.
I had watched traps being set by my uncles and grandfather and I had set rabbit snares, but I had never set a trap before. I remember feeling unsure about myself because I did not want to get my hand trapped on a leg-hold trap. I reluctantly went along as my sister and cousin seemed more enthusiastic, although they might have been faking it because Alice was a disciplinarian, and we did not want to set her off. Of course, now I realize that she has a kind heart and to this day, always does well at the fish derbies we have in our community. By the way, we never did catch the mink because we soon had to go back to La Ronge. I never asked my aunt Alice if she caught the mink.
I asked nipāpā about the cabin last night, and he said it had burned down. There was another cabin built but it had rotted away somehow. A third cabin was built with the help of my old pal Adam Joe and my cousin Richard. My grandfather loved staying at the trapline, and he went until he couldn’t go there anymore.
nimosōm – my grandfather
okosisa – his/her sons
nipāpā – my father
nisikos – my aunt
nohkomis – my uncle
kotak – other, as in “my other” or “the other”
nitawīmāw – my female cousin (father’s brother’s daughter)
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.
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)
Today we had the first major snowfall in Hall Lake. I woke up to the world covered in snow. I almost posted a picture for my FB friends who do not have a window but that is a joke I overused already, and I don’t want to get banned from Facebook.
I took a few pictures that I will show here, on my website because I love showing my pictures on my website as opposed to just uploading them to FB. It gives me more control over my own content. I like my intellectual property to stay mine, but I have given up many pictures to Facebook. I just need to keep my tech skills sharp in case they are needed again to make a living.
I remember as a boy looking out at the landscape at the trapline and watching the first fall of snow, I would always get a lonely feeling from it. It reminded me of the old Hank Williams song that my uncle Abel used to sing, “At the First Fall of Snow.” I can still hear him singing and walking along the trail to nimosōm’s cabin. My uncle is still alive today and he lives just down the road. I still see him walking from time to time, but he doesn’t sing anymore.
This reminds me that I have some stories I wanted to share about my uncle, but I will have to ask him first. Maybe he has some ideas too about what I can write, thank you for visiting.
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 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