When I was a boy staying at the trapline in Pisew Lake, I rarely ever heard about April Fools Day. It was not something nimosōm would talk about so much but when he did, he called it kithāskīwi kīsikāw, literally “lying day” or “day of lying.” Even then, I do not remember any jokes or pranks being played on anyone.
My memory is very faint on this one, but nimosōm might have asked the family in the cabin if it was April Fool’s Day, “ī- kithāskīwi kīsikāk cī ōma?” I believe one of my uncles answered or it may have been one of my aunties, that it was April Fools Day. I cannot verify if this is how the conversation went, it was so long ago. I wish I could remember who nimosōm was talking about regarding kithāskīwi kīsikāw, it must have been funny because nohkom was laughing at his story. I wish I could go back and hear all the stories again. I missed out on so many stories, at least remembering would be great. I could see nimosōm’s shoulders bounce up and down as he laughed a hardy laugh at his own stories. Great times.
This time of year would be when our family would be waiting for mithoskamin – break-up. I spend many evenings looking out on the lake watching the possible unsafe ice that my parents warned me about. I listened to their warnings for the most part. I could not imagine being able to pull myself out of broken ice and from the freezing cold-water underneath.
Already things were winding down with our stay, my parents were already talking about going back home. My sisters, Susan and Mary, and I would be missing our cousin Flora-Jean and our auntie Elsie. It may have been that previous winter that Elsie took us sliding for new year’s day, down a very steep hill. Our aunt Alice would take us trapping nearby for martin.
In the cool evenings, nimosōm and I would be sitting around in the cabin. He would tell the most interesting stories that kept me intrigued for many hours over the course of the previous winter. After break-up, it would soon be time to go back to the rez and back to school in La Ronge. Nimosōm would be sad to see me go.
kithāskīwi kīsikāw – April Fools Day (literally lying day)
“i- kithāskīwi kīsikāk cī ōma?” – Is it April Fools Day?
Since as far back as I can remember, country music has been a constant pleasure anywhere I lived. I have listened and watched many people play guitar and sing ol’ Hank songs, among many other artists.
As a young boy, I remember my parents playing 8-track tapes of Charlie Pride, Conway & Loretta, and George Jones. They had this single player with one black speaker covering almost all of the white player itself. They had a record player before this and they had all the country greats. I remember my mom lifting up a golden record of Elvis, “Look what I got” she said. While Elvis was known as a rock ‘n’ roll singer, he sang many, many country songs.
In the late eighties and early nineties, my mother started listening to more contemporary artists such as, Brooks & Dunn, Randy Travis and Alan Jackson. I enjoyed the music as well but my tastes were and are still mixed. I can enjoy everything from country, hip-hop and even heavy metal. I have taken a liking to Taylor Swift, she is so talented.
I started learning guitar when I was a teenager, however I took a break from it until my early twenties when I began playing and singing some more. I was never very good but I enjoyed singing. I even wrote a song for my high school graduation called “Blaze the Trail.” I still have the lyrics somewhere, maybe I will put it on my FB one of these days.
My fingers were never really adaptive to the strings of a guitar so I would have to take frequent breaks. I did not have another guitar until my mid-thirties, but I did not play very much.
Last year, at the beginning of COVID-19 (referred to as corona virus at the time), I bought a guitar from my daughter in law and recorded a few covers. I mostly showed off my video editing skills as opposed to my guitar skills because I wanted to post on my Facebook page.
Today I went for a walk to one of the places where I would hunt ducks and do a bit of fishing: Sanderson Lake. It was a great experience, great that I actually walked that far from my house and great because the beauty was awesome.
The first thing I saw when I got on the lake was a small island. I looked all around the lake. It was deafeningly quiet. No sound and no other people in sight.
It had been years and years since I saw the place. I was going to walk back from there but I decided to walk to a peninsula to the right.
I remember as a boy, my father would take us through this lake to take us to La Ronge on a snowmobile. We would be bundled up in the back in a sled and covered in one of his huge blankets. The trips would be long and bumpy, but I would feel alone in my thoughts. I am not sure what my sisters were going through, but I doubt they were sleeping with the rough ride. During this time as a small boy, I would never see the trails or portages because we were obviously covered up. Almost each time, we would stop at a cabin to warm up. My late grandfather Moses would have a fire going and a fresh pot of tea. Sometimes there was food to eat. Those were great times.
As we got older, there were fewer trips because my father would hire a taxi to take the family to La Ronge and he would travel by snow machine himself and we would meet him there. We usually went to Bigstone or 101 Reserve.
The few times we travelled together, my father and I would take off before sunset. The one time, it was a warm, breezy day and as we were about to go down a hill, he said, “Look, no hands.” Before he could grab the handlebars, he hit a small spruce tree and dented the bumper bar. He was not going very fast, so it was fine. He straightened it out when we got home.
As a teenager, I used to walk through the portage like I did on this day, January 31, 2021. Of course, it looked exactly as it did because nobody lives there. The beautiful shorelines in all their glory, quiet, undisturbed, and seemingly very welcoming. However, I did not have snowshoes to explore the shore. The weather has not been favourable lately because it has been so cold. My father has snowshoes that I can borrow, so I hope I can go soon.
Another story about Sanderson Lake, a friend of mine and I went for a trip to the next lake to look for ducks or beavers. We scared up a small flock of ducks and we did not get a shot. We did not take the canoe over the portage because it was getting late. On our way back to Hall Lake, we were on the lake during a stunning sunset. As we paddled along, there was a small bat flapping around us. My friend quickly got annoyed and proceeded to blast the air with the shotgun we carried. Suffices to say, the bat went away.
One other time, another friend of mine wanted to check out the lake and do some fishing and to look for beaver. We hoped to see ducks too but were we too noisy to get close enough for a shot. During this trip, we took the canoe over the portage and explored the shores of Sanderson Lake in our borrowed canoe.
It was a beautiful sight in the clear summer day as we paddled around. He knew about the place more than I did and told me about some of the people who had camped there. We stopped at an island and it felt surreal to get on the small piece of earth in the middle of the lake. We talked about how our ancestors might have stopped here during long trips to eat food and drink tea, before moving on to other destinations.
My first trip to Sanderson Lake by myself when I was a teenager, was by mistake. I was across the lake on the shores of Hall Lake when I decided to venture into the woods to look for grouse, I parked my father’s snow machine and off I went. The snow was knee deep but light enough that I could wade through it. I hoped to see a grouse right away because it was snowing.
As I went along for a few minutes longer, I decided to turn back before I lost my trail. I thought I would cut through my winding trail because it looked to go in a curve. About 20 minutes later, I came out of the shore and did not recognize the area I was standing. Thankfully, I figured it out and went back to where I came from and finally arrived on the shores of Hall Lake again. It was about half to one-third of a kilometre away from where I left my father’s snow machine, but I was happy to see it. I remember not being that worried about it because I was too young to realize that it could have ended tragically. I took too many chances as a young man.
On my way back, I noticed some strange tracks and I enhanced the next few images so you can see what I see. Take a close look and I think you may notice that maybe a fox or coyote may have caught fowl of some kind and took it to the bush. I did see some feathers, but they are not clear in the pictures I took. Anyway, something happened and it is too bad I was not there to see it.
The images are not clear, it was getting dark by the time I started walking home.
First post of 2021, what a year 2020 has been. I started the year with being a teacher and ended up being an online resource teacher. Over the holidays, I became a Digital Communications Officer.
What a transition it is. The job is very demanding but at least it makes the days go faster. I am back with a few familiar faces and I am enjoying the tasks and duties because it plays off my strong points of technology. Videos and image editing, newsletters, web development/design and continuing my support for the teachers (it is all still under the same department).
My family is still healthy so far. I hope that doesn’t change. The case of COVID-19 have been climbing all over Canada and our small community has been hit with a few cases, but we are back down to zero. I hope it stays that way.
My stories have taken a hit and so have my inspirations for Cree memes. I have too much on my mind right now, but I am glad I secured my website for most of the coming year. Thank you to my contributors, I will try to come up with something during February.
My daughter Deedee recently drew the shape a bird using a tree and its branches. Very creative way of drawing. I do not know where she saw this picture, but I can tell it required much patience. She did an awesome job.
I am finally ordering a book I had my eye on for a long time, Woods Cree Stories by Solomon Ratt. I cannot wait to read the stories. Unfortunately, I will not receive it for another couple of weeks or more. According to the Amazon website, it will arrive between December 31, 2020 and January 6, 2021. If I subscribed to Amazon Prime, I would have gotten it sooner and FREE shipping. Hmm, with the Holiday shipping deadlines in Canada going on, I may not get it for a long while.
It is a paperback, so it will be easy and comfortable to read while I lay on my bed. I have read many short stories on my computer and cell phone, but this book is not available on Kindle. Which is fine, I just have to wait for it and hope it gets here as soon as possible. Maybe the weather will be so good, that the shipping will be extra quick. Wishful thinking, since the shipping companies are already swamped with packages needed to get to their destinations.
The book includes nine stories–including Boys Get Lost, Foolishness, and Animals Become Friends–and a Woods Cree-to-English glossary (Amazon description). I hope be inspired by this book and enjoy a book written in my dialect (TH), which is difficult to find anywhere. Most of the books I read are in the Plains Cree dialect, while I can understand the dialect just fine, I want to read the Woodland Cree dialect by one of the foremost Cree Teachers in Saskatchewan, Solomon Ratt.
I mentioned before that nimosōm would sometimes stay with us on the reserve at my parents place during the summer. Those were good times because I got to listen to my grandparents whenever they would talk about the old days.
It was a beautiful summer day when he decided to go on a hike. He told me that there was an old trail he used to take to a small lake east of Hall Lake: “wīcīwin nosim, kiwī itohtāhitin apisci sākahikansīs, itī māna ikī kaskimohtiyān koskinikiyān.” (Come with me my grandchild, I will take you to a small lake, it is where I would go when I was young by cutting across).
So, it was set, we would be on foot and we were actually out to look for spruce grouse and partridges. He had a single-shot .22 caliber gun and I used a straight-bow and carried 5 store bought arrows. At this point, I had only shot small spring birds to make flour soup and missed many more squirrels (which brought in $1 a piece during trapping season). During the winter before, I had gone out on my own and tried to hunt down a partridge which I just kept on missing, it was very disheartening.
About 15-20 minutes into our trip, we came across an old bear snare that was rusted and deserted to hang precariously on a log. He mentioned a name of the person who may have left it there and how they were so inept at looking after their snares. “tāpwī īsa ikī kakīpatiso awa kākī tāpwakwīt, nītha wītha nika tāpakōmoha maskwa.” (This person that set the snare was so stupid, I would have snared the bear).
As we got deeper into the woods, we came upon a group of ptarmigans. Nimosōm flashed his big smile, “watch out pithīw, watch out.” He went sneaking up on them and I heard a shot, bang! He got one of them, “īniyānanicik pithīwak” (There is five partridges). He managed to kill four of them and I got one right through the neck, it was such a proud moment for me.
After our kills, we did end up walking to the small lake, which is actually a part of Hall lake river system. We sat and admired the view from afar as there was much marshland. We had our rest and we went back home. I hope to go back there this summer with my son (unless there are many bear sightings).
A note on my translations: The translations I made on this blog might be off for some people, however, it is the way I understood my grandfather when he talked to me.