Edward is my name. Edward Gilpin. I am 75 years old.
Long ago, I didn’t see extreme hardship. There was never a day when I didn’t eat. But my mother, she was the one who told stories. She was raised inland. She told of the stories of when she was there.
There were always times when the people didn’t have anything to eat. When a man left to go hunting, there were times when he didn’t return because of starvation. When the people went to go to him, there were times when they didn’t reach him in time. He had already died. There were also times when the people did bring him back alive. She told of stories of things happening like that many times, during the extreme hardships when the people were not eating.
My mother said, “We used to live in a large teepee with many people. When we ate ptarmigan, I wasn’t allowed to eat all of the part that was given to me to eat. I was given the back bone with one thigh attached of a partridge. I was only allowed to eat some of it in the morning and to save the rest for later. That was how difficult it was over there.”
My father never told stories like that. The people here on the coast didn’t have much hardship. Thiswas where my father was raided. His father too was raised from the coast. He didn’t tell much
stories of hardship from the lack of food.
I heard my mother telling stories of a man not returning when he left to go hunting when the peoplewere starving and didn’t have anything to eat. Many times, I heard how difficult it was for them beforethere was anything around that the white man uses. I guess there were occasions when they tasted whiteman food. She said that during the hardship and when some of the men weren’t able to walk, it was theirwives that pulled them on toboggans on their nomadic travels. The hardships that my mother used to tellabout, I don’t think she told us all. She didn’t want to tell us about the real hard times for areason. The extreme hardship, she deliberately left it out of her stories.
Can I ask you about how the animals are regarded and how they are to be respected?
Long ago, the people really must have respected the animals. The young people of today don’t have much respect for the animals The elders of long ago who lived off the animals really respected them. The young people of today don’t do it exactly of how the elders did it long ago.
The elders long ago didn’t use white people’s food. They survived from the animals. That was why theyrespected them. They treated it like a garden – just like someone tending their garden. They didn’twant to kill off everything but to be sure to leave some of the animals. Today, the young people huntwherever they want to. There is noone hunting inland. They all hunt here on the coast. Long ago, theyvalued everything. They didn’t waste anything. They remembered that there was going to be anotherwinter.
The thing that the people of long ago valued the most was big
game – moose, caribou and bear. They didn’t want to leave anything lying around. And waterfowl, they didn’t regard it as nothing. All the edible parts, they kept. The elders today still respect the things as they did long ago. The young people seem to just throw away what the people used to survive on long ago because they value the things from the white man more. They are not shy to just kill something and just throw it away. The elders didn’t allow that to happen. They wanted the kill to be used entirely.
Today, none of the bones are saved. After they broke the bones from the big game that they had killed, they hung them. They broke the bones to make broth. This was where they got fat also. The bones they didn’t break such as the shoulder blade, they hung those
in respect. This was after they made broth from it. The bones that they broke and boiled, they still hung them. They placed the crushed bones on a scaffold. Other people put them in the water. The people long ago didn’t want anything to be thrown away. They didn’t want anything to be just lying around.
The people believed that the animals gave themselves to be eaten. When the animals see that they are not respected, they don’t give themselves. It seems the animals just disappear. Today, the young people don’t respect it that much. Long ago, they kept everything when harvesting water fowl. It was only the bones and the feathers that they didn’t keep. They cared for everything. Today, we are very shocked to hear things. Many times I hear of things that are thrown out at the dump – even when it is edible. The young people don’t want to eat it. They should it give to the elders so they can eat it. The elders who were raised on that kind of food, don’t really care for the store-bought food. They prefer to eat what they were raised on. Even though I like eating store-bought food, it seems that I put it down to return to the food that I was raised on. It seems that my body needs it because I was raised on it.
Today the songs are not used but the people used them for hunting long ago. I don’t remember them being used. I only heard my father which he used to hear from the elders long ago. He used to mimic their songs they sung. He was stealing their songs. But I don’t remember them being in use. But my parents saw them when they were in use. The people long ago had songs for the big game they hunted. They sang about everything. Even trying to catch beaver and the things used. They sang about the beaver hunt. They sang about everything.
I hunted here on the coast. I saw this land many times. I saw it all when I was hunting on the coast. I was very active when I was young. When the inland people came to get supplies, I followed them. I lived with the people. That was how I saw the land.
When I was bom, the company manager was probably around. I don’t think there was a minister that stayed permanently over where we were. He just came occasionally, arriving by boat. He paddled in. When I was already a bit wise, that was when the minister was here. He came from Moosonee. He was Cree – a Moosonee Cree. He was very old. My mother talked about the first one that was around. He was in Chisasibi. She called him Mr. Walton. That was who she remembered being around first.
The company store manager that I first remember here was Cree. He was from Chisasibi.Oliver Louttit is the first one I remember. And over there at the French store, the first oneI remember was a Cree manager. He was from Waswanipi. His name was Georgie Elton. Those were the firstones I remember. I don’t think there were many managers to go around for those Cree ones to be here.