Told by John Petagumskum
I will tell one of the stories I heard from my grandfather. This story took place long ago.
North of Whapmagoostui is the river called Naashtipikuu Siipii. It is one of the large rivers that flew up north. This was where the people gathered long ago. Many people camped together during the early spring. I, myself, have witnessed these gatherings during the spring time. Long ago, this was where the people gathered at Naashtipikuu Siipii.
At this gathering, there was an Elder who had one unmarried daughter. I suppose she was the last of his children to be unmarried. His sons where probably all married off by then. This Elder’s daughter wanted to live with one of the young men of the camp. The Elder accepted this courtship between his daughter and the young man. But there was an old bachelor at the camp who also had a desire to marry the girl.
On this river are some dangerous rapids that people avoided going through by canoe. No one ever attempted to shoot this set of rapids. I saw those rapids for myself. As the group of people journeyed down the river, these were the rapids that the Elder remembered. The father was annoyed by the old bachelor harassing his daughter but didn’t mind the young man to be his son-in-law. So the people paddled along towards these rapids.
Long ago, the people were dressed differently from what we see today. Before any of these modern clothes were around, the Cree people clothed themselves with the skins of animals around them. They used the furs for warmth as coats and leggings. The also made hats with whatever was around. The old bachelor who wanted to marry the daughter wore a cap made from the skin of a crow. He had a crow-skin cap.
When the people reached those rapids, everyone began to portage their belongings to the other side of the rapids. While the canoes were still on the high side of the rapids, the father of the daughter said, “Everyone, be quiet. I’m going to talk to you.” He added, “These are the rapids that I thought about as we made our journey. Whoever is successful to go through the rapids by canoe will marry my daughter.” Everyone heard what he said. On the sunny shore, where the rapids begin to pull the water is very smooth and low rock. The old bachelor didn’t even bother to say anything. He pushed his canoe out into the water and set off. Everyone knew he was going to shoot the rapids.
All the people ran down towards the smooth rock shore to watch him shoot the rapids. The young man who also wanted to marry the daughter didn’t care what the father had said. So the old bachelor headed for the rapids in his canoe. On these rapids is a large standing wave, curling in the middle. The waves meet from both sides of the river and stand in the middle of these rapids. And the water sinks down into the rapids as it curls. It is that wave that makes these rapids dangerous. These rapids do make other waves but not as big as the centre one. The old bachelor’s canoe headed straight towards that wave. As his canoe hit that wave, the old bachelor’s canoe pierced into the wave and was pulled down by the current. The last thing the people saw was his crow-skin cap going down into the raging water. Everyone watched to see if anything would float up but they didn’t see anything. When they ran down the river, the group didn’t see anything float up, not even his paddle.
His crow-skin cap was the last thing to be seen. And that was how the old bachelor died. If he hadn’t gone down the rapids, he might have lived to see that evening. He took his own life because he wanted a wife. The young people of that group said that these rapids will be called Kaahkaachuuyaanipin – the Late Crow-Skin. And this is the name of those rapids, Kaahkaachuuyaanipin. The young man married the daughter and the old bachelor wasn’t seen again. This is the story my grandfather told.