ON JULY 18 two Waswanipi youth set out to follow the path of their ancestors. They planned to follow the canoe route used for many generations of Waswanipi Crees. Their guide was David Diamondan experienced trapper and the father of one of the boys. The group set out in two canoes…
It was to be 30 kilometres of paddling in moderately rough waters, a couple of portages and a bit of rain at the beginning. This was the first time the boys had taken such a long trip and it was a good lesson for them in paddling.
The party was composed of David’s son, Mahicans, and Marvin Diamond. They were later joined by Michel Reid— all three teenagers are cousins.
The first day out, the group stopped at “On top of the rapids” Rapids on the Nottaway River. There, they got some fishing in.
The mouth of Matagami Lake was thenext stop. This is where Marvin had the chance to see the island where his mother, Daisy Diamond, was born. She still has not had a chance to see it for herself.
The group continued onward to the Canet River, where the family has a camp. The next day, after a portage, it was on to Gull Lake. This is where they were joined by Michel Reid. The group skipped two lakes of the Waswanipi River because of heavy currents and rapids.
They continued up the Waswanipi River, stopping at the place called, “A lot of bugs,” just off the Iserhoff Road where there used to be an old camp site.
On July 27, the party made it to Waswanipi Post, where they were greeted by family members.
For Mahicans, 17, that’s the point when he really started to think about the generations that had followed this route before.
“It was a nice welcome,” said Mahicans (his name means “Little Wolf”). “That’s when I really thought about it. My dad was telling me he done that when he was young, how his grandfather used to do it. It’s pretty mind-blowing to think it’s being going on for so long.”
It was also a chance for Mahicans to see his dad, from whom he was separated at age 2. He saw him only eight years later and now goes to visit him on his trapline for 10 days twice a year. He now lives in the Eastern Townships.
“It’s nice being with nature. There’s not a road or telephone pole in site. It’s good to get a break from all that kind of stuff,” he said, adding that he also went on the trip to learn about his heritage.
“It was a good trip,” he said. “I enjoyed myself very much. It was a good workout.”
The workout was one of the reasons Marvin, 13, wanted to go—”to make a little bit of muscles.”
Also, it was “for learning about my uncles and learning about the bush,” he said. What did he learn? “I learned to always row on one side. If you don’t you get crooked.”
Afterwards, was he tired? “Just a little bit,” said Marvin.
Is he going to become a trapper? “I’m becoming everything that there is to learn in the bush.”
Marvin and Mahicans both say they want to go again next year. Unfortunately, we couldn’t reach Michel or David Diamond to ask them about their experiences.
David went to university for a couple of years, then passed on the big city life to go live in the bush. He has stayed there ever since. For 13 years he has tended the W53 trapline, north of Matagami, where he has been mostly by himself.
“All he (David) had was his canoe,” said Sydney Ottereyes, who came up with the idea for the trip. “For him, this experience was what he went through 13 years ago. But he did it alone; he didn’t have a partner.”
Sydney, who is Marvin’s dad, wanted the boys to witness something of the old ways themselves.
“We had told them their forefathers used to paddle all the way to Waswanipi, spen two or three months there, and then head back to their traplines. And you wouldn’t see them again all year,” he said.
“We’re just doing this to experiment and see how they would like it, for them to see what their grandfathers went through.”