In the old days, nothing was ever paid for, except with sweat. No effort, no gain, no life. It was that simple. If you didn’t make those snowshoes, you’d sure be a lot skinnier come springtime. If you didn’t cut wood, you’d have to change your name to baskins or ice-tee when some searcher found your perfectly preserved body after goose break. Yep, do nothing, get nowhere except the Hades of your choice.
In the recent past, making snowshoes and the like wasn’t artistically viewed as it is today, but more tool and utensil minded. Most functional art, like a beautifully sewn mitten, does keep you warm during January and February; same thing for the snow shovel. When looked at closely, the fit, form and finish of a paddle makes the difference between strong shoulders for a well made oar and aching arms for a clumsy, heavy piece of wood. It is the man-made yet natural technology that we seem to keep close and dear to our culture.
Yep, Aboriginal functional art features some of the finest hand made utensils and tools in the world. So much so that our traditional technology helps shape the country into what it is today.
Just think when the first Eurodude showed up and found out that one canoe weighed the same as his long oar. Can you imagine having to portage a Newfie dory uphill around the Niagara back then? Talk about artery- and back-busting work, sweat and toil. Our technology allowed us to carry one canoe per abo-dude, no sweat at all. I think that sometimes we forget who we really are and really believe we play a passive role in our own lives.
Imagine if the good people of the Iroquois didn’t have time to have fun during the cold winter months out on the frozen Potomac or St. Lawrence, before succumbing to disease and pestilence. Would hockey be here today? Would there be a movie called The Rocket, by any chance? Perhaps curling would be the only sport to survive due to Scottish stubbornness and men would value the broom?
Indeed, would America and Canada be one massive environmental mess if our arrows didn’t ply the skies in favour of red or blue? What if simple aspirin hadn’t been inspired by our gnawing on willow bark? Would that mean that hangovers would never be curable or would the main breakfast drink consistently consist of raw eggs?
I believe we have a lot to contribute to society, (I like to contribute silly stories) and we shouldn’t sell ourselves short by thinking we have nothing to do. Of course we have plenty to draw upon. How about that remedy for life long mosquito repellent: one dose, good for life, type of thinking?
How about showing those Euro-dude descendents how to paddle forward, instead of backwards like we always see them do? Maybe one day, we’ll conduct goose call clinics for the fowl mouthed hunter from Pennsylvania. Or snowshoe mounting and dismounting techniques that leave many astounded, as we casually throw down the dried wood for the instant fire we created, things like that. Things we’ve mastered over millennia.