Tag Archives: reserve

Shooting at Cars with Bows and Arrows, on the Rez

For as long as I can remember, I had been making my own bows and arrows. On the rez in Hall Lake, I would use mīcosis – a small popular tree for bows and I would use the blue rope used for fish nets. The arrows would be made from popular trees and it would be heavy wood. When the bow and arrows dried up, they would be warped, which was fine for the bow, the arrows not so much. However, the bow would become too hard to pull and when I did pull as hard as I could, they would break.

I started using waskwāsak- small birch trees for the bows and they worked so much better. I started using cut-up 2X4s for the arrows, and they worked better because they were already dry and stayed straight. I must have been eight years old at the time.

My family would go to La Ronge for long visits and sometimes I would get bored. I had friends from school, but I usually spent time by myself. 101 reserve was our home community in La Ronge before we got a house in Hall Lake, so I was familiar with the area. There were many small birch trees to cut down and use.

I had an older cousin, Johnny Venne, who was one of the cooler athletic types. He seemed a bit obnoxious to me and seemed to bug our other cousins on purpose by teasing them and running away. One time, we were around several of our older cousins and they were smoking cigarettes and he would tell them, “You should be like me. Don’t smoke.”

I rarely hung with him because I was 3-4 years younger and he had many friends his own age, who were so much cooler than I was. One day, he came by nohkomonān owāskihikan – our grandmother’s house, to visit and he noticed I had a bow and some arrows.

He was checking it out and he was asking me who made it for me, and I told him that I made it for myself. I was giddy to get my cousin’s attention, here was my cool cuz conversing with me about something I do. So of course, I offered to show him how to make one.

We spend a good afternoon in the bush with knives we took from somewhere, I cannot remember, but anyway, we found some good size birch and scrounged up some rope. We made our bows and arrows and we had fun shooting at targets, not targets from the store, but old cans and beer bottles that were all over the rez.

Johnny, being as cool as he was, got bored of just shooting at random objects, he wanted some action. 101 reserve is beside Highway 2, and the road curves around the rez to get from the village of Air Ronge to the town of La Ronge. It was late evening in the summer, and many vehicles use the road. It is the only major highway linking the tri-community of LLRIB, La Ronge and Air Ronge. My cool cousin had a wild idea.

He suggested we go to the brush on the side of the road and shoot at the vehicles driving by. I remember thinking it was a bad idea that only bad kids did that sort of thing, but I wanted to stay in the good graces of my cuz who I looked up to. I hesitantly agreed against my better judgement and off we went.

Actual area of our adventure – 101 Reserve by the main highway

Our first attempt at shooting vehicles, we did not even get to the roadside. Our uncle, who lived in a small cabin near the highway, saw what we were going to do, and he broke our bows in half. I felt so ashamed of myself and wondered if he would tell my parents what we were trying to do. So, Johnny figured we should try again the next day, and I nodded yes.

The brush was tall around the roadside so it would be difficult to be seen by the unsuspecting, innocent drivers. The first few shoots dropped on the pavement. We heard a couple of arrows thumping onto a car or two, but they kept driving. Then there was this big truck, it looked like a U-Haul moving truck. It was getting dark, so we were well hidden. Johnny took a shot, and we heard the arrow loud and clear when it fell on top of the truck. The truck stopped. We froze and looked at each-other for a split-second, and then we ran as fast as we could.

Me, being younger, chubby, and not as athletic, my cuz Johnny was way ahead of me. We ran across the main rez road and I saw him run behind the water well. I finally caught up to him and hid with him. Our hearts were pounding, and I was scared out of my mind, sweat running down my plumpness. While my cuz looked frightened at first, he seemed fine, I think he might have been enjoying the rush of getting away with something.

The next day, I went to the same place where we were shooting the vehicles and he had his posse with him. He had taught them how to make bows and arrows and they were shooting at the vehicles and running away. I did not join them this time. I went back to my usually routine of spending time with myself. My family eventually had to go back to Hall Lake.

Just a note on my cousin Johnny Venne, I told him that I would be writing this blog. I planned on just using “cuz” or “cousin,” but he gave me permission to use his name. Johnny is still athletic and still has abs. He is still the cool kid to me.

ahcāpiy – bow

akask – arrow

nohkom – my grandmother

wāskahikan – house

nohkomonān owāskihikan – our grandmother’s house

mītos – popular tree

mīcosis – small popular tree

waskway – birch

waskwayak – birch trees

waskwās – small birch tree

waskwāsak- small birch trees


Cree Source:


Bow and Arrow Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay
Man shooting at Target Image by kim chungbae from Pixabay

cīpay īpīkīyokīt – A Ghost Comes to Visit

I remember our first year we moved into our oskāyihk wāskahikan (new house) in Hall Lake. I think it was in 1982 but I am not sure. The house had three rooms, my parents had a room and there was one for the girls and one for the boys. It meant I had to share a bed and a room with nisīmis (my little brother). It seems poor now, but we never had it so good.

One night, while sleeping with nisīmis, I woke up to the bed shaking. It was a rapid shake and I was half asleep and bewildered at the event happening. During that cold, dark winter night, I thought maybe somebody was under the bed. I got down to the floor and didn’t see anybody or anything. I quickly got back onto the bed and heard my brother telling me to stop moving. I told him I wasn’t. ikī kīskwīkast (he was half asleep), but he still remembers to this day, he was about 5 years old at the time.

Later that night, I couldn’t sleep, it got very quiet. I thought it was over and done, then I started to hear kitowānāpisk (the stove) making a noise, like somebody scraping the grill on the side with their finger nails. I stayed in bed and but tried to see who it was from a lying position. I didn’t have the courage to get up and check it out, but I had hoped it was just nipāpā (my father) adding wood in the stove. I could never explain what it could have been. Logic tells me that it was one of my sisters pranking me, but they never admitted to anything.

The only other incident I can remember is when they were having a house party there, a guitar went flying from the living room closet to the middle of where they were drinking. I was in my room at the time and saw the guitar falling between them. The party goers stopped talking and laughing and they just stared at each other. īmatsōstākōwiyahk , one of them said which, I think means they experienced a bad omen of some kind.

I cannot remember anything else happening that winter or any other time. My parents still live there to this day and they have not told us any stories about premonitions or anything of the sort. I was about 8 years old at the time and I believe we ended up going to the trapline later that spring, we actually went back and forth from the house, to trapline and La Ronge, so it is difficult to pinpoint a time-frame.

oskāyihk wāskahikan – new house

kitowānāpisk – stove

nipāpā – my father (we don’t say nōhtāwiy where we live).

nipāpānān – our father

ikī kīskwīkast – he was half asleep

īmatsōstākōwiyahk – we experienced a bad omen (it is how I understand it).

nisīmis – my younger brother or sister

cīpay īpīkīyokīt – ghost comes to visit


ohtāwīmāwikīsikāw – Father’s Day (Woodland Cree)

ohtāwīmāwikīsikāw – Father’s Day in Woodland Cree, it might be similar to Plains Cree. Audio available.


My Time with The Gift of Language and Culture Project (2005-2011)

http://www.giftoflanguageandculture.ca/ (new window)

In 2005, I started working for the Gift of Language and Culture Project as a casual web designer. Little did I know that they were expecting a Flash based website with images, text and audio all rolled into one for each category. I was overwhelmed by the expectations but I was happy to at least be working. I put in many extra hours at home to learn this new application.

cree-syllabicsI knew enough about image and sound formats but he text part gave me trouble because I had never worked with different text fonts other than the generic types we are all used to such as, Times New Roman, Arial or Comic Sans. I had to learn quickly because the demands of the project team was high and I was expected to work miracles and with new Aboriginal language fonts I never heard of. dene_swallow

We had Cree, Dene and syllabic fonts that needed to be installed on all our computers and I had to make sure people at home and schools could view the fonts on documents so I had to provide a link to the fonts for personal installation. There were also applications I needed to familiarize myself with, such as, CorelDraw, Publisher, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Audition and of course Adobe Flash (Macromedia Flash at the time). I already knew about Adobe Photoshop so that was a big help with the images that needed to be edited and manipulated.

The project team was great and the people were dedicated and willing to put forth much effort to accomplish what we could, to provide resources for Aboriginal language learners all over the country and even some in the United States. We had curriculum developers who compiled the Cree and Dene word lists and translations, illustrators who provided the original clip-art we needed, audio/visual personnel who recorded the audio and video required and of course the material developers who put the resources together for print and distribution.

Part One & Part Two

I personally collaborated with all staff to get what I needed to build the website and put their work together and develop what we see today. If it were not for the cooperation and hard work of the team, I could not do what I did for the website. I am grateful for the experience and I was so sad to see it all come to an end in 2011. It was a big part of my life, 7 years of my life that it still has a profound effect on me today.

I think I did well on my self-learning because we ended up with a great Cree website that is still online and used all around the world and has been viewed by 147 countries. It has had 276,357 hits and 100,226 unique visitors (as of June 17, 2015) which is pretty good for a non-mainstream language and website.

Last 500 hits
Last 500 hits

The YouTube Channel has 407 subscribers 260,379 views as (of June 17, 2015). The channel has songs, concerts, and animations for the whole family to enjoy. There are also a couple of instructional videos for snowshoes and birch bark baskets and many interviews with elders, some who are not with us today.

theGiftOfLanguageAndCulture_screenAs the web designer/Flash developer, I received praise for the work I did but I always mentioned the people behind all the important work that needed to be done before I could even develop an animation or Flash exercise. I had a good working relationship with all my co-workers and while they contributed all the work, I made myself extra useful by troubleshooting their computer’s hardware and software when ever they needed it. There was no way I could do my work if they could not do theirs, so it worked out for all of us.

I am currently training to be a teacher at Nortep and hopefully in a couple of years I will be able to contribute to the Cree language professionally with much more credibility. I decided to go back to school because I needed more training in the area of education and to hopefully expand my horizons for myself and to contribute more to the learning environment of our students in other areas where it is needed.

On a side note, I would receive emails and phone calls from Montana, Ontario, British Columbia and the all the prairie provinces to let me know what a great job the Gift was doing. One person in particular called from BC to tell me that he loved the website and that two of his children were learning Cree from their mother who was a Cree woman he married from Saskatchewan somewhere, I cannot remember where specifically (it might have been Pelican Narrows). It was a morning call out of nowhere but it was a nice surprise way back about 2010.

I wish the project could have continued but all good things come to an end. Maybe one of these days there will be a revival and if there is, I would love to be involved again and provide my experience and expertise.




awas – Go away (Woodland & Plains Cree)

awas – Go away (Woodland & Plains Cree), a word that might come in handy when somebody is bothering you or maybe teasing you about something.