Senneterre Cree Elder Annie Moore tells of the old days before Senneterre wasbuilt In this story for the town’s 75th anniversary celebration. Thank you toMbecca Moore of Senneterre for providing us with a copy of the story.(Translated from French.)
Rapide-des Cèdres is one of the sites where the Indians passed on their route toward Senneterre by the river. This was the trapline of the Wabanonik family. In 1937, Rapide-des-Cèdres was still an untouched place and you had to portage to pass the rapids. The portage was long because we used big fishing boats and they had to be portaged, too.
This one year, there were two boats that we had pulled up on the firm ground to dry them out. These boats were apparently used to fish sturgeon. Above the portage, there was a trail made from the bottoms of tree trunks and there was also a winch.
The fishing didn’t hurt the forest but apparently it caused a lot of damage to the sturgeons. There were still sturgeons on the Nottaway (Bell) River the year I arrived in Senneterre. The Indians called the Bell River “Nottaway,” which meant stranger or else Mohawk or Iroquois.
Past Rapide-des-Cèdres, closer to Matagami, there were Algonquins gathered in clans. There were the Wabanoniks, the Roberts and the Moushooms. The Roberts family was the one that lived furthest downstream on the river. The Wabanoniks and the Moushooms seemed to live in the same region. The other Algonquin families were the Poucachiches and the Isaacs. They trapped in the same region as the Wabanoniks.
The autumn that followed our first year
the region across from the Mégiscane River. There was no one trapping in this region at this time. The Indians, like the Wiscoutie family, preferred to hunt at the end of Lake Parent.
The Wabanonik family descended the Nottaway River to just below Rapide-des-Cèdres, but not as far as Matagami. The Roberts family was there and, later, when Matagami became a village, it was mostly Crees who lived there. The Wedding River was another river that the Indians talked about a lot.
When someone wanted to go to Waswanipi, they had to leave the Nottaway River at the juncture of the Wedding and rejoin it again in the direction of the Indian reserve. We had a big region to hunt and trap. We camped near Tremblay Bay and we traveled all the way to the Coffee River. These were the names we found on the maps we had.
Some winters, you could see the Indians passing across the lake with their sleighs and dogs. They were going toward the village to sell their furs and buy food. Only a few would come to the town during the winter. The others would come only in the spring.
The Crees of Waswanipi and Matagami used the route of what is today known as Lake Parent and the Bell River to get to the trading post located at the place that would become “Senneterre.” Lake Parent is called “Shabogama” by the Natives, which means: ’’Where the River Approaches the Lake.”
They camped on the little island across from today’s city hall when they would come to exchange their furs.
Many places in the region carry Native
Manitou, which means “bad spirit” in the Algonquin language. Why did the Algonquins call it this? Some recount that it’s because of a seamonster which, according to the legends, hid at the bottom of the water and caused canoes to tip over. Others said it was because of the frequent drownings that happened on the lake and that they were caused by a wicked spirit who lived there.
The shape of the lake maybe offers an explanation because this large mass of water is divided into three big bays and, when there’s a strong wind, the centre of the lake is invaded from all the sides by waves that break against each other, making navigation hard.
As we can see, the Cree and Algonquin Nations walked the lands around Senneterre wellbefore the white people came, and the names given to the lakes and the rivers testifyto their close connections with nature.