I went for a walk along a groomed trail today and felt a bit of nostalgia from the way the trees looked along the path. nimosōm used to take me out rabbit snaring at the trapline when I was a boy. I remember I would feel a bit of uneasiness, but he would always have his .22 with him. I did not know at the time that a .22 would not be very effective on a bear, wolf, or very much else for that matter. It was good enough for me at the time, and it made me feel better.
I remember the trails we would follow would be along the muskeg. The trees would be small evergreen trees that looked ready to die. There would be the odd dead black popular tree with its dead branches and birch trees that had seen their better days. I used to see these dead trees and think, that would be a good spot for an owl to land and look for our rabbits hanging off our snares. We lost many rabbits to predators and one time, nimosōm shot a lynx that was eating one of our rabbits (NIMOSŌM SHOOTS THE RABBIT THIEF).
In the early fall, we would use a canoe along the shore of the lake and get to the area where we walked to in the winter. It was all so fascinating to me. At almost every area we came upon, nimosōm would have a story about what happened to him and/or other people. He would have such a hearty laugh, I remember how his shoulders would bounce as he laughed at his stories. I heard from some people that his stories were rarely true, but I did not care, I loved to hear them. I wish I could hear one now.
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.
It is a cold day today and I am glad I was provided with a teacherage to bring my family together. The girls have their rooms, and my wife does not have to deal young people coming in and out of our oldest daughters house.
It is 15 ᴼC, 23 with the windchill. My daughter and I were staying at the cabin while my wife and other daughter stayed at our oldest daughter’s house. Right now, I would be busy keeping the cabin warm for my daughter by making sure the fire was going. Having those thoughts reminds me of the struggles (my struggles) at the cabin we lived in at the trapline when I was a child.
The mornings were always cold, even if nimosōm put a fresh birch log in the stove to slowly burn through the night, it would be cold. There would be the odd time when the weather would be nice, but those days were few and far between. It was better than living in a tent, which we had done before the cabin was built, so it was good. A cabin beats an old canvas-tent anytime.
I was too young to make the fire at the time, but many times the fire would already be going by the time I got up. It was a nice surprise to wake up to. Nimosōm was already getting pretty old at the time but his pride would not stop him from being the man and taking care of what needed to be done. My father was the same way, when we moved into the house in Hall Lake, he made sure we always had firewood.
He would use his skidoo to get wood. Later as I got older, he would set up the wood in the bush and have me make the trips to haul the logs back to the house. Those were fun times because I got to use the snow machine. A few times I had to take my little brother because he was a King or something.
I am not sure what kind of chores my sisters did. I am not even sure if they did anything. I would ask, but I am sure they have some tall tales about how much work they did. Besides, I am sure they did not know what kind of chores I had to do, which included hauling water from the lake and chopping wood. I love my sisters of course, and I am sure they had much work to do, I just did not pay attention.
It is windy outside right now and maybe that is what is reminding me of the past. The crisp-cold air and icy wind would easily freeze the nose and earlobes. We always had plenty of knitted mitts and toques so we would be good and warm as long as we remembered to take them along. It would be easy to forget when it was not so cold and being excited to go sliding. It would not take long to realize we had to run and get the toques we needed and run right back to the hill for more fun sliding.
I remember my earlobes would freeze and later swell twice the thickness they were before and were quite tender. My mom would tell me I should have learned by then that I should remember the toque, at least I always remembered my mitts.
Today is November 11, 2020, Remembrance Day. A day to remember our veterans. Have a great day.
my grandfather – nimosōm
nimāmā (the way we say it here, northern sask)
nipāpā (the way we say it here, northern sask)
My younger sister and my younger brother (one term for both) – nisīmis
I am currently staying in a cabin behind my parent’s house. It has a wood stove and an extension cord to provide electricity for light and the computer my daughter uses and for my laptop. It’s not exactly roughing it, but it is quite a change from the big teacherage I was staying in last month.
The nights are getting colder and I need to get the stove going usually in the late evening or early morning. My daughter doesn’t mind staying in the cabin, which is a surprise to me because I expected her to be more, how would I say, more modern? Anyway, I am glad she doesn’t complain even when it is cold or when a drunk comes knocking trying to bum a cigarette. I am proud of her resilience and I keep saying we are going to get an apartment in La Ronge soon.
The nights remind me of when I used to stay in the cabin in the trapline. All wrapped up in the blanket in a cocoon waiting for nimosōm (grandfather) or nipāpā (father) to make the fire and warm up the cabin. I loved the porridge and brown sugar we would have for breakfast. I was allowed sweet tea as a child and I loved that too. The day would start with preparation to go check out rabbit snares. I loved that too and the excitement of getting a rabbit. The times we travelled by canoe, we stayed near the shore and would see beavers and muskrats. Nimosōm would usually shoot whatever he saw, and for good reason, we needed all the food we could get for the coming months.
This fall season brings me back to those days but when I step out, I see the houses here in Hall Lake and realize all the changes that have taken place in our small community. This community was one of our stops when we would be going to or coming back from Pisew Lake.
Speaking of Pisew Lake, I took my father there in early September because he was going to canoe around the lake to do some hunting and to see the area he grew up in.
Unfortunately, I didn’t go with him because I had work and there is no way that little canoe would hold us both on the surface of the lake. It was a beautiful day that day and he must have enjoyed and relished the chance to see his old stomping grounds.
My father had a camera with him, and he managed to take a few pictures before his battery died.
Thank you for visiting the website. With the winter months coming, I hope to get some inspiration for more blogs and stories.
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.
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 Halloween. nimosōm ikwa nōhkom – my grandfather and grandmother, kept bringing up cīpay tipiskāw – Halloween (literal translation is ghost night).
There would be the 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 bunk bed 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 it 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)