(Reprinted from the book Strangers Devour the Land, written by Boyce Richardson, 1991.)

Wnen we returned from checking the nets, we gathered again in the teepee for an on-camera interview with Job (Bearskin). Mary (his wife) began to clean some fish, Job sat on his heels his back straight, the young men gathered around. We asked him to tell us about the river.

I want to tell you a story about this river, and this spot where we are,” he said without any nervous tiptoeing around the theme. “My father was very old and he used to paddle his canoe here and throughout his life hunted all along the river.

Where my nets are now, as far back as I can remember, my father used to put his nets there too. Exactly where my nets are, that’s where he put his. Before I started hunting, he brought me here. All along the river he used to catch fish. Then he couldn’t hunt any more because he was too old. He stopped hunting when he couldn’t get around any more. When we were children he provided for us with his hunting, and when he became old, we did the same for him. He was 108 when he died.”

Mary, leaning over and scraping the fish, kept up a low prompting as her husband told what he felt. Some people, he said, would travel 200 miles up the river before they reached their hunting grounds. Some would stay away in the bush for seven months, and others never returned to Fort George at all. “Some of the old people who are no longer able to hunt love to talk about the days when they hunted, but many who still hunt are thinking about their children and how someday they will want to hunt, too. Now they tell us what they are trying to do to this river.”

He flung his arm up over his opposite shoulder, gesturing indignantly as he spoke. His voice was soft, his manner dignified, he had an air of immense authority. He gestured toward the small children. “Look how happy they are when they are trying to see what has been caught. These two boys are starting to hunt They’ve already killed ptarmigan with nets. Where they killed them down the river it will all be flooded and there will be no more ptarmigan. A child is very happy when he kills something. You must have been like that when you first killed game.”

He motioned in the direction of Brian, Billy’s little boy. “Look at this youngster, he will be happy when he first kills something.”

“You’re so right,” said Billy. “He wants to come every time I go out.”

“I’ve seen it myself,” said Job. “When we go to raise the nets, Brian always wants to come with us.”