(Told by Sally Matthew)
The elder who handed over his hunting territory to us was my grandfather Samson Neacappo. What I heard from him, the reason why the lakes have those names on his hunting territory, that is what I’ll talk about. He told us some of those lakes, the ones where people frequently hunted from and the reason the lakes were called the name they were given. And on my father’s hunting territory, I heard some of the names of lakes and portages. My father had also named some. There were reasons the lakes were given the names they have. On our hunting territory, the elder used to tell us about names of lakes. That is what I’ll try to talk about
The lake called Kaabiishtaahkubaau and north is the area we hunted. There is a lake called Aabunibinaanuuch. My grandfather told us the meaning of that lake. For some who master the Cree language would understand Aabunibinaanuuch. It means the people are sitting on the ice, fishing.
He said that there was hunger long ago. The people were starving at that lake. This is a large lake. Some of the men were already bed ridden and unable to move to go do their hunting duties. Many of the people weren’t able to get up. My grandfather said that there were many people at that camp.
During the times of starvation long ago, it was the woman who didn’t mind it. The starvation didn’t seem to affect her. I believe that which was said because I saw this for myself. Even if she was breast feeding a child, starvation didn’t affect her.
During the night, they couldn’t let their fire die out. Some of the men couldn’t move to go out hunting. One of the women heard something. She heard a small creature outside as if it was getting into their belongings and making a rucus. She went out and saw the tracks of a marten. She knew a marten had reached them. She knew that there was no reason for the marten to run in, even if she had laid a trap because she didn’t have any bait.
Long ago, women braided their hair. She remembered that she put her braid string in her bag whilethey were eating earlier as they traveled. This was when they still had plenty of food. She rememberedher braid string. She thought, “I must have smeared it with the food I was eating.” She took her braidstring and used it as bait. She set her trap. Soon, the marten got trapped. She brought it in.She told the people, “I have killed food.” She had already decided what to do with the marten.
The woman must have skinned the marten. It mustn’t have took her long to skin it. She must have cooked the little creature even though the marten isn’t very meaty. It was eaten long ago. I, too, remember eating marten. She gave the people of her camp a drink of the broth that she boiled the marten in. I guess the broth wasn’t very rich since it is just a small marten.
The woman took one of the small thigh of the marten and decided to use it as bait for a night line. She took out a night line onto the ice. I don’t know if she set one or two lines. I think she set two night lines through the ice. She used the small thigh of the marten as bait. When she checked her lines again, she had caught nice big fish on all of them. On that lake, the lake trout are very nice and they don’t seem to be small. We have hunted on that lake, when that elder was still alive and we lived with him. She brought the fish that she had caught. She was the one who woke all the people up. With the throats of the fish, she sets more night lines. And from then on, that woman caught a lot of fish. When the men got better, they also set a net under the ice.
My grandfather had said that the people had always traveled to that lake during the cold times. At that lake was where the people fished. It is called Aabunibinaanuuch (Winter Ice Fishing).
Some of the lakes have their names because of the fish. Not far
from Aabunibinaanuuch is a lake called Aashuukushtikwaanaanuuch. It is because of the fish that it is called that. It seems that the fish have bloody heads. The fish have red heads. That is why that lake is called Aashuukushtikwaanaanuuch (Bloody Heads).
The lake called Kaabiishtaahkubaau is a very long lake. There are two rapids that flow into this lake. One of the rapids comes from the north and one from the east. Where the rapids go into the lake, there is a lot of foam floating around. And when it isn’t windy, the foam floats around the lake. My grandfather said that that is why it is called Kaabiishtaahkubaau (Foaming Water).
There is another lake called Waawiishtihchaau. That was where my grandfather frequently stayed in the fall time waiting for winter to settle in. Some people will understand Waawiishtihchaau. It isn’t because of the beaver lodges. There are places where there are tufts of peat. When the land is like that, it is called Waawiishtihchaau. The lake is surrounded by tufts of peat and that is why that lake has that name.
Where our hunting cabin stands is called Aaniisuwiichikuhbitihch. Many people will understand the meaning. There are two rivers that flow into this lake. You will understand what I am saying. It is called Aaniisuwiichikuhbidihch (Two Rivers Flowing into the Lake). One river flows in from the east and the other from the south. This is a long lake. Half way along the lake is where our hunting cabin stands, lyiyuuch named the things from how they perceived them. There are also two rivers that flow out. This is where my hunting cabin stands.
There is a lake to the north called Aawiimaaikihch. My grandfather also told of why the lake is called this. He said, “Once, there were caribou that were killed. The people traveled to the site where the caribou were killed. The people traveled by this lake and this was where they made a fire for a snack.” Long ago, the youth were very sensitive to things. Even today, they are like that. Some lakes seem to have a smell of fart. And the reason why they smell like that is because of the mud. The people traveling to the caribou made a fire by this lake and they must have chiselled a hole in the ice for water. The young boys of that group said, “What’s this smell? It smells like shit.” That is why this lake is called Aawiimaaikihch (Smelling of Shit).
There is another lake called Kaamichiwaamiiduskaau. I haven’t seen it but our sons have. I was the one who asked my grandmother, Kaapishuhtaauchishaaishwaash what it meant. I asked her questions when I didn’t know the meaning of words. This lake is called Kaamichiwaamiiduskaau. My grandmother asked me if I understood that I mention poplar trees when naming this lake. There aren’t many poplar trees inland. She explained that there are poplars standing there. Compared to the nice young stands of poplar, these trees at Kaamichiwaamiiduskaau can’t seem to grow properly. They grow all gnarled and twisted and they can’t grow well. The poplars look like someone with bad hair. That is why the lake is called Kaamichiwaamiiduskaau (Place of the Bad Haired Poplars). That was how my grandmother explained it to me.
There is another lake called Aaiskwaaskuhtihch. I didn’t understand the meaning of this one also.The lake called Aaiskwaaskuhtihch is very long. To the north of the lake is completely barren. Onthe otner side is forest. It must have been barren long ago because there are small trees standingthere now. This was what my grandfather spid about the lake called Aaiskwaaskuhtihch(Trees Up To There).
The two lakes I will mention got their names because of fish. Waawiibikinaashii is the name of one lake. It has this name because of the fish seem to have black fins. That is why it is called Waawiibikinaashii (Black Fin Lake). The other lake is called Maamihkukinaashii. This one is because the fish seem to have red fins. That is why the lake is called Maamihkukinaashii (Red Fin Lake). These are just some of the lakes of my grandfather’s hunting territory. There are still many lakes that have names.
Many people might know the area where we used to frequently be deep inland because a road leads there now. Many people might have seen Biyaakunihiiwaau when traveling inland. That was where we frequently stayed. We stayed at Biyaakunihiiwaau during the fall time waiting for the winter to settle in.
My father told of the reason why the lake was called Biyaakunihiiwaau. Similar to the first story I told, the people were starving long ago. The men weren’t able to do their hunting duties. The people must have just tended their night lines and fish nets. Again, it was a woman who was said to wake up the people of the camp. She chiselled a hole in the ice and set a night line. When the people ate, it seemed that they were wak-ing up. This lake is called Biyaakunihiiwaau (Waking Up the People). My father said that this was the story that was told.
When I still lived with my parents, my father named lakes and portages also. My father told of a storylong ago. I think it was before we were around. This was when they were first together. There was acanoe – a little ordinary canoe. He said, “We used two canoes when paddling.” This was when mypaternal aunts were still alive. My paternal aunt Agnes and Sidney Bullfrog’s mother was also mypaternal aunt. The two of them must have been in one
canoe and my parents were in another. My aunts used to say, “Our canoe doesn’t make a splashing sound. It just seems to cut the water.” They called their canoe Kaamaatishaawaabiich (Cuts the Water). When their canoe was really out of shape and couldn’t be used anymore, my father hanged it at a special place and was used to store their cache. At the place where the river flows out of this large lake is an island. This was where my father hung that canoe. He called that lake Kaamaatishaawaabiich Aahaakudaach (Where Cuts the Water Hangs). This was what they eventually called that lake – Kaamaatishaawaabiich Aahaakudaach.
My father was also the one who named the lake called Aawiichuuhaanishtaach. I was already livingwith them at that time when he named it. My mother said that one of my younger brothers had a small ball. I think it was Bobby. He was playing on the other side of the camp. She said that it was a Sunday stop because we never traveled on a Sunday. While we were there during the day, all of a sudden there was a smoldering smell. It really stank. My mother said, “What is this?” She prodded something out of the fire. Here was something burning that was stuck to the stick. “What is this? This seems to be what is smoldering.” Apparently, it was my brother’s ball that fell into the fire. My mother said that my father immediately decided to called this lake Aawiichuuhaanishtaach (Smells of a Burning Ball).
There was another lake near Opimiskaau that my father remembered. The lake is called Usikw Saakihiikin. He said that they always saw mergansers at that lake. “There was never a time when we didn’t see mergansers, when paddling on this lake.” He called it Usikw Saakihiikin (Merganser Lake). That was where they pad-died when they were going down stream in the summer from far inland.
There is a portage where they must have portaged on. My younger brother was the one who named it. He still wasn’t of age to carry things on his back. He was just starting to walk. We were portaging because there are many portages going to Opimiskaau. One of my younger brothers named this portage and it was always called that after then. My mother was walking with my younger brother. My mother said, “He was walking along side. We could already see the shore where we would start to paddle in our canoes again.” While walking, my younger brother said, “Mother, I really want to shit.” She said that she really wanted to take her load to the shore first. “I said to him, ‘Go. Go. We can already see where we will start traveling with our canoe.’ Then he was walking with his legs spread apart.” He said, “Mother, I am already shitting.” “I walked past him because I didn’t want to put down my load that I was carrying on my back. I took my load to the shore and put it down. I told him to come here. He came walking. I knew that he had already shit because he was walking with his legs spread apart.” Fortunately, the lake we were going to paddle on was swampy. “I took him to the swampy area. I took off his clothes and wiped him with the moss.” While my mother cleaned my younger brother, he said, “Mother, this portage will be called Wiihkwaachaamuu Kibidaakin.” It was one of my younger brothers who named Wiihkwaachaamuu Kibidaakin (Shitting One’s Self Portage). I will not mention his name.
There are many names that I am unable to talk about because there are still many. The area that Italked about was where we frequented. There must be many people who know the names of the area theyhunt. They must know the meanings of the lakes -not just the lakes but everything that is named.They must have been told the meanings by their elders.