As usual, I tried to do justice to Daniel’s words. I translated this from Cree from an interview session we did in August. I want to express my gratitude and respect to Daniel and all the other Elders who pass on knowledge to the younger generations.

-Ernest Webb, translator

Daniel Rupert, 86, Chisasibi Elder.

Yes, there are things on my mind—the youth growing up today. Us, when we were growing up long ago, it was hard. It was hard for us to live. That’s what’s on my mind—the youth don’t know what it was like before.

It seems so easy now, to live. Lots of pay in one day. When I was younger I worked in town during the summer. I was in the bush during the winter. I used to work for the schools getting firewood for them. I was paid 50 cents per day for my work. I also worked in the Gardens with the potatoes at the RC mission. I probably got $3 per week.

Today the pay is much higher for someone who does a proper job. Things are more expensive today. Long ago things weren’t as expensive. We didn’t use cash; they just gave us credit at the store. Someone would buy with their credit. It supported someone, but it was hard. I guess people didn’t have much. That’s what’s on my mind, today the price of things. Snowmobiles, canoes, motors, $5,000, $6,000. If you work many days then you can get those, the things you use. We didn’t have those things around before.

WHERE WE ARE right now is where we used to get the firewood (Km 0—a.k.a. Kaanamskauu). Also on that island over there. During the summers.

After cutting we carried the logs to the shore. If it wasn’t windy, we made something to put them on. We would float them down the river. We watched them as they floated. At the landing, we waited for the tide to go down. Then we’d take them up. One would walk many times. It was hot. We didn’t have rain gear either. The wet logs soaked us.

There were 10 of us. Of course we had someone as leader, someone who thought in an Elderly way. In one day we generally floated home five cords. I don’t know how much they cost, maybe three dollars each. Four feet wide, four feet high, eight feet long. I think it was three dollars each cord. That’s how we supported ourselves before.

AFTER CUTTING, WE used to set nets for the fish. Over that way where the dam is. This month (August) is when they used to be plentiful. Today, it’s all destroyed, it’s not there anymore, where we used to get the fish. It’s very sad. Everyone used to get there food there. It’s deplorable; we can’t get fish there. People on their way inland would get their fish there. They used to smoke them. Then they made their way inland.

Today it’s not there.

That’s what I think about a lot these days. A lot of our way of life has been taken away. A lot has been taken from us. Now things aren’t given freely, money has to be exchanged. A lot used to be shared freely before.

Fish, people were able to feed their children. That’s the way it was. The youth don’t seem to know what we did when we were feeding our families. We must have given a lot of fish away without money. Akuuda?

You saw how Dab-liyuu (real Cree) made their living in the traditional way with traditional tools. Tell me how you feel with all this new technology?

You mean what the Wahmschtikuushiu uses? I think it’s easy for them, the things they use. To kill things. Long ago we didn’t have what we have around now. Like the fishing rod. The one you throw. We didn’t have that around. We never saw it. In the summer we always used the net. In the winter we fished through the ice with hooks, you know, with the sticks. We didn’t have what there is now.

I guess the Crees use the rod now, but I don’t. They throw the hook, and a fish comes across it, and reels it in. Even the nets were different. Now the twine is really thin. They weren’t like that before, they were thicker. You didn’t get as many fish though. They used caribou hide, they’d cut it into strips. And the canoes, they used birch bark. I didn’t see that though. They didn’t use nails at all. They used everything from the trees. They never leaked and they were light. My father saw them used. He said they were light. They used things from the land.

For people who don’t understand the Native way of life, the world-view, what would you tell them?

I would start with the past, what I heard about the past. That is where I would start from. Then to our experiences, what my

father saw and talked about. Then eventually the coming of the Wahmschtikuushiu. And the technology he brought with him. The things which made his life “easier.” That’s what I would say.

There were no guns long ago just bows. Before there were any Wahmschtikuushiu in “Canada” there were no guns. All they used was the bow and arrow for their food. When the Wahmschtikuushiu came around that’s when they knew about guns. They knew that they could get their food easier. With something far away they could still get it. That is where I would start from. The people living today hardly know about that.

I didn’t get to see my Grandfathers. It was my dad who told me all these stories—the stories his father told him. He didn’t get to see his Grandfather either. He learned from his stories and the example that he set for him in the way his father lived. My father saw the birch bark canoe, he remembered the birch bark canoe. He used to go inland and they used to shoot rapids with those canoes. That is where I would start from, what I heard from my father.

There is a story about the first meeting between the Wahmschtikuushiu and the Crees north of Great Whale. They sailed in with their ship and moored some place. The Crees heard something they never heard before on the water. It sounded like thunder. They didn’t know what it was. They checked on it right away, they used the shaking tent. When they made the shaking tent, right away they heard someone in there, but they didn’t see him. That’s who told them who those people were. “They come checking for Indians.”

Then they knew that it was “big guns” that were making the noise. They didn’t understand the one who was talking. It sounded like metal being hit or something. Their Mishtabau understood right away and interpreted. He said they would see something on the water in the morning. In the morning they saw something looking like a stone island. An Elder told one of his sons that he was going to paddle to it. “That is what we must have heard” he said. Like the Mishtabau said. The Elder paddled off by himself. As he got closer he saw people on the deck.

There were many of them. Then they saw him and started waving to him. He didn’t want to get to close. He kept his distance. He was wary of them—in case they did something to him, he thought. But they didn’t stop, they just kept on waving to him.

Finally he approached the ship. He was impressed with the length and size of the ship. The whole crew flanked the deck to get a look at the Elder. They threw down a rope ladder to him. He communicated with the ship’s captain with hand signals. The Elder had fur on him. Right away the captain was excited. He coveted his furs, his clothes. Right away the captain told him he would relieve him of all his furs. So he got some of their clothes. Right away they gave him some drink. He liked the taste right away. After business, the captain brought out a gun. They went on deck and he watched the captain load the gun. He shot towards the water. He saw where the bullet bounced on the water, he knew right away it would be good for hunting.

He knew something could be killed from afar. The captain gave him the gun. He showed him how it worked. The captain waved him home and told him to return with more furs. They also loaded a keg on his canoe for him. He got another drink before heading off, then paddled home.

The people back home saw him paddling in and heard him singing. They knew something was up with him, that they did something to him while he was there. He reached the shore and told them, “My son, yes, I have seen a visitor, but I don’t understand them. We just waved to each other.” Then he showed them the gun. He did what the captain did. He shot towards the water. It landed far away. It excited everyone. They knew it would be good for hunting. He told them they wanted furs, all the furs they could find. They came back again the following year after the winter. They then started building a trading post. That’s what I heard from an Elder from Whapmagoostui. He heard it from his grandfather.