Told by Joseph Guanish, Kawawachikamach
Translated and transcribed by Brian Webb
When you were young, who told you the stories and legends?
Our grandmother, of course, the one who raised me. She was the one who brought me up. My parents did not raise me. My grandmother and grandfather took me in and brought me up. They raised me so that I would learn the ways of life from the bush.
One time, grandmother and I had a hard time while we were way out in the bush. There is a river called Mushuau Sibi. She went hunting for caribou to get hides for making moccasins and snowshoe lacing. Children’s coats were made from caribou hides – these were winter coats. Grandmother got sick. She almost died because she was so cold. She was working on meat and would run out every now and then. She suddenly became sick and had spasms. She had those spasms for the entire night. I already knew well how to hunt and how to lay traps. I was also taught how to set the wooden traps and otter traps.
The deadfall ones?
Yes. This is what my grandfather taught me. He taught me everything. At first, I would just tag along with him and observe. And when I got bigger, I started doing the things myself and he would just give me advice. That was a very difficult time for my grandparents to raise me.
One time, my grandfather killed 61 caribou. We placed the caribou in a shelter made from young trees. He was remembering people who would be coming through as they moved camp – he would give them the caribou. If there weren’t that many people, he’d give a family 10 caribou.
She was a great hunter. She didn’t have any children of her own. She was my mother’s aunt. She was married twice. This is what I remember from her. I sensed that grandmother really loved me. She’d leave to go hunting at night. I didn’t know what time it was during the night. I had already gone to bed. She hadn’t brought any food the night before. Still no trace of dawn and she was already leaving. I sensed that she really loved me. I said to her, “It seems that you’re not cooking.” They were taking care other children as well. “Are you not cooking for us to eat?”
“Your grandfather didn’t bring anything home to eat.” She was getting ready to go hunting. This was how determined she was to raise the children. The other children were her sibling’s children. She was given children to look after because she was such a great hunter. She was truly compassionate. My mother’s aunt raised 14 of us children.